If you’ve had your fair share of interviews, you’ve probably noticed that employers usually ask the “how do you handle conflict” interview question.

Most employers ask this question to check how well you do under pressure and how calm you stay in heated situations. The best way to answer this question is to think of a situation where you had to deal with disagreement at your previous job.

Keep reading this article to find out how to answer the “how do you handle conflict” like a pro and nail your next interview.

Let’s start!

Key Takeaways

  • Employers want to know how you handle conflict to check whether you can communicate under pressure and how well you handle stressful situations.
  • The best way to answer conflict interview questions is by using the STAR method.
  • Star method is a quick and simple method which allows you to explain the situation, task, action that you had to take in a difficult situation and what it resulted in.
  • Avoid saying that you’ve never had a conflict before as it will make you seem insincere.
  • Always remain calm while answering and never talk badly about any of your previous co-workers or employers as this is the best way to show professionalism.


conflict at work how do you handle conflict

Why Employers Ask “How Do You Handle Conflict?” Question?

The “how do you handle conflict?” question is a common interview question that employers ask because they want to know:

  • How well you can communicate. This includes how well you can communicate thoughts and opinions with your manager and coworkers. Good communication skills help prevent conflict at work and give you a chance to take everyone’s feelings into consideration.
  • How well you handle stressful situations. The employers want to know whether you can stay professional and calm and not mention any personal issues during a disagreement at work. It’s important to know how to reach a middle ground with a coworker you don’t agree with.
  • How you prioritize feelings. Lastly, the interviewers want to know whether you’re able to keep the company’s best interest in mind even if they don’t fit with your beliefs. This is also the perfect time to show your leadership skills, as you can also mention how well you handle multiple personalities in a team.

“How Do You Handle Conflict?” Alternatives

The “how do you handle conflict?” question can be asked in multiple ways during your interview. Here are some examples of how the same question can be asked in different ways:

  • How well do you manage disagreements between co-workers?
  • Explain a situation where you had to handle conflict at your last job.
  • What do you prioritize when handling conflict at work?
  • How do you handle conflict at work?
  • Can you mention a time when you disagreed with your boss?
  • Have you ever disagreed with a company’s policy? How did you handle that?
  • Tell us about a challenging situation you have faced at your previous jobs.
  • How do you handle disagreements in teams?

How to Answer the “How Do You Handle Conflict?” Question

The best approach to answer the “how do you handle conflict?” question is by using the STAR Method. The STAR Method is usually used for answering behavioral interview questions, and it is an acronym that stands for:

  • S (Situation). Mention the time and place where the difficult situation occurred.
  • T (Task). Explain the difficult task you had to handle.
  • A (Action). Mention what actions you took to handle the situation.
  • R (Result). Show what the outcome of the situation was in the end.

Here’s an example of utilizing the STAR method:

  • #1. S: I had to deal with a difficult situation when one of my colleagues was not able to finish a task for their project, which was due in a week, as he had to take some days off for health reasons.
  • #2. T: Since he wasn’t available, I gladly took the project he was working on to finish it on time.
  • #3. A: As we had a strict deadline and I had never worked on such projects before, I asked my coworkers for some help.
  • #4. R: Once my coworkers agreed to help out, the project was divided into smaller tasks, and we managed to finish successfully on time.

5 Tips on How to Deliver the Best Answer

Here are five tips you can follow to deliver the best answer to the conflict interview question:

#1. Identify a Few Examples

Think about your previous jobs and whether you’ve had disagreements with either your coworkers or managers. Then, identify some examples that fit with the job description.

If, for example, you’re applying for a teaching position, mention a situation where you had to deal with a difficult student.

Try to talk about a situation that is easy to understand, and that clearly shows your problem-solving skills. While answering, make sure you mention how you’ve kept the company’s best interests in mind before your own.

#2. Practice Delivery

It’s helpful to practice how well you deliver your answer before the actual interview. Once you’ve tailored your answers to the job description, try to say them out loud to hear how they sound.

You can also ask a friend or family member to help you with a mock interview so you can practice how you sound while answering. Keep a calm tone and avoid any harsh facial expressions so that the interviewers don’t misunderstand you.

#3. Display Calmness

A survey has shown that over 85% of workers agree that they go through some type of conflict at work. That’s natural, especially for bigger companies that have a larger list of employees.

However, it’s important to show the interviewer that you try your best to stay calm and ease the conflict, so it doesn’t get worse.

Try to show the interviewers that the moment you notice that a conflict is occurring between a coworker and you, you try to communicate with them calmly to learn about their opinion on the matter.

Show them that you are able to compromise and that you don’t get hot-headed in difficult situations.

stay calm during job interview how do you handle conflict

#4. Convey Professionalism

Next, try to convey as much professionalism with your answer as possible. Show the employers that you’re rational and that you’d work in their best interest.

For example, you can say that while you were working on a creative project with a team and you were leading them, you noticed that one of your team members was constantly interrupting you and taking charge instead of you. Although this is a situation where you could be upset about it, try to talk about how you’d rather discuss it with your teammate and see what the problem is. And if it can’t be resolved that way, you’d take the situation to the higher-ups.

#5. Display a Logical Approach

While you answer the conflict question, the employers want you to mention a situation where you acted with logic and reason. Explain that when you dealt with tricky situations, you tried your best to use factual evidence and logic to decide how to resolve the conflict.

This will let the employers know that you think before you speak, which is a trait that most companies appreciate since they don’t want to worry about you acting impulsively.

What Not to do When Answering “How Do You Handle Conflict?” Question

Now that we’ve tackled how to answer the conflict question, here are some things that you should avoid while answering:

  • Don’t be generic. Although it’s a good idea to check for sample answers online, it’s best to think about a more personal experience you’ve had while working.
  • Don’t say you’ve never had conflict. Try mentioning a situation where you’ve had a disagreement no matter how small it was. Saying that you’ve never had a conflict because you were friends with all of your colleagues is not a good idea. The interviewer will think that you are trying to dodge the question and that you’re hiding something.
  • Don’t put the blame on other parties. The last thing you want to do is blame the other person. While you answer, try to mention that although you didn’t agree with your coworker and you didn’t manage to see eye-to-eye with one another, you always tried to reach a middle ground that would benefit both parties instead.
  • Don’t say you’re bad at managing conflict. Saying that you don’t manage conflict well gives out the impression that you are a hot-headed person and that you think irrationally while handling conflict.

“How Do You Handle Conflict?” Answer Examples

Let’s look at some example answers that you can use to practice before your interview:

Handling Conflict with a Coworker

Example: “Once our company started working with a new client, the team leader asked a coworker and me to create presentations on their social media advertising. Both of us had different ideas, and the client liked specific parts of each of our presentations. Since we had to work together, there were times when we couldn’t reach common ground on whose idea was better.

I decided that it was a good approach to discuss both of our ideas from the start and to discuss what approach we should take that would benefit the company. We decided to use the common ideas from both of our presentations, and the client loved the end result.”

Why this answer works: This answer uses the STAR method efficiently. It mentions the situation of working on a project assignment with your coworker and the task. That is, finding a middle ground between you two, which was going back to explaining your projects from the beginning, and the result, which was the decision to use the common ideas in one project.

Handling Conflict with Superior

Example: “Our project manager decided that it was a good idea to let go of some of our less successful clients. I believed that keeping them as a part of our project would be beneficial in the long run, but he told me that the supervisor has agreed to let the clients go. This was a difficult situation for me as I realized that my opinions didn’t match the company’s, and I had to find a solution. I discussed this with my supervisor, and we reached a compromise where we could let the clients go while still mentioning that we would stay in contact with them. Letting them go was the best option for the company, and I had to agree with it as well.”

Why this answer works: This answer shows that although you didn’t agree with your supervisor, you decided that taking the company’s best interests into consideration was the deciding factor in making you agree to take on the task.

Handling Conflict with a Client

Example: “During my previous job, one of our clients was consistently checking and disregarding any project ideas I suggested. He was also known for being very opinionated and for the fact that nobody could change his mind when he was set on something. I found it quite challenging to comfort him. However, I realized that I was not in control of his behavior. I pulled our client aside and asked him whether the work was too stressful and whether he’d like to pitch in some ideas that could help us out with the company. This resulted in us completing the project while still keeping a good relationship with our client.”

Why this answer works: This answer shows that you are ready to adjust to difficult clients and can find a satisfactory solution for both him and the company you’re working for.

Bonus: Disagreement With Company Policy

Example: “During my previous job, our supervisor called me into his office to ask me to fire someone on my team due to our budget cuts. I notified him that everyone on my team was hardworking and didn’t deserve the cut. I tried to reach a middle ground with him to try and find a better solution on what we could do, and we both agreed to accept more clients to raise our productivity.”

Why this answer works: This is not exactly a typical conflict, but there could be a time when an employer’s values are in conflict with company policies. The best option here is to discuss it directly with the higher-ups and see whether you can find a solution that benefits both of you.

successful job interview how do you handle conflict

Final Thoughts

And that was all!

Whether you’ve just started job hunting or you’ve had your fair share of interviews, you will surely encounter the “how do you handle conflict” interview question.

It’s important to answer with a situation where you’ve kept calm and handled the situation while keeping the company in mind. Use the STAR method to make answering these types of tricky interview questions easier, and you’ll have no trouble on your next interview!

We wish you good luck on your next interview, and we hope this guide has helped you prepare to answer this tricky question!