How to answer ‘conflict resolution’ interview questions?

As the interview season nears, we get plenty of inquiries regarding how to answer tough interview questions. One of the most common questions we get is on the topic of “conflict resolution”.

Well, I would like to inform you that this is an extremely common question and you must prepare for it. However, I want to assure you that the conflict you describe DOES NOT have to be anything profound. It simply has to serve its purpose of convincing the interview committee your abilities to communicate and troubleshoot in difficult situations.

Firstly, you need to clearly describe the situation. You need to share with the committee who were involved in the conflict and what their initial perspectives are, and why was there a conflict. Usually, a lack of communication is the root cause of the conflict. Never point fingers and blame other people as it can be seen as unprofessional. I like to think that most people are reasonable and have good intentions, but sometimes we carry out irrational decisions for various reasons.

Secondly, describe how the conflict was resolved. Were the people involved being patient to each other? Did you take your time to clarify your perspectives? Did you find a mediator for the discussion? Did you work out a compromise? Did you consider the big picture or the common goal you were trying to achieve?

After you have described the outcome, also share with us what you learned from it. It probably sounds a bit ingenuine to say how it would make you a better physician (probably needs a lot of practice to do this well and sound natural), but you can always talk about how it made you a better person. Even if the conflict wasn’t dealt with in an ideal fashion, it’s ok to share it too with a positive attitude. For example, discuss how you might avoid the same situation from happening it in the future? Did this experience make you more tolerant to similar situations in the future?

Essentially, the interview committee wants to see your approach to dealing with conflicts as you will face them often as a future physician. They just want to know that you are a reasonable, collaborative, and good-hearted individual (of course, it takes practice and finesse to demonstrate it well).
Once again, this is a common question in many interview situations. I would highly suggest that you take good notes of conflicts that happen during medical school. You will for sure need it again for residency application.