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Interview questions about conflict management

Use these interview questions about conflict management to see how candidates tackle and solve problems in the workplace and address complaints with tact.

Why you should ask candidates about their conflict management skills

Employees who are strong on conflict management have a more constructive approach to dealing with arguments, complaints, and differences of opinion. These employees can:

  • solve interpersonal problems quickly and effectively;
  • handle customer complaints;
  • maintain healthy working relationships;
  • raise objections in a professional manner.

It’s important that you test candidates’ ability to resolve conflicts, particularly for:

  • higher-level positions, as these employees will be managing teams in the future;
  • sales jobs, as these employees come into contact with customers on a daily basis.

Here are a few examples of interview questions that you can ask your interview candidates about conflict management. Combine these questions with those on problem-solving and communication skills.

Sample interview questions about conflict management

  • Tell me about a time when you and a colleague disagreed about a project you were both working on. How did you express your differing opinion and what happened next?
  • How would you react if a supervisor gave you negative feedback on how you tackled a problem?
  • Have you ever had a team member who would always disagree about a project? How did/would you handle the situation?
  • How would you deal with conflicts in your team?
  • What advice would you give to someone in your team who was complaining about another member’s behavior?
  • How would you handle angry customers who were complaining about your product/service?
  • Have you ever faced a conflict of interests during a project involving several departments? How did you respond?
  • You’ve noticed that a member of your team is behaving aggressively or arrogantly toward their colleagues. What would you say to them?
  • How would you react if a colleague blamed you during a meeting for something that wasn’t entirely your fault (e.g. a missed deadline)?

Tips for assessing candidates’ conflict management skills

  • Ask candidates to tell you in detail how they have handled conflicts so far in their career. Look for candidates who think through conflicts before confronting colleagues.
  • Empathy and a willingness to listen are signs that someone handles conflict situations in a professional way. People like this are valuable employees as they can calm their colleagues down.
  • Good conflict management goes hand in hand with robust communication skills. Candidates who can express themselves clearly and comfortably will also be able to cope well with conflict situations.
  • Use behavior-related questions that focus on the person’s interaction within a team. Look for candidates who prefer to cooperate and can maintain balance in a team.
  • If the position requires communicating with customers, consider whether to include a role play in your interview process to show you how candidates perform tasks and solve problems.
  • Even if a candidate recounts a negative experience, you can still tell whether they were able to learn something from this experience. Look for applicants who don’t take things too personally and understand the importance of patience.

Warning signs

  • Applicants focus on minor disagreements. If your candidate makes it clear that they turn every difference of opinion into a conflict, this might indicate that they have problems with people who don’t think like they do.
  • Applicants give superficial answers. Generic statements that don’t describe a situation in detail will not tell you much about a candidate’s ability to resolve conflicts.
  • Applicants seem ill at ease. Conflicts are a frequent occurrence in some jobs. If the candidate seems stressed while describing negative situations, they may not be well suited to roles like these.
  • Applicants are unprofessional. Candidates who blame or badmouth others lack professionalism. This indicates that they don’t have the empathy required to resolve conflicts.
  • Applicants avoid all kinds of conflict. Problems can get worse if you simply avoid them. Candidates should have enough self-confidence to be able to tackle conflicts skillfully.
  • Applicants cause conflicts themselves. If it emerges that the conflicts were caused by the candidate’s own poor communication and cooperation skills, this indicates that they do not work well in a team.

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