Knowing how to handle conflict resolution effectively is a key skill for all roles and industries. That’s why, among many other behavioral questions you can be asked in a job interview, you’ll probably get the conflict resolution one too.
To give a strong answer to “how do you handle conflict?”:
- Pick a real-life example of when you had to deal with conflict.
- Use the STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Result) formula.
- Focus on the positives and what you’ve learned from this experience.
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How to Prepare Your Answer to Conflict-Related Interview Questions
Behavioral interview questions (including conflict-related ones) require storytelling — you need to remember a particular situation where you displayed a skill or behavior relevant to the question being asked and the position you’re applying for. The best way to frame your answer to conflict resolution interview questions is to follow the STAR format.
Use the STAR formula
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. It’s a framework for answering behavioral questions that will help you structure your response and present it in a clear and concise way.
- Situation: Explain the conflict situation and circumstances and provide enough context so that the interviewer can picture it.
- Task: Explain your role in the conflict and what your goal was.
- Action: Describe what you did. The trick here is to include the competencies that helped you fix the situation. This is the key part of your answer because the hiring manager is interested in how you completed your task, how you communicated, and which strategies you used.
- Results: Finally, explain how the matter was resolved and what the outcome was.
Why do interviewers ask this question?
Interviewers like this question because it helps to evaluate candidates and some of their key abilities and competencies — self-awareness, effective communication, problem-solving skills, decision-making, and learning from experience.
The STAR formula is effective because it’s easy to remember and practice, and the storytelling component gives the interviewer a good idea of how you’re likely to handle a similar situation if they hire you.
It will help the interviewer to gather specific, evidence-based response to better assess your suitability for the role and conflict management competence.
If you’re looking for a new job or want to see how to answer some of the other questions you’ll get in the interview, check out this Free Course.
Types of Conflict Resolution Interview Questions + Example Answers
Below are some most common examples of conflict interview questions. To ensure you’re ready for the interview, be sure to prepare answers to all of these. Although they sound similar, there are subtle differences in what the interviewer is looking for.
How do you handle conflict?
This is the most general version of the question (which makes it a bit tricky). To answer it properly, you need to present a combination of your overall conflict management skills and a STAR-method example.
“How do you handle conflict?” sample answer:
When I face conflict at work, I try to pause, take time to think, and understand the other person’s perspective. I know it’s easy to take things personally, so I do my best to stay calm, and show respect and understanding. Conflicts are an intrinsic part of the workplace experience and, in time, I’ve learned to be more comfortable expressing my opinion and handling disagreements.
To give you an example, a few years ago, I was chosen to lead a massive RFP response project worth over $200,000. It was my first time as a project leader and I was determined to succeed. Parts of this response included legal documents, technical documentation, and pricing details, which meant that several people outside of Sales and Business Development had to be involved. In the initial meeting, I delegated those tasks to different team members and we agreed on the deadline. I followed up with everyone daily to see how the project was going and was assured that everyone was doing their part. But then nobody submitted their documents on the agreed day.
I knew I had to react quickly, so I organized an emergency meeting, where I expressed my disappointment in a professional way and asked everyone about their roadblocks. I also emphasized that this was a key project and urged everyone to stop working on their current tasks to prioritize the RFP. We had our RFP response ready in a couple of hours and submitted it on time.
After this experience, we had a few post-mortem meetings to see how we could improve the process and make it less intense for everyone involved. We now have a large database of sample answers, which has saved us tons of time over the years.
Why this works: This is a true happy ending — the conflict was resolved and a new strategy was put in place to optimize the recurring process. Although it was the candidate’s first time leading a project, they reacted quickly. They did not play the blame game or escalate the issue to Management. Instead, they showed how clear communication and assertiveness in problem-solving helped reach company goals.
Can you describe a situation where you faced a conflict at work? What was your role and how did you handle it?
This is a classic behavioral interview question where the interviewer is looking for a success story — an example of you resolved an issue without involving your manager or HR. You should take it as an opportunity to showcase your problem-solving and communication skills.
“Describe a situation where you faced a conflict?” sample answer:
A few months ago, we got a new colleague working as an SDR and collaborating closely with both Sales and Marketing. When he joined, he took over some of the duties of the Marketing Department, like outreach, cold emailing, and list creation. As a Marketing Manager, I organized an intro call with him to explain our processes, messaging, and brand voice. I was also directly involved in his onboarding and expected a really smooth transition.
However, when he shared examples of his work at our 1-month check-in, I realized that he hadn’t been following the instructions. This explained the dwindling number of SQLs.
I brought it up and ensured I was specific enough to avoid misunderstanding. I tried to empathize with him because I knew he wasn’t ignoring the instructions on purpose. He was probably just sticking to his playbook which may have worked earlier in his career, but was ineffective here.
I knew that defending my stance could come across as a big ego, so I took extra care to explain why this wouldn’t work, as we’d already tried similar things in the past. I made sure to be polite and not make him feel unappreciated. I also offered to help with his next campaign.
He thanked me for expressing my views and admitted that he’d been struggling to find the right voice for his cold emails. We had a few follow-ups and brainstorming sessions together, and I’m happy to say he’s had significant improvement and SQLs are higher than ever.
Why this works: This person provided plenty of context so that the story would make sense, and used the STAR method to organize their thoughts. They used the example to cleverly weave in some of the core competencies that the interviewers are looking for – empathy, problem-solving, and constructive feedback.
How do you manage difficult team members or colleagues for a productive outcome?
When they phrase the conflict question like this, they’re assessing problem-solving, but also key probing for underlying concerns like adaptability, diplomacy, and leadership potential. You’re most likely to encounter the conflict question phrased like this if you’re interviewing for a manager or leadership role.
The interviewers want to see your leadership skills in action.
Managing or working with difficult team members requires a high level of emotional intelligence, active listening, self-awareness, and the ability to provide constructive feedback. That’s why you should throw some of these key skills in the mix.
“How do you manage difficult team members?” sample answer:
When I first became the CTO of a SaaS startup, my relationship with the Project Manager got sour quickly. Although her technical knowledge and work ethic were second to none, several team members complained that her task instructions were unclear, and that she was being rude when confronted. She would also occasionally correct people’s English in front of others or in public Slack channels, which only increased everyone’s frustration.
I was stuck between a rock and a hard place — I couldn’t tolerate this behavior as people were threatening to quit, but I couldn’t let her go either. She was, after all, the best PM I’ve ever worked with.
But I’m a big fan of open and honest communication, even with team members who are difficult, so I set up a 1:1 call with her to discuss the issue. When I laid out the problem, she was confused, as if she’d had no idea that her attitude was problematic. I knew she needed soft skills and communication coaching, but I had to be extra careful to bring it up.
I explained that she was one of the company’s MVPs, but that we couldn’t afford the friction in the team. I suggested that we organize a company-wide soft skills training, so both her and our team members could learn how to communicate better and, I’m happy to say, we were able to resolve the issue without escalating to HR.
Why this works: This answer highlights the manager’s proactivity in resolving a conflict where one team member’s lack of soft skills threatened the entire team’s dynamics. They also used some very practical and effective strategies to resolve it: one-on-one meetings, career and skills development plan, and positive reinforcement where credit was due.
Have you ever disagreed with your manager? How did you find common ground?
This is a tricky one because it shows how you deal with conflict with an authority figure and how you balance following instructions with defending your own stance. To give a really strong answer, you need to show professionalism, respect, and a positive attitude.
“Have you ever disagreed with your manager?” sample answer:
I have. In one particular instance we had different opinions on which candidate to hire for the Executive Assistant role.
We were both involved in the hiring process, but I was the one conducting the initial phone and video interviews, while she was involved in the final round only. It was a very tough call between two strong candidates, and we both had our own, different preferences.
I was convinced that I had a better understanding of both candidates’ strengths, but I wanted to fully understand my manager’s perspective, so I listened carefully to their rationale and asked many questions to get their point of view.
I shared my viewpoint clearly and professionally and noted the exact reasons why I felt one candidate wasn’t a good fit. The candidate my manager preferred lacked experience in our industry and technical systems, although they performed better in the final interview.
I recognized that the alignment may not be possible, so I suggested a compromise — review both candidates’ tasks together and then make a decision.
Why this works: This example is good because it’s relevant and it shows that the candidate was assertive enough to share their view openly, while respecting the authority and opinions of the manager. They use the STAR formula and are able to wrap up the story quickly and effectively.
What, in your opinion, are the essential components of effective conflict resolution?
This version is a bit more general and theoretical, but you can also support it with a STAR-method example to drive your point home.
The interviewer is looking to assess the skills and qualities you believe are crucial in resolving a work conflict successfully.
You should include key strategies like active listening, evidence-based argumentation, finding common ground, constructive dialogue, and compromise.
“What are the essential components of effective conflict resolution?” sample answer:
When faced with a conflict at work, whether it’s with a colleague, customer, or manager, I believe there are some general strategies to be aware of, like active listening, open and respectful communication, empathy, and the ability to compromise.
In my experience, the worst thing you can do is cling to your opinion and not want to budge. Last year, I had a disagreement with a coworker over the design of a landing page for an important Marketing campaign.
I knew that getting emotional and sticking to my viewpoint wouldn’t get me far, because we both had good arguments. So I paid full attention and listened to him, trying to place myself in the user’s shoes and objectively consider his suggestion. I wanted to allow him to express his logic without interrupting or dismissing his ideas.
I reminded him that we were on the same team and that we can work together. So we brainstormed a bit and found a win-win solution — we found out exactly which parts of the page we were trying to improve for the user, what the end goal was for the user, and created one page that resolved both of these.
So, to go back to your original question, I think that all conflict can be resolved if there’s empathy, willingness to find common ground, and mutual respect.
Why this works: This candidate starts by listing the key qualities needed for effective conflict management in a professional setting. They also show awareness of what not to do, and illustrate this with a real-life example that’s framed using the STAR formula.
How to Answer Interview Questions About Conflict — Popular Opinion vs. Expert Advice
Time to deconstruct some job seeking advice from online spaces like TikTok, YouTube, and Reddit.
Two experts, Big Interview’s co-founder and Chief Career Coach with 15+ years of experience, Pamela Skillings, and Michael Tomaszewski, a Certified Professional Resume Writer, went through some heavily watched and liked videos and subreddits to analyze the tips given by the community.
On Reddit, u/Bbemekl wasn’t sure how to answer because the conflict question had always stumped him in previous interviews.
Here’s what one user, spacelordmthrfkr, said:
I actually could think of a scenario when I had a homophobic coworker that kept asking me questions and got really specific to the point it was annoying and really personal. In the interview, I just said “I had a coworker once that was asking very personal questions about my sexuality and was a bit bigoted in their views, so I asked them personally to stop and asked my supervisor for advice. We resolved the issue peacefully, and my supervisor enforced that we maintain a friendly and professional environment that’s welcoming to everyone.”
I don’t think the tip is totally bad, but it could be improved. First, the interviewer may not like this answer because they may feel you brought in management too early. The conflict question is about learning how you handle conflict independently. Of course, management should help with serious issues, but the interviewers are hoping to see you as someone who can handle minor conflicts on your own.
Another thing. While this answer is a solid attempt at the STAR format, it lacks detail. How was the issue resolved? What was the result? What’s the learning experience? I always advise candidates to prepare two examples to conflict questions — one where you had your way, and one where you didn’t. For the latter, make sure to focus on what you learned and how you applied that to later situations.
— Pamela Skillings, Co-Founder and Chief Career Coach at Big Interview
And here’s an example from TikTok, where user @armanigems posted his take on answering “How do you handle working with a difficult coworker”:
When working with a difficult coworker, I try to understand their perspective and maintain a positive and professional attitude. I believe that approaching the situation with empathy, effective communication and a focus on the task at hand to overcome any obstacles and achieve successful outcomes.
This is interesting, and I can see why this had almost 1M views on TikTok. But, frankly, I’d give this answer a 2 out of 5. Here’s why. Although it contains all the right tips like staying professional and positive, and mentions empathy as a key skill for approaching conflict, this answer feels generic. If I were interviewing this person, I would not be convinced. It simply feels rehearsed, clichéd, and lacks authenticity, almost like AI-generated output rather than a genuine answer.
I get it that the question is general and not about a particular situation, but many candidates take this too literally. If you can squeeze in an example, do it. Always. It will make your answers much more memorable and authentic.
As is, this answer doesn’t give any examples or details that could illustrate the candidate’s approach in a real-world scenario, contributing to a superficial and disconnected portrayal. I would restructure the answer to follow the STAR format to give a more coherent and impactful narrative and show problem-solving skills in practice.
— Michael Tomaszewski, CPRW
And here’s another Reddit example where u/punknprncss gave her example answer to “How did you handle a conflict with a coworker?”
Usually they are looking for an answer that shows communication, teamwork and professionalism. Say something like: A co-worker and I were paired up on a project to plan the company’s holiday party. We both agreed to find three locations to host the event and then we would review the six together and pick one. It came down to two places, both of us preferring the location we picked. I listened to the reasons why they wanted their location, and we made a list of pros and cons. It was extremely helpful to hear their point of view and reasoning as they had thought of things I hadn’t. Ultimately we decided on a compromise — we selected their location and they agreed to my suggestions on the food selections.
To be honest, this is an excellent answer. The candidate knows exactly what they’ll be evaluated on — communication, teamwork, and professionalism. I’d add emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills. They use the STAR formula to a T. They start with giving us context and go on to describe the situation and task — finding the venue for the company’s holiday party. They explain very clearly and briefly where the conflict occurred — each person clung to their preferred venue.Then they explained what actions they took to resolve the issue — listened to the other side, made a list of pros and cons, and admitted fault (the other person had thought of things they hadn’t considered). This showcases amazing soft skills like self-awareness, flexibility, collaboration, and maturity.
— Pamela Skillings, Co-Founder and Chief Career Coach at Big Interview
Extra tips for answering conflict-resolution questions effectively
There are some general tips to keep in mind when answering interview questions about conflict.
1. Be honest and specific about your experience (and don’t exaggerate)
Don’t give a general answer like “I deal with conflicts all the time and have learned to stay calm and that communication is key.” It doesn’t show off your skills.
Don’t choose a minor disagreement or an example where you didn’t have to take an active part in resolving the conflict. If the conflict was resolved by someone else or ended up unresolved, it’s best to find another example.
Try to be very specific about what happened, and how you used your problem-solving and interpersonal skills.
Also, avoid portraying yourself as someone who won the argument in the end, you can only come across as arrogant. Plus, you’d be missing the point. This question is about the process, how you resolved it, and how you reined in your emotions and behavior to have a positive outcome (for the company, not you personally).
2. Focus on the positives and drop blame games
Focus on the good things that happened in the aftermath. Maybe a difficult relationship with a colleague got better, or a compromise solution led to the highest ROI you could imagine.
Avoid placing the blame on the other party or calling them incompetent, problematic, or anything similar. Instead, acknowledge that the conflict had nothing to do with the other person, but with the work situation and circumstances.
3. Show emotional intelligence, empathy, and assertiveness
In conflict resolution, interpersonal skills are key. Highlight your ability to empathize with the other person and see their perspective. Conflicts often trigger difficult emotions for both parties, so it’s important to show that you can manage your own emotions and keep your cool in highly charged situations.
At the same time, interviewers want to see that you’re not running away from difficult situations and that you’ve developed coping and conflict-resolution skills to voice and defend your argument when needed.
4. Stress what you learned and how the experience improved your conflict management skills
Finally, remember that saying — “it’s either a blessing or a lesson” — and focus on what you’ve learned from the negative experience. Especially if it’s a conflict you caused. Conflicts are amazing opportunities for personal growth and improving workplace communication because they reveal your (and other people’s) weak spots and triggers.
In conflicts, you’re challenged to find creative solutions, learn constructive dialogue, manage stress, and build resilience. Even if you think your example didn’t provide a massive learning experience, you can always say how you improved the competencies above.
You need to prepare for all interview questions, but behavioral questions (like the one about conflict resolution) require serious practice — you need to choose the relevant situation and example, focus on the story and deliver your point concisely, clearly and with confidence.
If you’re not careful, your answer can be too long, or you can start using filler words or say “um” a lot. That’s why you should at least record yourself answering, practice with a friend, or, even better, try out an interview preparation tool.
Big Interview has an integrated mock interview tool, where you can record yourself answering questions and review your answers to get a better idea of how you sound and look.
You can also get AI feedback with details about the relevance of your answer, the use of power words and good vocabulary, “um” and filler word counter.
Summary of the Main Points
Conflicts and disagreements are an intrinsic part of the workplace experience, and learning how to handle them is an important skill you’ll be evaluated on in a job interview.
You may encounter questions like How do you manage conflict at work? or Can you tell me about a time you had a conflict with someone from your team and how you resolved it? To answer these questions effectively:
- Have a few examples ready in your head and practice answering them in advance.
- Use the proven STAR-method when describing the conflict experience. It will help you frame your answer better, stay on topic, be concise, and give the interviewer what they’re looking for.
- Pay attention to how the question is phrased. You’ll need to tweak your answer considerably based on the specific question.
- Choose strong and specific examples and weave in key skills for conflict management (e.g. problem-solving, empathy, negotiation, assertiveness, compromise…)
- Finish on a humble note by saying what you’ve learned from the conflict and how you’ve grown since.
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What are the most common interview questions about conflict?
Some common interview questions about conflict are:
- How do you deal with conflict?
- How do you handle conflict at work?
- How do you handle disagreements in a professional setting?
- Can you provide an example of a time when you experienced conflict in the workplace?
- Tell me about a time when you had an issue with a coworker?
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your manager?
What is the key to a good conflict-resolution interview question answer?
A good answer to the conflict resolution interview question needs to be based on three pillars: using the STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Result) formula to organize your answer, mentioning key skills needed to successfully resolve conflict, and explaining what you learned from the experience.
How to provide an example of how I usually handle conflict at work?
Example: “When I face conflict at work, I try to pause, take time to think, and understand the other person’s perspective. I recently had a disagreement with a coworker about a logo because I felt it didn’t follow the guidelines we received from the client. I set up a quick call with my colleague to go over the guidelines together one more time, and we agreed that it needed a bit of tweaking. I praised my colleagues choice of color and assured him that the conflict wasn’t personal. I’m happy to say we managed to resolve the issue without involving our manager or the client.”
How should you approach resolving conflict at work?
There are several strategies you can use to resolve conflict in a professional setting. Some of them are open communication, determining the root causes of conflict, mediation, continuous evaluation, seeking win-win solutions by focusing on common goals, and providing traning for employees who need to improve their communication and conflict management skills.
What if I worked at jobs where human interaction was minimal and conflict between team members unlikely?
Focus on transferable skills that showcase your ability to handle conflict resolution. Discuss examples in which you have experienced or observed conflict in any setting, whether small, within your family, or with friends. Explain how you tackled the issue, demonstrated communication, empathy, or problem-solving skills, and arrived at a resolution. Interviewers value these abilities, even if they come from experiences outside of the workplace.
What if, in truth, I’m really bad at resolving conflict?
First, acknowledge the areas where you need improvement in conflict resolution, but do so in a manner that shows self-awareness and willingness to learn. Next, highlight any training or courses you have taken (or plan to take) to develop your skills in this area. Consider discussing how you have successfully collaborated in team settings or have used active listening skills, even if not directly tied to conflict resolution. Alternatively, you can mention an example of when you didn’t manage conflict properly and highlight what you learned from it and how you’re going to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
How do I improve my conflict-resolution skills?
Conflict management is a skill that can be learned. The first step is to develop self-awareness and understand what your typical response to conflict is, why it happens, and if there’s any room for improvement (there usually is). Practice active listening without interrupting, assertive communication, and emotional regulation. Ask for feedback from your colleagues or manager to see what they think. You can also work with a coach or sign up for workshops to learn more about conflict resolution techniques like negotiation, mediation, or compromise. Finally, practice in all possible settings, professional or personal.