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This week’s question focus ‘have you ever had conflict with a colleague or superior? How did you handle it?’ has the potential to make interviewees feel uncomfortable. I advise you not to worry, interviewers ask this because they want to find out about your conflict management ability and general interpersonal skills.

I know I say this every week, but preparation is definitely important here. You may have to really think about a time where you have experienced conflict at work, and handled it in a way you believe is suitable (it’s impossible to handle things perfectly all the time). Take a look at my tips for preparation through to answering the question during an interview:

  • Write a list: Think about all the times you have experienced conflict within a work environment. How did you handle these situations? What did they teach you? Writing this down will help you recollect what these situations taught you which you can highlight in the interview.
  • Use the STAR method – Situation/Task: This is the perfect structure to use when answering this question. It is straight forward so interviewers can easily follow your story and clearly understand its outcomes. Start by explaining the conflict situation, or the task that was given which led to conflict. This sets the scene for the interviewer allowing them to get a feel for what you are describing.
  • Action: This is where you discuss any action you took to resolve the disagreement or conflict. It’s important you discuss a situation where you remained calm and handled it professionally, this is because it evidences that you can handle things well under pressure.
  • Result: So, what happened after? This is the opportunity to mention the outcome after you handled the situation. For example, you met your deadline or target.
  • Practise makes perfect: Although this STAR method is a simple template, it’s important that you practise your answer before your interview. Go through each step at home so you know that when you reach the interview process you’ll be ready!

Well, there we have the tips, but what should you say when answering this question? Take a look at this STAR example (Big Interview) which you can tailor to suit yourself:

  • Situation/task: “I was managing the creation of our new corporate brochure and we were on a very tight deadline because we had to have brochures printed in time for a big upcoming trade show. I needed to deliver on time whilst also I had to manage team members from Marketing, Sales, Graphic Design, and Product Management. The designer that was assigned to the project was very talented, but unfortunately missed a deadline that I assigned. When I approached him about it, he blew up at me.”
  • Action: “I was shocked by his response, but I remained calm. I explained the tight deadlines for the completed brochure. As I explained the importance he relaxed because he realised I wasn’t trying to cause issues. As a designer he had other projects he needed to complete which were causing him stress. After having a discussion, we thought it would be best to talk to a manager to potentially lesser his work load.”
  • Result: “After talking to our manager, she assigned some of his projects to other designers which resulted in us making the deadline and me receiving an apology from the designer.”

There is something you really shouldn’t do when answering this question, and that is making other people look bad in order to make yourself look better. The point of this question is for you to evidence how you’ve overcome adversity, it isn’t the opportunity for you to make other people look bad.

I hope that reading this has put your mind at ease because I understand that this question can make you feel panicked. If you stick to the STAR method, you should do great in your interviews!

Do you have any more tips that can help with answering this question? If so, I would love to hear them. Leave a comment below.



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