Best Interview Questions to Ask Job Candidates – Conflict

This is part two of a 12-part series.

Creating a successful and productive team starts with finding great employees who fit your organizational culture. And while you may receive hundreds of job applications and interested parties, narrowing down the talent pool to hire the right candidate for the job goes beyond what hiring managers can surmise by reading cover letters and applicants’ resumes, especially when studies show 85% of applicants lie on their resumes. This is where the art of the interview comes into play.

According to a study, although a typical interview averages 40 minutes, 33% of hiring managers decide whether they want to hire a job candidate within the first 90 seconds of an interview. To ensure you’re completely thorough and make the right decision, it’s important to ask the right questions to fully understand and evaluate a candidate. During this 12-part series, we will explore the best interview questions to ask job candidates and give a few “pro tips” along the way.

Part Two – Uncovering a Candidate’s Potential Confrontation Style

Question: When have you dealt with conflict in the workplace?

Follow ups: How did you approach the conflict? What did you do to mitigate potential negative outcomes?

Effective conflict management is one of the most important soft skills an employee can have. It can be the difference between a teammate who helps cultivate a culture of openness and respect or a disgruntled employee who causes dissention in the office. While everyone handles conflict differently, one thing is certain: problems will arise at some point that require professional confrontation.

Asking job candidates how they dealt with conflict in the past will help you determine what type of employee they will be. Depending on your company’s culture, you may prefer one to another. However, if certain candidates are self-aware and acknowledge shortcomings, they tend to realize areas for growth and be willing to develop new styles.

According to, there are five types of conflict management styles:

  • Avoiding – “To avoid confrontation and conflict, some managers will delay making a deadline or avoid making a decision. They might physically separate the opposing parties or remove themselves from the situation altogether.”
  • Competing – “The competing style of conflict management addresses conflict directly as the goal of the competing style is to end the conflict as quickly as possible.”
  • Accommodating – “The accommodating style is the opposite of the competing style and it resolves the conflict by giving in to the opposing party.”
  • Compromising – “The compromising conflict style is often referred to as the ‘lose-lose’ method. When you address conflict with this style, you encourage each side to make some significant sacrifices. By definition, this means that neither side gets exactly what they want.”
  • Collaborating – “As opposed to the compromising style’s ‘lose-lose’ solutions, the collaborating style seeks to produce ‘win-win’ results. The collaborating style tries to find a solution that truly satisfies everyone involved.”


When revealing conflict management styles, you may be inclined to ask a job candidate if they have an example of disagreeing with leadership. While it’s important to see how they handle conflict with co-workers, it’s even more important to see if they are the type of employee to stand up for their convictions and offer a differing point of view. Disagreement doesn’t have to be a negative characteristic; if done with grace and respect, an employee who raises opposing opinions can help companies think outside the box and develop new strategies to handle future projects or obstacles.

What is your favorite question to ask a job candidate? How do you decide who the right candidate is? Let us know in the comments section below!

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