Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker and how you dealt with it.
The answer to this question is not, “I’ve never had a conflict.” Inevitably, conflicts arise in the workplace, and employers want to know that you will be able to resolve them effectively. The best situations to talk about in response to this question deal with work-related (not personal) conflicts.
For example, you might describe a time where you and a colleague differed on your approach to an assignment. Then, explain the steps you took to come to an agreement. The anecdote should not end with a description of who “won,” but rather how you reached a compromise with your colleague.
This question illustrates why it is so important to prepare for tough interview questions—while you may be able to rattle off a list of colleagues who irk you at a moment’s notice, it is much more difficult to come up with a concrete example of a conflict that ended well. Think back on all the projects you have worked on—a “conflict” doesn’t necessarily have to be heated or argumentative to qualify as an answer to this question.
It’s also important to understand that, with this question, your interviewer is trying to find out how you work with others, to see whether you surmount challenging work dynamics or flounder under them. In your answer, do not focus on what the other person did wrong, but rather on what you did to overcome the issue in order to successfully complete the task at hand. Whether that was setting up meetings to hold a procrastinating co-worker accountable for making deadlines, or agreeing to compromise on an issue to manage differing viewpoints, you should aim to demonstrate your willingness to take the initiative and your ability to work well on a team.
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