Interview Questions: Conflict Resolution Questions and Answers
Conflict resolution questions assess your ability to handle and defuse situations where conflict arises. This is an important skill to have in any industry or job that requires you to work with customers, clients and colleagues- so basically all industries!
What are conflict situations?
Conflict situations can range from many things from a customer complaining about a product, service or staff member or an employee who was offended by another employee’s remark.
The qualities of someone who is generally good at handling conflict resolution are:
- Empathy and understanding
- The ability to listen
- The ability to remain professional and not take things personally even when the other person has become unprofessional
- Strong communication skills and professional language
- Calm tone of voice and relaxed demeanor
- The ability to make decisions under pressure which help to provide the customer with an outcome which has limited impact on the company
The qualities of someone who is generally not good at handling conflict are:
- Lack of empathy and understanding
- Speaking over others without listening to their point of view
- Evidently takes things personally and responds in an unprofessional manner
- Uses unprofessional language and a raised tone of voice
- Can’t make decisions under pressure or makes decisions which are either unsuitable to the customer or the company.
Examples of conflict resolution interview questions
- Tell me about a time you had a conflict at work
- Tell me about a team project where you had to work with someone difficult
- Give me an example of a time you had to respond to an unhappy customer
- Give me an example of a time you didn’t agree with a rule or approach
How to resolve conflict from a customer:
Resolving complaints from unhappy customers is extremely important to any business that cares about their customer base and so they are likely to want to make sure that they hire staff who are going to represent their company well and take care of their customers.
Handling customer service complaints is a kind of balancing act, between showing empathy and understanding, maintaining professionalism, looking out for the customer, yourself, your colleagues and the interests of the company. You need to be able to think on your feet and offer the customer a helpful solution whilst staying within the limits of what you are able to offer the company within the company guidelines.
Handling conflict from a colleague:
You may or may not have experienced a conflictual situation with a colleague at work before. It is difficult to give a direct answer on the correct way to respond as the situation could be any and the response really depends on the situation, however the general expectation with any workplace conflict is that you always maintain your professionalism and if there is an issue that you are unable to professionally resolve or are unsure of the best way to respond, you should speak to your boss or manager about it. The last thing you want is to have a confrontation with that person at the workplace, or even outside of the workplace. If you decide to approach that person you should make sure that you maintain a professional conversation and don’t let things get personal. If the conflict is personal, that may be the problem to begin with. Remember, you don’t need to actually be good friends with your colleagues- although it would be nice, the important thing is that you show respect for each other and can work effectively and comfortably together.
Interview questions – How to answer behavioural interview questions about conflict?
The SAO method is the correct way of responding to behavioural interview questions. The interviewers are likely to be aware of it but most importantly they are looking to see that you deliver a response which gives a thorough example which includes a Situation, an Action and an Outcome.
Example of a behavioural conflict resolution interview question and response using the SAO method.
QUESTION: Tell me about a time when you had to respond to an unhappy customer
Situation: When I was part of the customer service team at Aldi I had a very upset customer complain to me about the service provided by one of my team members. The customer explained to me a step by step account of what had happened. As she had explained it, my team member had promised to follow up on a package for her that had already been missing for a week but had not ever called her since and did not responded to any of her emails or phone calls. As the team leader was away, I needed to try to resolve the situation- especially seeing as the customer was in urgent need of receiving her package. I really apologised to the customer for her experience and promised to call her back that day, after I had managed to speak to the team member in order to resolve her issue. I promised the customer that no matter what, it would be my priority to get to the bottom of the situation and recover her package.
Action: I approached the team member by asking her to meet me in one of the meeting rooms so that we could talk privately. Once in the room, I just explained exactly what the customer had said to me over the phone about the situation and waited for her response. She just dismissed me and said that the parcel had already been sent back and that she tried to call the customer once but didn’t leave a voice message.
I explained to her in a calm way, that it was important to make sure we do ensure that we keep our customers updated regarding lost items and that next time she should leave a voice message and send an email as well.
My colleague responded defensively by telling me that I wasn’t the team leader so I had no business telling her what to do and left the room. Whilst I knew that my team member was acting completely unprofessionally, I knew that the most important thing was to follow up on the package and get back to our customer as soon as possible.
Outcome: I recovered the location of the package and found that it indeed was on its way back to her. I then called the customer to let her know that she should receive the package the following day and to let me know if for some reason, it didn’t. I gave her my personal office number and email address. Once again, I completely apologised for the situation. I said I was unable to speak for the team member’s actions at that point but that I would personally manage her account from there on.
When my manager returned to the office the next day, I explained what happened and she took the further appropriate course of action. She said she was very proud of my decisions that day and my ability to focus on the most important thing which was the customer.
About the example: This is an example of a difficult situation where the candidate explains an issue with an upset customer and a seemingly unprofessional employee. Whilst there could be an opportunity for conflict, the candidate does the right thing by focussing on the customer and resolving their issue rather than focussing on the other employees behaviour. It’s always best to let the manager handle those situations. The interviewee also shows great customer service skills by assuring the customer that they will get back to them within a certain time frame. Offering their personal number is also a really nice touch.