Interview Preparation

Do you need help with preparing for an interview? If so this is for you.

Tell me about a time you’ve disagreed with a senior member of staff

The Real Question: When it comes to office politics are you going to be a pot stirrer or can you work through disagreements in a mature, productive way? We don’t want playground drama around here.

Top-line Tactic: Show you can debate like an adult for the betterment of the business, by responding openly and honestly.

No one ever says in an interview: “I’m a handful! If there’s an office feud, juicy piece of gossip or long-held grudge going on, I’m probably a part of it.”

Interviewers know that and so have found subtler ways than direct questions to figure out how you handle conflict and whether you can maintain a healthy separation between the personal and the professional. This question is one of those ways.

The success of your answer depends as much on tone as content. You’re looking to convey the warmth, understanding, rationality and professionalism with which you deal with your disagreements in the way you answer the question. Stay well away from political struggles, hurt feelings or battles over territory or influence. Instead, offer an example of professional people sitting down together to arrive at an answer to a contentious business question. Stress your ability to fight your corner in a constructive way that utilizes evidence and emotional intelligence.

I had a disagreement over sales strategy in my last job. I used to generate leads on the phone, but management wanted us to change tactics and go out to sell on foot. For me that wasn’t the best use of my time. I thought we should establish a connection first through phone calls, then develop a tailored marketing solution for our best prospects. Also, it was quite a big firm, and I thought going door to door wouldn’t present the right image.

I said I thought there was a better way of doing things and asked whether they really wanted us to be seen as a door-to-door sales company as opposed to a professional outfit that would quantify an opportunity before going out to act on it. Management let me trial my approach and it worked, so they implemented it across the regional sales force. I’d only been there for two and a half months at the time, so I thought twice before saying anything, but I was sure that applying a methodical structure to the problem would increase productivity and in the end I was proved right.

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