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How to answer the interview question, 'What are your co-worker pet peeves?'

Photo Illustration/Bryce Churchill
Photo Illustration/Bryce Churchill

Learning how you handle difficult co-workers is a great way for hiring managers to see whether you're a good cultural fit for their company.

According to the job search platform Glassdoor's 50 Most Common Interview Questions series, candidates can expect employers to ask questions like, "What are your co-worker pet peeves?" to test how they respond to various issues in the workplace.

Rather than responding with minor aggravations, like a co-worker chewing their gum loudly or constantly tapping their pencil, career strategist Mary Grace Gardner from The Young Professionista tells Glassdoor that applicants should focus on larger issues that "[prevent them] or the team from getting work done."

For example, if one of your pet peeves is when co-workers take credit for someone else's idea, then provide a specific example of that situation and explain how you handled it. Did you speak up in a meeting and say, "Actually, Sara, I remember mentioning that idea last week?" Did you pull the colleague to the side and politely tell them how their actions are negatively impacting the team's morale?

By highlighting an issue and giving a specific example of how you addressed it, employers will have a greater sense of your ability to productively manage workplace irritations.

"The former shows your ability to pinpoint a barrier and the latter demonstrates your leadership, collaboration and problem-solving skills — all desirable attributes for a candidate," says Gardner.

While dealing with difficult co-workers is no easy feat, the last thing employers want to hear is that you've turned a blind-eye to the issue.

"When it comes to toxic behavior, a lot is at stake," Stacey Engle, vice president and leadership expert from Fierce, Inc. tells CNBC Make It. "Ignoring the issue will cost an organization and its employees by negatively impacting morale, productivity and well-being."

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