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.
This question does not mean: “Tell me about your life history, beginning with where you were born, how many pounds you weighed at birth, where you went to elementary school, and what your relationships are with your parents and siblings. ” Instead, what it really means is: “Tell me more about you as a person.
This is not a fluff question meant to trip you up by surreptitiously getting at some weakness of yours. Instead it's used to find out if you really do learn from your mistakes and, if so, how you learn from them, as well as how you might be able to grow as an employee and thus help the company to which you're applying.
One way to begin this is answer is by saying that you’ve gained a lot of experience leading teams and groups in college and in your past jobs, and have encountered this situation a few times. Then you could say that you’ve found the key first step to dealing with an underperforming colleague was honest communication.
What should you do if you’re staring down the barrel of your first midterm in a week or two, and you haven’t prepared as much as you planned to by this point in the semester? Or what if you have, but you’re simply not sure how to maximize your time and effort in the final days leading up to the test?
Your first open memo is due, and you’re not sure if you have done all the research correctly or found all the law you need to cite. Or maybe you’re staring at a blank page that needs to become a client motion, and you need some inspiration for crafting a winning argument.