Business is all about relationships. As simple as that. Nobody is going to purchase something from a person they dislike, or outright hate. An ability to build and foster relationships of trust is crucial for every employee in sales. But it isn’t only about sales, since you won’t be an isolated unit in the workplace, regardless of your job. Cooperating with others, going to meetings, giving orders and receiving them, you’ll have a daily interaction with your colleagues. Your ability to build good relationships with them determines not only how you will fare in the job, but also how you will feel, and whether you will enjoy your time in the office (at least to some extent).

Considering all of this, it should not surprise you that you will face at least a couple of questions about relationship building in most job interviews. In this article we will look at seven of them, including some tricky situational (behavioral) questions. I will try to give you some advice in terms of what you should focus on while dealing with the questions, and what the hiring managers want to hear from you. Let’s start!


What does relationship building mean to you?

The most straightforward question, but not an easy one. First of all, you should emphasize the importance of relationships, be it with your colleagues, customers, or business partners. Secondly, you should preach proactive approach. Ensure the hiring managers that you do not wait for other person to make the first move. On the contrary, you are the one who shows honest interest in other people, who approaches them. You do not find it hard striking a conversation with a stranger, and you actually enjoy it.

You can go also a bit deeper, saying that you aim for profound relationships, that means relationships of trust when people know they can rely on you, instead of superficial relationships that you make just because it is a part of the job. Realizing the role good relationships play in every team and every business, building them is one of your top priorities.


Tell us about a time when you struggled to build a relationship with someone important.

In an ideal case you should speak about some situation from work–for example when you struggled to build a relationship with your colleague (someone you shared the office with), or with a client. However, if this is your first job application, you can talk also about a situation from school (struggling to build a relationship with a teacher for example), or even from your personal life. Your attitude matters, not the particular situation you narrate.

The key is to show that you tried what you could, that you did not give up. Perhaps you didn’t have a good initial connection, but you kept trying, looking for things you had in common, avoiding topics that separated you from the other person, going above and beyond for them, showing honest interest in their feelings, trying to understand their point of you–even if it differed from yours heavily.

At the end it might not work, and you didn’t build the relationship you wanted with a person in question. But you gave it your best effort, and took the initiative. That’s what matters for the hiring managers.

Is there any type of a person you find it hard to work with, or build a relationship with?

We are all different–which is a great thing, but at the same time it often causes us troubles, both in the workplace and outside of it. But diversity is one of the buzzwords of 21st century, and sure enough you’ll find a nice mix of people in your new job, especially if you apply for a job in some big corporation. Now you certainly won’t become friends with everyone… That’s not how it works, and employers know it too well for having any illusions.

However, you can respect everyone, and try to be nice to everyone, which is basically what they hope to hear from you at this point. You may say, for example, that you find it hard to work with stubborn people, or people who do not listen to others, or people who have this or that weakness. At the same time though you realize that you have your own weaknesses and imperfections, and try your best to respect people as they are, and have at least a decent work relationship with everyone. You may find it hard to work with some people, but you can still work with them…


Relationship building plays a crucial role in sales. Tell us how you plan to build relationship with our clients and with new prospects.

This question is more role specific. You should think about your new job, what exactly you will do, means of communication with the clients, and how they can benefit from the relationship with you, business wise of course :).

Let me give you an example. Imagine that you work as a car salesman. In this case, you can emphasize the importance of understanding the client’s needs perfectly. That means what kind of car they need, for what purpose, whether they have a family or not, whether they go more after functionality or image, etc. You can also talk about follow-up on each meeting. They saw some cars but didn’t buy any. Instead of forgetting them you’ll make a follow up call, send them some great deal by email, you will keep in touch. Maybe they won’t buy anything, but at least you built a good rapport and they may recommend you to their friends, which means more business for you and your employer at the end.

This was one example. Of course, things will be a bit different for a job in a call center, and a lot different for someone in B2B sales, someone who tries to close deals worth of millions of dollars… Think about your future role, and show the interviewers that you have a good idea of how you want to build and maintain good relationships with your clients.


Tell us about a time when you lost a relationship with someone important to you.

Once again, it doesn’t matter whether you talk about a situation from work, or one from your personal life, for example when you lost someone you loved. Your attitude matters for the interviewers. And what is the right attitude to show?

First of all, you shouldn’t blame the other person for the breakup. Accept responsibility. Of course, when any relationship falls apart, both parties bear some guilt. But you should focus on your part, and what you could have done better.

Ensure the interviewers that you learned the lesson. Maybe you lost an important relationship, and it was a hard pill to swallow. But you know why it happened, and what you can do differently next time, to make sure the situation won’t repeat. This should help you in your new job, to build and maintain good relationship with both your colleagues and clients.


In your opinion, what role does constructive criticism play in relationship building in the workplace?

Without feedback we can hardly improve. Ensure the interviewers that you do not mind receiving constructive criticism from your superiors. At the same time, however, you are ready to pay them back the favor, or share your feedback with anyone else in the workplace. Having said that, you realize that some people may be sensitive to criticism, and sharing your negative feedback with them may put a dent to your relationship in the workplace (which can in turn cause problems in the entire team).

For this reason, you always try to share your feedback cautiously, perhaps also praising the person along the way–for something they do well, making sure your won’t hurt them emotionally. You also try to understand each person, and how they react to negative feedback, and may adjust your way of delivering it accordingly, making sure you do not build a fence in between you.


What is the most important relationship you have build in your life so far?

This one offers a lot of room for creativeness, but also for expressing your values and beliefs. You can certainly say that the most important relationship you have in your life is the relationship with God--if you are a believer of course, and if the values and principles of your religion determine how you act towards other people.

But you can also pick your husband or wife, which of course is a more important relationship than any relationship you can build at work. Parents are another good choice, just make sure to always stress your role, how you contributed to the quality of this relationship. And if you are young and inexperienced, you can always say that you still wait for that most important relationship, the one that will change your life. In the meantime you try to build good relationship with everyone around, and hope to do so in your new job as well…


Final words

Relationship building plays a crucial role in virtually any job. I hope my short selection helped you understand what you may face in the interviews, and how to deal with the questions. Make sure to check also the following articles, preparing for other challenges you may face in the workplace. Thank you, and good luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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