A Proactive Approach to Conflict Prevention - 5 things to ask yourself before you ask the candidate


Hiring a new staff member is often an exciting and stressful time. You’ve worked your way through the CVs and made a short list. Interviews had been scheduled, you’ve got a list of questions to ask and you are ready to meet the candidates – or are you? Few recruiters think about the potential for conflict within a team when they are interviewing candidates; however, by asking yourself these 5 questions before you interview your short list can save you a lot of headache and heartache down the track.

As we know, prevention is better than cure, and one of the best ways to avoid workplace conflict is to recruit a team that works well together. By spending some time preparing for the job interview process, you will save yourself time and hassles in the long run. Difficult conversations are made easier if you put in the hard work first.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when assessing how well the applicants will fit in to your current team:

What is the culture like in your team?

Thinking about how the team functions, the way they work and interact will not only help you imagine how the candidate might fit in, but also assess how the addition of a new person might change that dynamic. If you have a quiet, studious team, will a loud, outgoing person fit in or rub the others the wrong way?

What is the gap you need to fill? What is your team missing? What do you already have enough of?

You probably already know what job the new employee will do, but think about how they will perform that role. Do you need a great people person, someone who is able organise the rest of the team and keep them on task, or someone to breathe a bit of life into the office? What are the demographics of the team? Will the new member fit in or feel isolated? If you already have a “mother hen” personality, will employing another one share the load or leave to turf wars? Will the team cope with two “class clowns”? 

How will you measure the new employee’s performance? What do you expect from them in the first 3 – 6 month? Be specific. 

Having a clear idea of what you expect from your new employee will help you assess whether or not they are up to the job. What does “success” look like? How will you know if the new employee is “working out” The more specific you can be, the easier it will be to determine which candidate is the best fit.  You will be able to probe their work history, seeking out relevant skills and experience, comparing their previous achievements with your goals for them.

How does your organisation deal with conflict?

Recruiters often ask interviewees for examples of a time they have dealt with conflict either within the workplace, or with an external party. This is a great question and can reveal a lot about the candidate’s temperament, experience and skills.  This information is even more valuable if you have in mind the way the organisation currently deals with conflict, so you can determine whether your styles complement each other’s.

Where do you see the candidate in 5 years’ time?

Another favourite recruitment question is “where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?” Before you ask your candidates this, ask yourself where you see them in 5 years’ time? Is the role one with high turnover, perhaps an entry level position or support-yourself-through-uni job? Or is there scope for the candidate to grow and develop within the organisation? What kind of training and support will you offer them to help them reach their goals? Are you prepared to give them time off for study or other personal development? Or do you need them to be in the office, giving 100% to your business 100% of the time? Having an idea of the way you can help the interviewee develop their skills and abilities will help you to identify the candidate that will give you the type of commitment you are looking for, and ensure that your expectations of one another align.

Be ready to answer these questions for the candidate and yourself, and you will increase the chances of choosing a best fit for the role, and decrease the risk of conflict arising in the workplace. 

Rebecca Carroll-Bell


Rebecca Carroll-Bell is The Everyday Mediator – passionate about managing, resolving and preventing conflict in everyday life Rebecca Carroll-Bell is an experienced conflict manger, conflict resolution expert and mediator. In addition to helping you manage, resolve and prevent conflict in your everyday life, Rebecca provides coaching, mentoring and support to other mediators and lawyers wishing to market and promote their practice on a shoe-string budget.

Comments (1)
Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Really well written article. I agree that being transparent with potential hires and honest with what your company really needs are prime factors. I would also say, give the interviewee several different types of questions and potentially a few small tasks. This can break up the monotony of straight back and forth Q&A. Also some of the tasks can help you identify how they perform. Also see what kind of questions they ask you. It can help you understand what they are curious about and if they have passion for your venture. Lastly, I think it is important for the interviewee to meet at least some of their potential coworkers. This gives them both a chance to size one another up. You should definitely have the interviewee meet any teammates that they will be working with closely to ensure a good personality and skill fit. Remember to follow up with the coworkers that met the interviewee and ask them what their take on the individual was and why.