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3 Ways You’re Messing Up the Answer to, “Tell Me About a Conflict You’ve Faced at Work”

By | Richard Moy |

When it comes to the conflicts you face at work, you’d probably be lying if you said that you don’t enjoy venting about them in your free time. I’ve done my fair share of complaining about issues with teammates that I just couldn’t handle for one more day. However, it’s no secret that discussing conflict resolution over drinks and sharing the details of an interpersonal challenge you faced during an interview require completely different approaches.

In one scenario, you might be trying to one-up a friend on who has the worst co-worker ever over drinks; in the other you’re attempting to show that you’re not only good at resolving conflicts professionally, but also that you’re open to learning from tough experiences.

The problem is that sometimes the fine line between these scenarios get confused. So, the next time you’re asked to describe how you resolved a conflict at work, avoid these common interview mistakes:

1. You Focus Too Much on the Conflict, and Not Enough on the Resolution

Hey, I get it. Sometimes work conflicts can get personal in a hurry. And because that’s the case all too often, some issues can be harder to get over than others. However, that’s not a good enough excuse to spend all your energy explaining the conflict during an interview—and omitting the details about how you did (or didn’t) resolve the issue with your colleague.

What to Do Instead

When I was a recruiter, candidates would sometimes be excited about answering this question because they were just ready to do some ranting and get me on their side. But even if the wound’s still fresh, don’t forget that the interviewer is looking for some amount of proof that you can resolve conflicts professionally. So, if you’re still feeling frustrated, go ahead and acknowledge it—but then quickly turn your focus to how you solved the problem with that colleague, and how you might approach the situation differently in the future. (And if you’re still that upset over it, best to choose another example.)

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