What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made, and how did you come to that decision?
You could win or lose the interview right here. These tips can help you decide how to answer this job interview question.
Decide how you're going to respond to this hard interview question.
When an interviewer asks, “What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made and how did you come to that decision?” the person is giving you a gift. This is a golden opportunity to show exactly how you’d perform as a worker under a new boss.
The interviewer wants to know how you’d handle challenging and stressful situations and how strong your critical thinking skills are, says Jody Michael, founder and CEO of Chicago and Atlanta-based Jody Michael Associates, an executive, career, and wellness coaching firm. “Describe how you effectively approached the challenge, how you weighed the options, and how you reached your decision,” she says.
Get this one right, and you’ll score some major points. Of course, you’ll have a few difficult decisions to make right there in the interview room in answering the question. We’ll help you tell a story that will knock the interviewer’s socks clean off.
1. Pick the right challenge
This is your chance to show you’re up to the task of making good decisions in challenging situations. Start with a story that shows you were successful in solving a tough problem—and that shows a positive result for your boss and the business. (Stick to a work story, by the way. While all of us face challenges in our personal lives, they won’t have as much relevance to the job at hand.)
“And whatever example you use, make sure it highlights a strength you would bring to the role,” Michael says. “For example, your flexibility and ability to navigate change, negotiating skills, or perseverance.”
Your first move is to lay out exactly what the challenge was, and why it was important for the department.
You say: “In my previous position, I was in charge of selecting vendors to print our promotional materials. We have a long-time vendor we’ve been working with for over a decade. However, for one of our biggest print jobs of the year, another vendor came in with a lower bid.”
2. Discuss how you weighed the options
The interviewer is interested in learning how you think. Put yourself in their shoes. Any job comes with problems, and they want to know you’ll be purposeful and careful in weighing the options.
The second part of the answer should give a glimpse into the thought process you went through.
You say: “I didn’t want to take the work away from a vendor with whom we did so much business with, but I couldn’t justify picking them out of loyalty if someone else was doing the same job for less money. So, I told the old vendor frankly about the other bid to hear what they had to say, and I also solicited references from the new vendor to see if their work matched that of what we had been getting.”
3. Tell the interviewer what choice you made
Make like Houdini and dazzle your audience with the reveal. Tell the interviewer what choice you came to.
You say: “Our long-time vendor was able to bring down their bid. They actually did the job for less than the new vendor would have, so we ended up saving some money.”
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As you go on interviews you will notice a few interview questions that are commonly asked. How you address such questions can greatly affect whether you will be seriously considered for a position or not. Therefore it is important to fully understand the true meaning behind the question in order to properly address it. As in the case with the popular interview question- “What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made?” there is a deeper meaning behind the query that you must assess and speak to in order to receive further consideration for the position you seek.
How do you handle conflict? and “What is your problem-solving process?” are other common ways to phrase this type of question. When interviewers ask any of these questions they are less interested in the decisions you have had to make- but rather are more concerned with your decision-making skills along with other attributes. They want to know how you handle stressful situations and what positive characteristics you possess that can be applied to the position. If you can properly answer this question you will leave a lasting impression with the interviewer- which can help you to stand out among the competition.
How to Answer the “Whats The Most Difficult Decision You’ve Made?” Interview Question
Keep It Relevant: Remember the goal in answering the question “What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made?” and similar interview questions is not necessarily to focus on your experiences- but rather to show your decision-making and problem-solving skills among other traits. Therefore make sure that the story you tell is relevant to or can be easily related to the position that you are applying for. Even if you have not previously held the type of position that you are seeking- think of an experience that you have had where you utilized relevant skills and share that story.
Be Precise: For some people it can be easy to get carried away when sharing a story- especially if it is important to them or impactful to their careers. However- this is not the time to do that. You are in an interview with a limited amount of time to convince the interviewer that you are a proper fit for the position. Make the most of your time by first coming prepared for the question and also rehearsing your answer to make sure that you state it in the best manner possible and that you keep it to the point.
Highlight Your Skills: Your decision-making abilities should show naturally in your answer to this question. Along with that quality- find places to elaborate on other parts of your unique skill set that are related to the position. For example you can expound a bit on the positive characteristics you possess that placed you in a situation to have to make a difficult decision. This will not only help to make you and your story more memorable- but it may also help you to stand out among other candidates.
Avoiding Getting Too Personal: A mistake that some candidates make is getting too personal. Though the interviewer is interested in getting to know prospective employees as people- a personal story about a difficult decision could make the interviewer uncomfortable or reveal unfavorable traits. Even though personal situations may be more impactful- try to stick to work-related instances. If you strongly desire to use a story from outside your work life- make sure that it is closely related to the position that you are applying for and try to avoid giving too many personal details. If implemented correctly this could be a great way to help you to stand out- but understand that you are walking a fine line and you should be careful.
Sample “Whats The Most Difficult Decision You’ve Made?” Interview Answers
1. A few months ago at my current job I was being considered for a promotion to an executive management level within the company. Though I was grateful for the consideration- at the time I was overseeing several accounts- a few of which were at critical stages and I felt that my transition could negatively affect the progression of the accounts. After speaking with my supervisors and expressing my concerns- we decided that it would be best for me to maintain my current position and possibly advance into the role in the future.
2. As the operations officer in a previous position I was tasked with increasing the efficiency of the company’s production line. I discovered and analyzed a new technology system that would increase production by 30 percent; however it contained programming that would make certain employee positions virtually obsolete. I promoted a plan that implemented the new system and provided cross-training for employees- which helped to limit layoffs while still increasing productivity and revenue for the company.
Do not allow yourself to be caught off-guard. Take some time to consider the tips and samples provided so that you can be fully prepared to answer the “What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made?” query or simlar interview questions.