Example Essay Difficult Decision Interview

Here are some examples of decision-making interview questions to ask candidates. With these questions and answers, assess analytical and decision-making skills.

Why ask candidates decision-making interview questions

Employees are required to make work-related decisions about either regular tasks or unexpected situations on a daily basis. For example, designers might need to choose between two logos, developers may have to decide which feature to implement first and hiring managers might need to select between two or more qualified candidates.

Decisions – both good and bad – have an impact on the entire company. Good decision-makers:

  • Evaluate circumstances, consider alternatives and weigh pros and cons.
  • Use critical-thinking skills to reach objective conclusions.
  • Are able to make decisions under pressure.
  • Opt for a “problem-solving” attitude, as opposed to a “that’s not my job” approach.
  • Help teams overcome obstacles.

Decision-making interview questions will help you identify potential hires with sound judgement. Test how candidates analyze data and predict the outcome of each option before making a decision. Also, keep in mind that in some cases a creative decision that breaks from the norm could prove to be innovative and more effective than a traditional approach.

Examples of decision-making interview questions

  • Two employees are having regular conflicts with each other and often disturb the team’s balance. How would you handle this situation?
  • Describe a time you made an unpopular decision. How did you handle the feedback? How would you have handled the situation differently?
  • Do you usually make better decisions alone or with a group? Why? When do you ask for help?
  • In your experience, when you’re working on a team project, do you make the most decisions or do you prefer to step back and follow someone else’s guideline?
  • Describe a time when you had to make an immediate decision on a critical issue.
  • While working on a team project, you notice that some of your coworkers are falling behind. What would you do to help your team meet the deadline?
  • How would you deal with a demanding external stakeholder who keeps changing requirements about a specific project you’re working on?
  • You want your manager to buy a new software that will help your work and you’re trying to choose between two options. The first is more expensive, but has better reviews and the second has fewer features, but is within budget. Which one would you recommend and how?

How to evaluate candidates’ decision-making skills

  • Challenge candidates with hypothetical scenarios in which they have to reach an important decision. Use realistic examples to discover their decision-making skills for situations that are likely to occur on the job.
  • Asking follow-up questions is a sign that your candidates want to have as much information as possible before jumping to a conclusion.
  • Professionals who reach a decision after a thorough analysis of pros and cons should be able to present and explain their choice. Opt for confident candidates who support their decisions.
  • In most work-related issues, we don’t have unlimited time to solve a problem. The best decision-makers strike a balance between a good and a quick decision.
  • Ask candidates for examples of situations when they have made effective decisions at work to discover how they have approached problems in their past positions. Team players are more likely to have used other employees’ input and advice.

Red flags

  • Yes/No answers. Candidates should be able to explain how they reached a decision. Going only by their gut or choosing one of the options without justifying their decision are red flags for their judgement skills.
  • Not mindful of consequences. Decisions often carry small or bigger risks. Candidates who give superficial answers to hypothetical problems mightn’t be prepared to deal with the consequences of their decisions.
  • Stressed/uncomfortable. Employees in senior-level roles will eventually need to make tough decisions, like delegating tasks, setting deadlines or letting people go. Opt for candidates who show they’re reliable and comfortable enough to take accountability for their decisions.
  • Ignorant of facts. The decision-making process involves taking all the relevant facts and information into consideration. If candidates answer your questions without paying attention to the facts, they’re prone to wrong decisions.
  • Track record of wrong decisions. If candidates struggle to understand why they were wrong and keep repeating the same mistakes, they don’t learn from their mistakes and possibly don’t realize the impact of a bad decision.
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If you haven’t thought carefully about your graduate job interview in advance, and lined up potential answers to some of the tricky questions you could get asked, you might find yourself struggling to come up with a response on the spur of the moment. This classic interview question about how you perform in a crisis could catch you out for two reasons: it could be genuinely difficult for you to come up with something that qualifies as a major crisis, and the example you give needs to reflect well on you – you don’t want to start talking about a crisis that you caused and were unable to sort out.

How not to reply to the interview question ‘Give an example of a time when you handled a major crisis’

‘During my gap year I totally ran out of money while I was abroad. Nightmare! I had to get my parents to wire me some to bail me out.’

Why is this answer unlikely to get you the graduate job you want?

You need to explain the context of the crisis without implicating yourself in its creation, and you should focus on what you did to sort the problem out rather than implying that somebody else had to come to your rescue.

Feel free to reframe the question if you need to. It’s a similar question to ‘Can you give an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult situation?’ or ‘Give an example of a time when you had to cope under pressure.’ However, ‘crisis’ is a much stronger, more emotive word.

What is the graduate recruiter really asking?

‘Are you the sort of person we really want to have on board when the going gets tough, or do you go to pieces as soon as you experience stress? How resilient are you? What kind of rational initiative would you take when faced with an unexpected problem?’

So how should you tackle the question ‘Give me an example of a time when you handled a major crisis’?

Show that your common sense, forward planning, use of initiative, interpersonal skills and problem solving abilities help you to manage tricky situations. Employers are looking for evidence of a calm, practical approach under pressure.

You might say something like, ‘While I was travelling abroad during my gap year I found myself stranded because of disruption to flights after a natural disaster in the region. Luckily I’d looked up advice on how to cope with unexpected travel problems before I set off and had made sure that I had all the contact details and documents I needed on me. I had already worked out how to stay in touch with friends and family in case of a crisis. I followed the news carefully and used my initiative and understanding of social media to band together with some other stranded travellers and share alternative transport home.’

You could also say, ‘I haven’t faced a situation that could really be described as a major crisis, but this is an example of how I coped with a challenging situation.’ You could take examples from experiences such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, university, industrial training or summer vacation work – anything that shows your ability to react constructively when you’re in a tight corner.

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