Tell me about a recent event that involved resolving a conflict with a client, customer, colleague or boss.  What happened and what did you do?

Traps: This is “the” behavioral question.  It is probing for temperament, critical thinking and ability to recover.  If you relate a conflict that shows how stupid your boss was, you lose.  If you were victimized and you still show resentment, there could be some concern about how well you handle disappointment.  Many times, it is not the answer that is the problem it is the body language that is more telling.

Companies that tend to use behavior questions have done their homework and usually have identified the temperaments and thinking qualities that breeds success at their organizations.  Many have even developed numerical ratings to help recruiters rate the candidates

Strategy: Always assume that you will be asked some kind of a behavioral question and prepare accordingly.  The good news is that if you have a well prepared resume, you will have put into writing many of your accomplishments.  If you use the STAR system (Situation, Technique, Action, and Results), to write down your top 8 accomplishment, you should be able to identify the “conflicts” that are associated with those accomplishment.  For example, if you redesigned a system to insure compliance with new rules that resulted in being recognized both inside and outside of the company, what system did you change and who was bothered by making the change.  The theory is that all accomplishments have related conflicts.  If you find the conflicts associated with your accomplishments, you should be able to provide what you did and report the outcome as a positive.

Once you have identified what you consider to be acceptable conflicts, write them down along with what you did to resolve the conflict and provide the results.  Then have a friend read what you have written and provide feedback so that you can be sure that you are always positive.

Possible responses: Remember these responses need to be your own personal experience – there is not a patented answer for these types of questions.

S/C (Situation &/or Challenge) – 2 minutes or less synopsis of the situation &/or challenge.

I had an employee who wasn’t meeting her hiring numbers for the quarter and her HM’s were coming to me as I was her supervisor.

A (Action) –

  • The first thing I did was told the HM’s that I would look into the situation and get back to them within 48 hours with a solution to this issue.
  • The next thing I did was look at the recruiter’s metrics to determine if I could see where she was missing the mark. I determined that she was only conducting about 3 pre-screens a week, which is very low, the minimum is usually 10 pre-screens per week.
  • Next I scheduled a meeting with the employee. I asked her to tell me how things were going, if there were any thing that she was having problems with, etc.
  • She did state that she was spending a lot of time going back and forth trying to get interviews scheduled with HM’s.
  • We talked about a few solutions for her to overcome this hurdle with the HM’s (i.e. get interview times for each week ahead of time – then she could just plug in candidates to their calendars.)
  • Next, we talked about her productivity and that she was way behind in her hires for this quarter, so we discussed how she could achieve her goals before the end of the quarter.
  • Next, I took the 3 interviews off her plate that needed to be scheduled so she could focus on pre-screening more candidates this week and next week and we’d reconvene after the two weeks to see if she was ready to start scheduling interviews with HM’s again.
  • I then spoke with the HM’s to let them know that we’ve discussed the issues and we’ve put an action plan in place. I also let them know that I will be scheduling their interviews for the next 2 weeks and moving forward we will be asking them in advance to mark time out on their calendars for conducting interviews so we can schedule at the end of our pre-screens.
  • After two weeks, the employee and I met again, and she was back on track and ready to take the interview scheduling back.

R (Results) –

  • The employee met her quarterly goals and utilized the best practices that I shared with her in our meetings.
  • The HM’s were very happy with the improvement and really liked the idea of blocking times out each week, so we could schedule interviews immediately.

Reminder:  Interviewers are looking for body language, what YOUR individual contribution is (not what the team did – what you did) and how well you recover from the question if you became passionate about the situation you described.