Content of the material
- Sample answer:
- Tips on selecting a tough decision to discuss
- Consider your professional experience
- Choose defining moments
- Recall your thought process
- The Best Ways to Respond
- Take Some Time to Prepare
- How long did it take you to make the decision?
- 4 Steps to “Describe a Time You Had to Make a Difficult Decision”
- 1. Consider the Job Description
- 2. Choose the Right Situation
- 3. Explain Which Kinds of Decisions Are Difficult for You and Why
- 4. Tell Your Story in a Clear, Concise Way
- Sample Answer 2
There are many decisions which I took in my life. Some of them were very good, some were absolutely dumb. Making good decisions is quite a challenging thing and they show a person’s intellect and experience. I would like to thank you for giving me this topic card because I’m going to talk about an important decision which I have taken recently. It was to send my younger brother abroad for higher studies.
I had to make this decision a couple of years ago. It was taken because of an unexpected yet opportune incident which took place in my family. We are four siblings, three brothers, and a sister. I’m the second issue of my parents. My father passed away some years ago and my mother is the only elderly person in my family. As I am one of the earning members of my family, I had to support my family along with my elder brother. Our youngest brother is our jewel of the family. I, my elder brother and my sister love him like no one in the world. He had successfully completed his A level from a reputed institution here.
Then came the crucial time for us to decide on his future career. We gave him to think over different prospects here and around the world. He was quite in a shock to find out he could not decide what to do. He came to me for some assistance. I suggested him to look for scholarship programs in the UK, USA, and Canada.
Though it was breaking my heart from inside to talk to him about leaving us, I thought it would be the best for his future career. He finally came up with two famous institutes which offered him some very handsome grants with free accommodation and part-time job facility. We were surprised to see his enthusiasm at the application process and got confirmed that he was getting ready to move abroad. It was really tough for me and my elder brother to convince my mom so that she could give her consent to his going abroad for higher study. She cried a lot and finally gave her permission.
The time I told my brother that all of us agreed about sending him to the US, he became happy. Unfortunately, in my heart, I was crying but didn’t let him know about my feelings. It was hard because after my father’s death we looked at him as our child, not as our brother. I still remember the time when I saw him off at the airport. I felt like something had been taken away from my life. I was quite emotional about it.
We loved him so much and it was difficult for us to send him away yet we had to give consent for the sake of his better future. Now, he is completing his Honors in Advanced Computer Engineering with record points. This makes me happy because I took the decision which proved to be a matured and good one.
This is the end of the answer.
Tips on selecting a tough decision to discuss
While preparing for the interview, brainstorm different times you made a difficult decision so that you have an example or two prepared if the topic comes up. These tips can help you select an appropriate anecdote that can form the basis for a good answer:
Consider your professional experience
Try to choose a past decision that is related to your professional experience. Discussing decisions that are relevant to your desired career show the interviewer how you would behave in a similar role. If you don't have professional experience, think about decisions you made about your life or education that could indicate a desirable mindset for employers in your field.
Choose defining moments
Brainstorm the choices you made that impacted your workplace and your personal career path the most. Selecting an impactful event shows potential employers that you can be a significant positive influence on their team. Relevant decisions that had a measurable influence can provide you with a compelling topic that showcases your talents.
Recall your thought process
Select a memory where you can clearly remember your thought process and the details of the situation. You want to be able to respond to any clarifying questions easily and reference events accurately. The interviewer will want to know what led you to make your decision so they can understand how you would make similar decisions if hired.
The Best Ways to Respond
Essentially the interviewer is assessing your decision-making skills. When answering these questions, give one or two concrete examples of difficult situations you have actually faced at work. Then discuss what decisions you had to make to remedy the situations. Here are some of the most challenging decisions that people in mid-management and senior management have to make:
- Deciding who to terminate if layoffs become economically necessary
- Terminating well-meaning, but incompetent, team members
- Deciding who to promote when you have several great candidates
- Deciding whether you have to cut benefits that employees are used to receiving (like holiday bonuses) to help stabilize company finances
You want to come across as confident and capable of making big decisions calmly and rationally. Avoid examples that make you seem indecisive or uncertain.
Whatever answer you give, be specific. Itemize what you did, how you did it, and how your difficult decision ultimately profited your team and your employer.
Also, keep your answers positive. For example, "Even though it was a difficult decision to lay off that particular employee, I did so in an extremely professional manner, and this decision ultimately led to improvements in efficiency and productivity throughout our department.”
The best way to prepare for questions where you will need to recall events and actions is to refresh your memory. Skim through your resume and reflect on some special situations you have dealt with or projects you have worked on. You can use them to help frame responses. Prepare stories that illustrate times when you have successfully solved a difficult situation.
Nafia Zuhana is an experienced content writer and IELTS Trainer. Currently, she is guiding students who are appearing for IELTS General and Academic exams through ieltsmaterial.com. With an 8.5 score herself, she trains and provides test takers with strategies, tips, and nuances on how to crack the IELTS Exam. She holds a degree in Master of Arts – Creative Writing, Oxford Brookes University, UK. She has worked with The Hindu for over a year as an English language trainer.
At the end of the day, however, we should follow our own dreams, and not the dreams of our relatives, or of anyone else.
After all, we own our decisions.
Take Some Time to Prepare
Forewarned is forearmed: anticipating the questions you might be asked during a job interview is a wise strategy. If you test yourself using the examples above and these common interview questions and answers, you’ll be more confident during your actual interview.
Also, prepare some questions of your own. Your interviewer will expect you to have some questions about the job or the company. If you feel like you need a little help, review this guide to interview questions for you to ask the interviewer.
How long did it take you to make the decision?
I took a whole lot of time… nearly a month to make that decision, if I am not wrong.
The reason why it took this long is because, I wanted to be 100 % sure. Each decision, of course, carries certain consequences with it that are both good and bad.
So I asked my family, friends, and relatives. But their different perspectives added fuel to the fire. It made me even more confused.
4 Steps to “Describe a Time You Had to Make a Difficult Decision”
Here are some steps to follow as you prepare and construct your answer:
1. Consider the Job Description
Your answer to this—and every—interview question should be relevant to the position you’re applying to, Goodfellow says. The best way to do this is to carefully study the job description and figure out the types of decisions you might have to make in this role. You should also think about what problems you’re being hired to solve. “You want the answer to resonate with your interviewers,” Goodfellow says, and you want to show them that you can “solve potential pain points they have.”
For example, if you’re hoping to get hired for an event planning position that involves a lot of budgeting, you might want your answer to involve a tough choice you had to make about how to allocate funds. If you’ll have to make a lot of choices about directions for future marketing campaigns, you might talk about how you decided between two great but very different campaign ideas at your last job.
2. Choose the Right Situation
Once you know what type of experience you want your answer to convey, you need to choose the right story to tell. A good story for “Describe a time you had to make a difficult decision” will:
- Be about a professional experience. Your interviewer is not asking about a difficult decision you had to make in your personal or social life. If you’re an entry-level candidate, “You can pull from an internship, team, volunteer, and/or project experience,” rather than previous jobs, Goodfellow says.
- Actually be a difficult decision. So something like choosing which email to respond to first on a normal Monday won’t cut it. “It doesn’t have to be that you came in and identified a million dollar error,” Goodfellow says, but it should have some significance or impact, even if it feels “small.” Think about the types of choices you personally find challenging and why.
- Show off your decision-making and problem-solving skills. It might seem obvious, but you should choose a story that allows you to demonstrate how you made a decision. Don’t choose a time that you picked which new client to pursue first by flipping a coin. “You want to convey that you thought through the options,” Goodfellow says. Did you research each choice? Consult your manager or someone with more experience in this area? Make a pros andcon list?
- Not imply that you can’t do the job. Don’t make it sound like a routine part of the role you’re interviewing for will be excruciating for you on a daily basis. “If you’re going to have to engage with customers and you state you get nervous every time a customer asks you a question, that is a red flag (and I’m not kidding, I’ve had this as an answer),” Goodfellow says. One exception to this is if you choose a story from further back in your career about a decision that was difficult at the time, but now that you’ve had more experience you’re an expert or “go-to” person in these kinds of decisions, Goodfellow says.
3. Explain Which Kinds of Decisions Are Difficult for You and Why
Once you’ve chosen an appropriate situation, you’ll want to articulate why it was a difficult decision for you, so your interviewer can glean more insight into who you are as an employee and what matters to you. Interviewers are “interested in what you deem challenging and how you resolve it,” Goodfellow says. “Both pieces need to be shared with some detail.”
So for example, if interviewing for a client-facing job you might say something like:
“For me, any decision that has the potential to negatively affect a client’s trust in our business relationship is difficult because as an account manager, I know that that trust is paramount. But unfortunately, sometimes things change on our end or, for some reason I didn’t know about earlier, I can’t deliver on everything promised.”
4. Tell Your Story in a Clear, Concise Way
Walk an interviewer through your experience in an organized way. One of the most common ways to do this is the STAR method. STAR stands for—Situation, Task, Action, Result. Here’s how it works:
Situation: Lay out the situation for the interviewer, with just enough specific detail that they understand. To continue our example from the previous section:
“My company offers complimentary in-office training on our software in the first month after you sign up for one of our enterprise-level packages. However, one time, I was informed that there was only availability for one of my two new clients to receive this in-office training within the first thirty days after signing.
Task: Say what your role in the story was. In this case, explicitly state which decision you had to make. For example:
I had to decide which of my clients would get the training in the promised time period.
Action: What did you do to help you make your choice? For this question, interviewers are most interested in your decision-making process, so that should be emphasized the most.
I wanted to know everything I could about each client so that I could try to predict which would benefit most from the earlier training. I looked back at my communication with both clients. One of the clients was a newer tech startup that rarely emailed me unless I contacted them first and didn’t ask any questions. Meanwhile the other client was a more established marketing agency that often contacted me with questions from their employees about how to use our software.
Since they were both such new clients, I also set up a meeting with the account executive who’d closed each deal to get more insight. The AE who’d signed the tech startup said they’d been a quick and easy sale until it came time to actually sign the deal and suddenly they had a lot of questions about what was actually included in the level they’d agreed to. The AE had realized that their contact hadn’t been speaking with the team members who would actually be using our software until just before they signed the deal. Meanwhile, the AE who’d signed the marketing agency said that selling to them had been a longer process where they’d asked a lot of detailed questions along the way but by the time they agreed to sign they were enthusiastic.
I realized that the lack of questions from the tech startup may have been because they hadn’t run into any problems, but given what had happened during the deal signing, it also could indicate that there was no firm avenue for the employees using our software to ask questions—and these employees may have been waiting for the training to get help and start using the program in earnest. However, the marketing agency was always passing questions along to me—indicating that they were willing and able to get their employees the answers they needed before the training took place.
Result: What choice did you make and what was the outcome of your decision? If you have specific numbers or examples to back up how you made the right choice, be sure to include them.
I decided that the tech startup would get the first training because I had no indication that the contact we had at that company was passing on employee inquiries. And I knew the marketing agency’s employees were already using and getting comfortable with our software and had a way to get their questions answered in the meantime. I approached the marketing agency first, let them know the issue, and offered to book them the first available date in their second month. They appreciated how forthcoming I was. They’re still a client two years later—at a higher package level than their first year with us. The tech startup reported back that their employees loved the training and they’re also still with us, but now even more forthcoming with questions because the employees felt they connected with us at the training.
Keep in mind that the action and result is where the meat of your answer should be. You might have a tendency to spend more time setting up the situation and task “because, let’s face it, it’s easier to share the objective components,” Goodfellow says. However, interviewers are “more interested in the A and the R.”
Sample Answer 2
- Decision making is tough to master. If decisions turn out to be fruitful they lead our life towards an impressive growth trajectory. However, if they turn otherwise, they disturb our state of flow.
- And in this contemporary epoch, making decisions is a daunting task due to the numerous choices available at our disposal.
What was the decision?, and When you made the decision?
- A few years back, I was in a state of confusion when I had to choose my stream of study after passing the tenth standard.
How long did it take you to make the decision?
- Since a plethora of things had to be taken into consideration, it took almost three months to make an informed decision.
And explain why it was a difficult decision to make?
- I was in a dilemma because I had too many thoughts coming into my mind. Such decisions change the trajectory of our lives, so I didn’t want to choose haphazardly.
- In my childhood, I did not have a clear goal like others.
- I was lost in the fantasy world. In the budding years, I wanted to be an engineer, later on, my interest shifted towards literature.
- During my teenage, I wanted to be an actor.
- The confusion started when many of my friends had opted for the non-medical stream.
- The other contributing factor to my state of absolute disarray was my fear of losing my friends.
- The confusion reached the tipping point when I had started taking advice from others.
- After some time, I concluded that taking advice from others was a collosol mistake from my side.
- Finally, I decided to take advice from my parents and friends only.
- In the end, my parents came to my rescue and helped me make an informed choice.
- They suggested I take a psychometric test to understand my strengths and weaknesses.
- When the test result was out, most of my doubts were clear. I had a clear cut picture of the path to be chosen.
- I decided to ignore all the choices I had made while discussing with others.
- Based on the test of the results, I opted for the non-medical stream.