How to navigate conflict resolution questions

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While you may love your job, work with great people and generally speaking experience a positive work atmosphere. Inevitably, you will encounter conflict with a colleague. By learning from these experiences you will become better equipped to handle conflicts in the future and being able to showcase these skills to employers is valuable.

Frustratingly, interviewees often under prepare for these kinds of questions. You should add this question to your preparations if you want to get to that job offer. Hiring managers want to know, are you able to take a step back and remain level headed or are you going to escalate things?

So, let's go through four common questions which hiring managers typically ask in order to assess your skills in conflict resolutions.

Tell me about a time when you had an issue with a co-worker.

Probably the most common question surrounding conflict resolution, you should use this as an opportunity to showcase a situation in which you encountered conflict with a colleague. When dealing with this question it is important to try and focus on the resolution of the conflict, rather than the conflict itself. Don’t get lost in the drama, focus on how you resolved the situation without involving your boss.

How do you deal with conflict?

Employers want to know that you can handle conflict diplomatically. Talk about your philosophy when it comes to resolving conflict. Respond like, "I would acknowledge the validity of their findings. Then I would describe how I came to my conclusions using my data. I would also invite an open discussion of the results."

Have you ever disagreed with your boss? If so, how did you handle that situation?

This question definitely requires finesse from your side. The last thing you want to do is go in there and start bashing your former employer. Not a good signal to send. Acknowledge the difficulty of the situation and also how you respected your boss.

Additionally, be conscious of your body language and tone of voice when telling a story, you may non verbally communicate feelings of resentment, employers don’t want to hire someone who holds grudges.

How do you deal with differences of opinion when working on a team?

Differences of opinion are natural. In data science, in particular, it is important for team members to question each other's findings in order to find the right solutions. Employers want to know that you value a diversity of opinion.

Your response should highlight that you value alternate perspectives e.g. “I always appreciate different viewpoints from my own. When someone expresses a different opinion, I listen carefully to what the person says and utilize that feedback.”

There will always be conflict at work, whether that means confronting the person who stole your lunch from the office refrigerator to negotiating a new contract to deliberating a new job offer, being able to show an interviewer that you can peacefully coexist with your colleagues while still getting your own points across is very important. Like every other skill, you will improve on this over time.

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