During an interview, you’re bound to be asked a selection of questions that crop up regardless of the role you’re interviewing for.
Some of these are fairly straightforward, such as “What Has Been Your Biggest Achievement?” and “Tell Me About Yourself”, while others take a little more thought and planning, such as the dreaded “Have you ever had to work with a difficult colleague?”
This is a tricky one because you don’t want to appear to be moaning about your co-workers, and you don’t want it to come across like it’s actually you that was the difficult one.
However, it’s important to be honest, because anyone with a decent amount of work experience will have – at some point – come across a difficult co-worker, but showcasing that you identified the issue, came up with a solution and actioned it is the best way to approach answering this question.
Some things to avoid saying are things like “I’ve never had to deal with a difficult colleague,” or “Everyone I’ve ever worked with has been lovely” as, if you’ve had more than one job, chances are this isn’t the case, so don’t insult the interviewer’s intelligence by giving them this sort of answer.
The interviewer is looking for how you deal with difficult people, as being diplomatic and professional during conflict is an important attribute for any employee to have, so start by saying that you value others’ opinions and views and find that listening to your colleagues and appreciating that not everyone thinks the same way allows you to get along with most people.
You should back this up with an example of a time when you’ve used this strategy with a difficult colleague in a situation that relates to the particular role you’re applying for. For example, try and use an example from a past job that is similar to the one you’re interviewing for, rather than a random job that doesn’t really relate to it.
Try and avoid ranting too much here, and focus less on what the problem was, but more on how you resolved it. For example, if you had a falling out with a colleague over something that happened in the workplace, offer a brief overview of what you disagreed about, but spend more time explaining your thought process regarding coming up with a solution and how you acted upon this to resolve the situation.
You might have fixed the issue by taking your colleague to one side and talking about the problem, by apologizing for your own actions or going through HR to resolve the issue formally.
In conclusion, whatever the example is, as long as the interviewer can see that you made a genuine effort to get on better with your colleague then that’s all they’re really looking for.
So there we go, some tips on how to answer that dreaded “Have you ever had to deal with a difficult colleague?” question! Do you agree with this advice, or do you have some pearls of wisdom of your own?