Describe The Most Difficult Decision You’ve Ever Made? (With 8 Sample Interview Answers)

Good Decisions Come From Experience. And Experience Comes From Making Bad Decisions.

Mark Twain

The ability of making decisions is one of the greatest gifts to mankind. It is wisely said that you are not the product of your education, but the result of your decisions. What top decision makers do differently is, they know what they are, who they are, what they want and how to get it and they make decisions accordingly. Secondly, they have their self management in order especially when it comes to emotions, and thirdly, apart from just deciding, they implement them in their daily life, in businesses and everywhere they go.

This is a crucial management skill that most employers are looking for in applicants in their job interviews. The motive behind these questions is to get to know your decision making capability, how you perform under stress, how do you manage unfavorable situations, what conditions do you see as most difficult ones etc.

Here the employers hardly see if you succeeded or failed after making tough decisions. What they see is how you approached to the situation and what your mindset was like while handling it. And these sorts of behavioral questions can be asked in a number of different formats.

Ways In Which Decision Making Questions Are Asked

Here are a few similar ways in which your abilities as a decision maker are observed. Also pay attention to how would you intuitively respond to each one of them.

  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision and you didn’t have all the information needed.
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision and ambiguity was a key factor.
  • Give an example of your decision making ability when the situation was unclear.
  • Given a team, how would you direct them to complete the required project on time?
  • What is the most difficult decision you’ve ever took in this industry?

Now let us look at the ideal ways in an interview, to respond to these questions.

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8 Ways To Answer Decision Making Related Questions

Sample Answer 1:

Make sure the decision you make is the right one. What I mean by that is a decision that is morally correct and follows policy. The interviewer should not perceive it in a way that your actions in decision making were ethically incorrect or something that violates company or community guidelines in any way. Another crucial element is providing an actual specific example that you were in before instead of constructing a hypothetical one and mention what you would do.

Be succinct and answer in stages as:

  • Why did you need to make a decision?
  • What precisely made it a difficult one?
  • What things did you consider while making it?
  • What was the decision you made & what did you learn from it?

Sample Answer 2:

In a previous role, I noticed customers were constantly complaining about mistakes that were in a product newsletter. The person creating the newsletter had been with the company for a long period of time, and I decided to raise the issue with them. This was a difficult situation to be in because I needed to use tact and diplomacy when raising the issue.

I went to her privately and started off by saying how impressed I was with the newsletter design and what a great way it was to interact with all the customers. I insisted, although true, we could improve it by responding to the feedback of the customers and improvising the current version accordingly. She thanked me for my offer of assistance, and I helped her moving forward to make sure the newsletter was fully accurate.

By sticking to right tactics, being positive and offering to help, I could resolve the difficult situation in a short span and bring positive outcome.

Sample Answer 3:

I was working as part of a team on an important project for a client with a strict deadline to work towards. Partway through the project, the client started making changes to the project specification which could potentially push back the project finishing time. This was a difficult decision to make because changes implied an extension of the deadline. I decided to speak to the client to negotiate a longer project finishing time.

I explained why we would need an additional week as it was important to maintain high standards and achieve the right objectives on the project. The client appreciated my honesty and the explanation I gave for the increased deadline, and he agreed to the project extension.

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I felt it as an ideal way of tackling a difficult situation by using open and honest communication with the client.

Sample Answer 4:

I experienced a difficult situation when I first started at my previous job. I was part of a team meeting and a more experienced member of the team was dismissive of my suggestions. So, every time I put a suggestion forward, he would dismiss it out straight away. He would move onto someone else’s without even exploring it. As it happened on 3 occasions, I decided to do something about it without creating a conflict.

In order to tackle this difficult situation, I spoke to them in private and I gave them three examples of where I’d felt uncomfortable due to the situation. And again, they were startled by this and apologized for it, calling it a misunderstanding. And from that day onwards, they involved me more in conversations during the team meetings and other important events.

So, I was pleased that I dealt with that situation when the easy thing to do was just leave it as it proceeded. But I learnt a lesson to always tackle a difficult situation with confidence than to avoid it.

Sample Answer 5:

One of the most convincing ways to answer about a very difficult decision you had to make in the past, make sure you deliver the example in the form of a story. This is because, the interviewers go through several answers to this question from different applicants, and to make yours the most memorable one at the end of the day, you need to pass it through in an interesting and compelling way.

Remember that you’re the protagonist of your story and you should make it fun for them to listen to. Be honest with your answer and avoid any kinds of exaggeration as transparency and simplicity is highly appreciated in these kinds of interviews.

Sample Answer 6: (The SAR Structure)

Apart from mere answer, the structure in which it is put forth is also equally essential. An ideal renowned structure for the same is SAR. It stands for:

  • S – Situation
  • A – Action
  • R – Result

That is, set up the situation without taking too long and then focus your answer on the action that you took. After listing the steps involved in the action, the result part steps in. The result is basically a wrap up where you adhere the outcome of the situation to the steps you undertook. If woven together well, it not only presents a comprehensive answer to the question, but also resembles your ability of structuring objectives in a systematic and organized manner.

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Sample Answer 7:

Make sure you give a real time difficult work situation that you were in, which shows your determination, positivity and resilience. Also, in your answer to this difficult interview question, show you are someone whose primary objective is benefitting the team as a whole, and all personal gains are secondary.

Additionally, show you are not afraid to tackle difficult situations in a professional and positive manner!

Sample Answer 8:

While working as a sales assistant for a large retail store, I noticed another work colleague being rude and verbally aggressive to a new member of the team. This new member was clearly upset and distressed at the communication. The decision I had to make was whether or not to intervene and tell the senior that his actions were inappropriate and unprofessional. Also considering the anti bullying and anti harassment policies of the store, I decided to intervene and talk to the aggressive co worker about his actions.

I approached him privately and made him realized the possible consequences of his behavior and how unethical it was. I also told him I would have to report him to the store manager if such a incidence happens again. He immediately understood he had worsened the working environment and went on to apologize to the subordinate right away.

Conclusion

These type of interview questions are drafted to check your responses, performance and decision making abilities in unfavorable times. The article aims at providing you the most precise glimpse of the experience you will have with the recruiters at the company. Hence it is vital to be expressive in answering without hesitating a bit, and prepare well beforehand.

This will give you a relative advantage over other potential candidates applying for the same job. Hope you liked the article, do let us know in the comments section below and don’t forget to share it with your family and friends. Reference links supporting the tips are listed in the “Reference” section below. Do visit for additional info.

References

1: https://store.charactercounts.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2015/09/50-0450-E.pdf
2: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1970-15982-001