Have you ever had a problem with your peer? Can you give us an example?

Have you ever had a problem with your peer? Can you give us an example?

This is one of the most commonly questions asked in an interview. Alternately, the interviewer may also ask about a problem with your boss, manager, subordinate, or customer. The idea behind the question is not to get gossip or pry in your personal life, though it may feel like that at times. Instead, the interview wants to see how you deal with conflict, and how adept are you at handling a difficult situation.

First things first, no matter what you answer here, the implication should never be that you left your previous job because you did not get along with your peers, or boss, manager, subordinate, customer, etc. This implies that you cannot handle these types of situations like an adult and your response is to run away. Sometimes that may be the right way to deal with a situation, but an interview is not the place to discuss this.

Another incorrect way to answer this question is to say or imply that you never had a problem with your peer. That is just not likely. People often do not get along; you are even likely to get into an argument or disagreement with your best friend. Your peers are basically people with whom you have been forced to work with, so there are bound to be disagreements, or problems.

So what is the right way to answer this question? Honestly, but downplaying the problem. Talk about how disagreements are bound to happen, personal or work related. However, you know that you can’t let these situations affect your working relationship. Emphasize how work and the company is more important that these petty situations (even though it might not really be true for you). Talk about how you need to create an ‘open dialogue’ so that you can get past your differences and find a way to work together harmoniously.

For the second part of the question, give a real example of a situation where you and a colleague disagreed about something, but you didn’t let that affect your working situation. Comment on how you realized that you guys should talk about it and try to move past it so that you can work together. That is not how the real situation may have been resolved, if it was resolved at all. You may still be cursing out that colleague to this day, however, it is necessary to tweak the story here a little in your favor, so that it shows how you are a mature and responsible adult who knows how to behave in and deal with a difficult situation.

Sample Answer:

When you are working with someone in a stressful environment, problems are likely to arise. However, it is up to us not to let these smaller problems grow and make things difficult in the workplace. I remember this one time when a couple of colleagues and I went out after work for a few drinks. Things were going well, small talk and all; however, suddenly the topic steered towards politics. Disagreements were bound to happen. Things were said. The next day at work, the situation continued to be tense. After a couple of days, I realized that things cannot continue this way. I asked them to meet and me and told them that even though I might disagree with their politics, I had nothing against them as people. In fact, I even liked them, which is why we were hanging out after work in the first place. They all agreed as well. Even though things were still tense, our discussion allowed us to openly talk about the situation, and over the next couple of days things became cordial once again.

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