This question is designed, I don’t want to say hang you, trip you up, make you a little uncomfortable, take you off your game a little bit so that, shall we say, you’re not quite as canned. And this question is an easy one if you understand what they’re looking for.
If you are coming out as a recent grad, you think, perhaps a professor is how they might ask it. Have you ever had a conflict with a boss? A manager? A professor.
The keyword there is “conflict.” When I hear that word, I think of the Middle East. So, I think of something nuclear. I think of something big. You can deflect off that word and use it to your advantage.
So, for example, the way I would answer is, “You know, when I hear the word “conflict,” I think of the Middle East. I think of something explosive or big and, no, I’ve never had a conflict with my boss (my manager. My professor. Fill in the blank as is appropriate). Obviously, I have had disagreements at times. Have they ever gone nuclear? Have they ever become so explosive that we could define them as a conflict? No.
“But we’ve had disagreements and what I would do is make time to sit down with my (fill in the blank – – boss, professor) to understand what their thinking was, offer my observations and, ultimately, I’m an employee / I am a student and I have to do what they tell me to do. But, ultimately, the goal is to have the conversation, not to avoid it. Not to just do things and learn after the fact because my manager isn’t perfect. My boss isn’t perfect. Neither is my professor.
“I’m aware that they sometimes make mistakes where they may have blind spots, too. And, obviously, so do I?
So, I am here to learn and they may have had a reason for their decision that I need to learn. So, have I ever had a conflict? No, have high ever had disagreements. Yes. And I work toward resolving them by understanding what went into the decision, offering insights and observations that may have been missed, OR I didn’t understand how. they got weighed in the evaluation so that I could learn.
Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1800 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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