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How to answer ‘How would you deal with conflict?’

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Published: 16 December 2021

Student in a class

The latest in our series of ‘how to answer’ interview questions looks at a commonly difficult question employers love to challenge you with.  

Conflict is complicated enough but explaining it to someone in a way that presents your skills in the best light needs some serious thought.  

Interviewers ask this question because they want to hear how you resolve issues in positive, effective and lasting ways.  

You can show off all of these things by using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action Result).  

Basically, this describes a way of telling the story of the conflict along with its resolution and the lasting impact the experience had on your work life.  

Situation  

Firstly, you need to give a little background. Talk about how the conflict occurred and what led up to it.   

This shows you spent time identifying the causes, meaning you’ll be in a better position to spot them in the future.  

Task  

Now, talk about what your role is in the situation. Are you directly responsible for resolving the conflict? Did you step in to deal with an issue between two colleagues?   

This is your chance to explain what you were trying to achieve by getting involved.  

Action  

This is your chance to talk about the steps you took to deal with the issue.   

Break down your actions step-by-step. Be thorough and explain why you chose the solution you did.  

Result  

Finally, it’s time to talk about what your efforts achieved. Ideally, you will have chosen a situation that you helped resolve positively.  

Explain how your actions led to long-lasting change and what you personally learned from it.  

Things to avoid  

Following the STAR method will help you frame your conflict resolution skills in a positive way.  

But there are one or two things you need to make sure you avoid mentioning during your answer.  

For example, avoid talking about how you don’t handle conflict well. Even if this is true, it’s up to you to learn the skill.  

The same goes for if you think you’ve never experienced conflict. Whether it’s in employment, study or general life, there are very few people that have been so lucky.  

If you’re struggling to think of a work-related example, use something from another life event.   

As long as it’s clear and has a well-considered solution, any situation can work for you.  

Whatever you decide to do with your future, the University of Sunderland in London Careers and Employability Service is here to help.    

To have a one-to-one chat with them, book a meeting through Compass or email them at careers-london@sunderland.ac.ukFind out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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