Behavioral Interviews Guide

Collaboration interview questions

Pedro Abreu, Senior Associate, Sales Strategy & Operations at LinkedIn
Published: February 23, 2022

Conflict resolution | Teamwork | Trusted advisor

A key component of behavioral interviews is assessing your collaborative skills.

Collaboration is defined as “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” “With someone” and “produce or create” are what collaborating is all about.

Collaboration interview questions are not just designed to see how you get along with people, and it’s not only about being able to produce things by yourself. They are designed to see your ability to get along and co-create. This includes peers, managers, key stakeholders, x-functional partners, and maybe even folks external to the company.

Regardless of who it is you end up having to collaborate with, there are overarching themes prospective employers are looking for. These vary from company to company, from role to role, and experience level. At its core though, it comes down to three main areas that we’ll go over and can be used as reference to prepare: conflict resolution, relationship building, and trustworthy partner.

One important call out! Because employers can’t easily verify that you manage conflict adequately, that you have good working relationships, or that you are a trusted advisor, the trick is to:

  1. Have a structured response to each question - (e.g., use the STAR method)
  2. Demonstrate that you have a repeatable system to each question

In other words, show that you’re able to convey your message in a structured, easy-to-follow way and that the particular situation is not a result of chance but because you approached it in a thoughtful manner through a system/ framework that can be applied in the future.

Moving on to the three areas of collaboration. Let’s start with conflict resolution, because that is the most common and sensitive one.

Conflict resolution interview questions (Top)

Conflicts are part of being human. Inevitably, conflicts arise within organizations (it would be bad if they didn’t). What employers are trying to assess in these interview questions is how you react to these situations. Do you become aggressive or do you shut down and don’t engage? Both these are extreme reactions that won’t benefit the company’s end goal, so prospective employers are keen to find folks that are able to smoothly manage conflicts.

Example question #1: Tell me about a time you’ve handled conflicts within a team.

Example question #2: Tell me about a conflict situation with a coworker and how you resolved it.

Example question #3: Tell me about a time you advocated for an unpopular opinion with the rest of the team.

Example question #4: Tell me about a time you stepped in to resolve a conflict between two other people on your team.

Having systems for conflict resolution is extremely helpful for managing them successfully, and framing them that way helps the employer understand your approach. Here’s an example of a system that can be used to manage conflict when disagreeing with a colleague:

  • Prepare for a negative reaction: be aware and prepared that people might react negatively to what you’re saying, sharing, or proposing. Just preparing yourself for this possibility goes a long way to handle the situation properly when it happens.
  • Accept the other person's disagreement: once you’re prepared for the disagreement, then accepting becomes easier as the emotions involved are clearer.
  • Be open minded and assertive: in a conflict situation being open minded opens the door to incorporate valuable feedback that could be lost in the disagreement. On the other hand, being assertive when it matters ensures that your point of view on what is important doesn’t get lost.
  • Celebrate the agreement... or agree to disagree: once an agreement is reached find small (or big) ways to celebrate. It’s a victory for all parties involved and even a simple fist bump (or virtual high five) can help strengthen the relationship even further. If no agreement is reached, then try to agree on disagreeing and escalate if needed.

Remember however that conflicts are emotionally-charged situations, and having a good system in place is no insurance for following it. Interviewers are aware of this. Even though having a system and explaining it is positive and a first good step, what is more likely to resonate with the interviewer is one or two real-case examples. These examples don’t have to be fully detailed, but they should be colorful enough so that you’re able to explain the situation and the emotions involved.

The examples don’t have to be perfect either. It’s okay to share situations where your behavior wasn’t the most adequate as long as there’s a clear resolution and learnings that go with it. It also helps to show different situations with different folks - from small decisions to important ones, with managers, peers, and cross-functional partners. The breadth and depth of experiences provide a good opportunity for the interviewer to assess your personality in a conflict scenario and allows them to go deep - which is very positive!

Teamwork interview questions (Top)

An organization with no relationships or unhealthy ones doesn’t last long. That is why prospective employers are interested in understanding how you go about building and maintaining healthy relationships with your coworkers. Showing that you have good working relationships and ways to create them even if not asked is a no regret bet - no interviewer is looking for someone that can’t establish good working relationships with the team!

But you’re probably going to be asked about it. Be prepared to answer questions such as:

#1: How do you go about connecting with your team?

#2: Tell me about a time you had a hard time creating a relationship with another coworker. How did you go about it?

#3: Tell me about a time you motivated a team which was struggling.

#4: Tell me about a time you helped a team come together and gel.

Once again, showing that you have a repeatable system is a great way to start. Imagine you’re a new hire, a system you can use can be something like the following:

  • Break the ice: set up meetings in the first month with folks from the team and other teams just to get to know them and what they do. This first informal approach helps to establish a connection through human interaction (even if via zoom). Later on, when you have to reach out to these same folks with requests, it will be much easier to do so.
  • Understand the team operating model: schedule follow-up meetings with co-workers to chat about goals, challenges, and opportunities. Build rapport with the close members of the team.
  • Get buy in and make people feel valued: create project plans and share with impacted stakeholders to gather and incorporate feedback.
  • Make people feel respected and interested: for asks from others, be cognizant of time and effort, show that work has been done, give enough time to respond, and minimize requests.
  • Strengthen bonds: join/ create out-of-work events such as drinks, dinners, fun activities, and interest groups.

Whatever the system is or the way you go about it, the goal is to show that you’re deliberate and thoughtful on the approach to relationship building. Once you’ve done that, you can enhance your responses with real examples.

Trusted advisor interview questions (Top)

Some roles are direct advisory roles where the trust component is self-evident; others not so much. Nonetheless, the role of a trusted advisor should be played by everyone. Even in a role with limited exposure to cross functional partners, you must be a trusted advisor to customers, managers, and peers.

What does it mean to be a trusted advisor? In short, it means the other parties trust you. They trust your ability to deliver within deadlines, with quality, and consistency. They also trust your opinion - and take it into account.

These questions can come in all shapes and sizes. They can be as straightforward as:

#1: Tell us about an example of a trusted partnership you have.

#2: How have you changed someone's opinion?

#3: What are some examples where you have played the role of advisor?

As mentioned before, sharing examples is great but showing how you become a trusted advisor is extremely important as well. Explaining the system makes it tangible, that is why it is so important. Here’s an example:

  • Take initiative: schedule a meeting with key partners to get to know them
  • Convey urgency, show work style, and respect: schedule a follow-up meeting where an agenda is shared ahead of the call to align on priorities, challenges, key projects and deadlines
  • Generate excitement: tackle and share some quick wins and next steps
  • Build trust: communicate progress consistently, and ask for feedback on more complex projects
  • Deepen trust: see issues ahead, flag them, propose and align on alternatives
  • Show commitment to improve: show results and circle back for feedback

Once again, through a simple approach you’re able to show that you have a way to go about becoming a trusted advisor grounded on a set of factors you consider important.

To recap, if you keep in mind the principles - stating your answers clearly, sharing the systems you use for each situation and coupling them with real examples - you’re creating the opportunity for the interviewer to 1. gain confidence in you and/ or 2. go deeper and ask more questions. Although #1 is preferred, both are positive as long as you’re able to convey what you want to share (which should happen if your answers are properly structured). That is why we recommend this approach, it’s not guaranteed, but puts you a step ahead.

P.S. Preparing for behavioral interviews?

Get sample interview questions & example answers from PMs and consultants at Bain, Microsoft, BCG & more. Plus, guidance on how to structure your answers!