Now this can be a tricky question indeed. You are sitting in your interview, acing all the questions that are thrown your way and really letting the interviewer know all your strengths and how you can bring your ‘A game’ to the job. Then suddenly, this question comes up. You are stumped. Or are you? This is a tricky question and interviewers are probably used to people struggling with, so if you can answer it with confidence it could earn you some extra points. Let’s look how you can give a successful answer to this question.
To begin with, we need to ask why the interviewer is asking you this question. Are they just trying to get some workplace gossip from a different company? Probably not. But what asking this question can teach them is about your communication skills. Disagreements happen, its a fact of life that not everyone will get on, all the time. But how you deal with these disagreements is detrimental. How you communicate and interact with your manager can speak volumes about you as a person and how you will fit in with the company if they were to hire you.
Here are some points you should include in your answer.
• Explain the situation
Explain to the interviewer what caused the disagreement. Don’t go into too much detail and relay the whole story as you would to your friend over coffee whilst bashing your boss. When you are describing what happened, make sure you do it in a way that is respectful. Showing respect is very important in the workplace, so even though you are talking about a previous employer, you should always be respectful.
• Be positive
When you are talking about the situation that occurred with your manager, make sure you sound positive. You don’t want the person who interviews you to believe you are holding grudges against the manager you had a disagreement with and you certainly don’t want them to believe this is the reason you left your old job. Make sure you come across in a positive light as this will help your prospects and the interviewer will appreciate that you can speak of a previous disagreement without being negative.
• Talk about what you have learnt from this
Explain how this situation with your boss has enabled you to be prepared to handle any potential future disagreements with coworkers. As mentioned above, the interviewers are aware that disagreements do occur so if you have the skills to handle any disagreements that could arise, this will be noted and may earn you some extra points.
• Diffusing disagreements
When answering this question you want to focus on the personality traits, previous experiences and skill set you have and explain how you have used these to diffuse the situation of disagreement. For example, you could explain that your ability to be mellow in these situations can help diffuse tension. This will give the interviewer insight into how you may diffuse any disagreements that could happen in their company if you were hired.
• Be honest
Interviewers are looking for honest employees and this a key opportunity to show you can be honest. Think about it like this – you have not just walked into an interview and started telling them about how awful your previous boss was and all the argument that happened, they have asked you specifically to describe a disagreement to them. All you need to do is remain professional when answering the question and your answer will be fine.
There are some thing you want to try and avoid when answering this question. I have collected these for you below.
• Do not speak poorly of your boss
This is very important when you answer this question. You do not want to bash your boss to someone who could be your future employer as this will not come across well at all and will definitely not work in your favour. Your interviewer did not ask what your personal issues with your previous boss are, but instead they want a professional answer to a question which is truly about how your communication skills hold up in times of disagreement. Remember you are in a job interview, not the playground!
• Don’t be overly modest
By this, I am talking about when you are discussing the diffusion of the disagreement, do not down play your role in this. It is the natural instinct for lots of people to be modest and avoid ‘blowing their own trumpet’. However this question is all about how you personally can handle disagreements – not how you boss or another coworker can, they aren’t here applying job, this is about you. So you really have to avoid the temptation to downplay your role, instead you need to let the interviewer know that you had key role in diffusing the disagreement.
• Don’t get wrapped up in the disagreement
Although the disagreement may have happened recently and it may have been a difficult one, try to avoid getting uptight when discussing it. The interviewer will be able to sense this and will know that you have not got passed this. As mentioned above, if they believe this, they may be inclined to believe that you still hold a grudge and that a situation similar to this may happen in their company if they hire you.
Now you have all the factors you need to build a great answer. The only other advice I can give you is to prepare, plan and practice. If you are ready for this question in the interview, you will be able to deliver a great response, rather than looking like a deer caught in headlights. Also, you don’t want to forget confidence. Any response given with confidence, automatically sounds more appealing – and thats before the interviewer has registered the words you are saying. If you are confident in your answer, then the interviewer will be too. They will be more inclined to believe in what you say and that you have the tools required to deal with disagreements in the work place. So take this advice and get ready to ace this question!
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