Why you should test candidates’ conflict management skills
Employees with conflict management skills work through arguments, complaints and differences of opinion constructively. These employees are able to:
- Resolve issues that arise among team members quickly
- Handle complaints from customers
- Foster healthy work relationships
- Raise objections in a professional manner
It’s essential to test candidates’ conflict-resolution skills, particularly for:
Here are some sample conflict management interview questions to ask candidates during your hiring process:
Examples of conflict management interview questions
- Tell me about a time you disagreed with a coworker’s idea on a project you were both working on together. How did you express your opposition and what happened?
- What would you do if your manager gave you negative feedback on the way you approached a problem?
- How do you handle conflicts within your team?
- How do you deal with angry customers who complain about your products/services?
- Have you ever had a team member who kept raising objections on projects? How did you (or would you) manage them?
- How would you advise a team member who complained about a coworker’s behavior?
- Have you ever faced a conflict of interest during a cross-departmental project? What did you do?
- You’ve noticed that a team member is aggressive or arrogant toward the rest of the team. How would you approach this person?
- How would you react if a coworker blamed you for something that wasn’t entirely your fault (eg. missing a deadline) during a meeting?
Tips to assess candidates’ conflict management skills in interviews
- Ask candidates to explain in detail how they’ve dealt with disagreements in the past. Hire people who think conflicts through before confronting a coworker.
- Empathy and listening skills are indicators of an individual who handles conflicts professionally. These people are valuable team members, as they manage to keep their coworkers calm.
- Good conflict management skills go hand-in-hand with solid communication abilities. Candidates who clearly express themselves and keep a pleasant discussion during interviews are more likely to resolve issues that arise at work.
- Use behavioral questions that demonstrate how candidates interact in team environments. Opt for people who prioritize collaboration and maintain the team’s balance.
- If the role requires communication with clients, consider adding a role-playing activity to your interview process. You’ll be able to simulate job duties and test candidates’ abilities to resolve issues.
- Even if candidates describe negative experiences, it’s important to see what lessons they’ve learned. Look for people who don’t take things personally and understand the importance of being patient.
- They focus on minor disagreements. If your candidates reveal that they turn each disagreement into a conflict, they might struggle listening to different opinions.
- They cause conflicts. If the reason behind conflicts is your candidates’ poor communication or collaboration skills, that’s a sign they’re not good team players.
- They seem uncomfortable. Certain roles, like salespeople, will often come across conflicts at work. Candidates who get stressed while describing such situations mightn’t be suitable for these positions.
- They give generic answers. Generic answers that don’t describe specific situations won’t tell you much about candidates’ conflict management skills (e.g. “I face conflicts all the time at work, but I manage to stay calm and resolve the issue.”)
- They are unprofessional. Candidates who blame others and bad-mouth coworkers, managers and clients lack professionalism and may not be the most empathetic future hires.
- They avoid conflicts altogether. Problems escalate when conflicts are swept under the rug. Candidates should be confident enough to tactfully disagree with coworkers or managers, when necessary.
Further reading: The best interview questions to ask candidates (and how to evaluate answers).