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.
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.”
The easy answer
Interviewers might try springing a question like this right in the middle of nuts-and-bolts questions about skills and experience—not only to hear your answer, but also to see how comfortable you appear when you deliver it. Knowing what you can anticipate in advance of the interview can spare you some awkwardness and definitely work in your favor. Could you use some help preparing your answers? Join Monster today. As a member, you'll get interview insights, career advice, and job search tips sent straight to your inbox. You'll learn what to say, how to say it, and the words and phrases that make hiring managers sit up and take notice.