How to Handle the “Conflict” Interview Question

March 13, 2016

Career Advice


dwight gify“How have you handled conflict with your boss in the past?”

We’re all humans. And humans don’t alway get along with each other 100% of the time. Conflict is part of life, both at home with family and at work with colleagues and managers. So it’s not uncommon to have a conflict with your boss at some point. Keep this truth in mind when you get asked this perplexing interview question.

The interviewer is simply looking for insight as to how you handle conflict. They want an idea of how you will fit into their culture and how you will solve problems. They may also want to get a peek into whether or not they feel you are a team player.

All interview questions are important but this one in particularly weighty. It could easily be used to weed you out of the interview process, especially if your answer illustrates too much of an extreme. Here are some suggestions on how to handle this question:

  1. Make sure your answer is well-thought out. This is one of those questions you need to prepare for. Don’t stall and have to search your mind for an example in the heat of the moment.
  2. Choose an example from your work history, but choose an example that wasn’t too difficult to resolve.
  3. Give a short recap (emphasis on short!) of the conflict itself. Practicing ahead of time will help keep this neat and tidy.
  4. Spend a majority of the time focusing on the resolution of this conflict and what you did afterward to move things forward and reconnect with your boss.
  5. Share any relevant steps your boss took to rectify the situation. This could show that they were willing to meet you half way.
  6. Think of using an example where you are still in contact with this former boss, and have a good relationship to this day.
  7. Do not give any more detail than necessary about your boss and their current whereabouts. Never divulge anything negative about him/her.
  8. Don’t place the blame on your boss. Again, this question is focusing on conflict resolution and how you can respectfully find a mutually beneficial solution to a problem.

If you’re not sure where to even begin, appropriate examples are those that have moved the organization and/or your work relationship forward in a positive light. For example, you might talk about:

  • a miscommunication you had with your manager, the result of that, and then how you altered your process to prevent it from happening again
  • a time when you overstepped your boundaries, the negative and positive effects, and how you apologized and grew from the experience
  • a time when you should have spoken up but didn’t, the negative results, and then how you changed your behaviors and bettered your relationship with your boss

About Spectrum Brands Careers

Spectrum Brands is a global $5 Billion Consumer Products company headquartered in Middleton, Wisconsin. While you may not be familiar with the Spectrum Brands name, there is no doubt you will recognize some of our brands.

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  1. Our Top 10 Interview Posts | Spectrum Brands Careers Blog - January 24, 2017

    […] How to Handle the “Conflict” Interview Question […]

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