Interview Question: "How Are Your Decision-Making Skills?"
Updated March 10, 2023
People make multiple decisions every day in their personal and professional lives. Employers typically ask about decision-making skills in job interviews for almost every role. These skills are especially crucial for those in managerial or leadership roles since their job responsibilities include making decisions.
In this article, we discuss why employers ask about decision-making skills, with a list of steps for answering interview questions about decision-making, tools for better decisions and example interview answers.
Why interviewers ask decision-making questions
Decision-making skills are important because they save time, prevent conflict and increase productivity. Many positions, especially managerial roles, require excellent decision-making from the candidate. Decision-making questions in a job interview often focus on individual behaviors and how the candidate reacted to having to make decisions in the past. Your answers to these questions prove to employers whether you can handle decision-making in the workplace and if you have a history of doing it well.
How to answer interview questions about decision-making
Use these steps to answer questions about your decision-making abilities in an interview and to plan your answers beforehand:
1. Explain your thought process
When answering a question about how you make decisions, start by explaining a system you follow. There's no right or wrong way to explain your process but ensure you tell the interviewer that you approach every decision in the same manner. For example, you might begin by explaining that you gather as much information as you can while considering how much time you have to do so. Then, you look at possible outcomes of specific decisions and make the best choice for your organization with your gathered facts.
2. Offer an example of a decision you made
Offering examples in your answers is always a best practice, but it's especially true with decision-making. Consider your previous experiences and reference a time in which you used your decision-making skills with a positive result. You might say that you made a decision during a time in which your manager was unavailable.
The easier decision involved hours of amending an issue, but it required a fast resolution. Explain to the interviewer that you discussed the issue with your coworkers and determined that fixing the problem any other way might lead to greater problems, so in that case, it was best to put in the extra hours.
3. Use facts to prove your answer
Regardless of the process or example you use, ensure you prove it with logic and facts. Thoroughly explain that you gather all the information that you can before making a final decision. Take your answer a step further and discuss the importance of logic and reason within your decision-making and how it helps. Tell the interviewer you assess all potential options on a factual basis without making assumptions. Show that you consistently follow a plan or process and come to the best choice for your team and the company.
4. Deliver your answer confidently
When delivering your answer, use discretion when choosing your words and tone, and lean forward attentively. Additionally, before your interview, practice delivering answers in front of the mirror. This can help you find areas for improvement within your speech and how you come across nonverbally. Confidence leaves a lasting impression, which increases your chances of getting the job and creates a positive association for the interviewer.
Helpful decision-making tools
These common decision-making strategies and tools can function as valuable conversation points when answering questions about decision-making in an interview:
Similar to a SWOT analysis, SWOT diagrams divide scenarios into four primary areas: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Using the SWOT method helps in identifying all forces affecting your decision-making process. Information gathered within the diagram lets you analyze the four primary areas affected by the decision and make educated guesses on its potential.
When presented with a decision, use a SWOT diagram to analyze each individual choice. Identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats posed by each and compare them against one another to make the best decision.
A decision matrix helps manage multiple choices or variables affecting your decision-making process. It's similar to a pro and con list but allows you to grade the importance of each item listed. Having this list before you can help you weigh different options against each other.
A Pareto analysis identifies changes or choices that have the greatest impact on your business. The principle states that an 80/20 distribution occurs regularly within the world. Applied to a business, this means that 20% of factors often contribute to 80% of an organization's overall growth. A Pareto analysis is a more statistical approach to decision-making. If you prefer more facts within your decision-making, consider using the Pareto analysis method.
Example answers for decision-making interview questions
Use the following example answers to help you prepare to discuss your decision-making in your next interview:
Example 1: Administrative assistant
"This would be my first salaried position, but I made plenty of decisions in college. For example, during a team project, I remember that one of our teammates didn't show up at the last meeting. We still had to put the finishing touches on our project, and we were unable to contact the missing individual.
"The team and I discussed our options. We decided that waiting might only waste what little time we had left. We chose to focus on our assigned work, and once we finished, we split up the missing individual's assignment among ourselves. Working together, we finished the project and turned it in the next day."
Example 2: Teacher
"When I taught junior high students, I remember a time in which there was a local movement to remove sex education from the classroom. Although I thought it was important to include it within my biology curriculum, the school board advised me to comply. It came down to deciding between the safety of the students and the security of my job. I analyzed the pros and cons and realized that I could always find another teaching position, but the students may not receive something that would change their lives forever.
"I sent my students home with an informative sheet for parents explaining the importance of sex education. I even supplied them with facts and statistics concerning pregnancies among teenage youth. Against all odds, enough of the parents agreed for the movement to cease. The school board advised me that I could continue my curriculum as-is."
Example 3: Office manager
"In a previous position, I had just started working at a small office. The owner was an older gentleman who preferred to keep physical copies of everything, leading to crowded filing cabinets and unorganized messes. I advocated digitizing our records, but he insisted not to. The day I realized we lost important client information, I knew I had to make a decision for the sake of the company. If the situation stayed the same, we would continue losing private client information.
"In my spare time, I scanned our documents and created alphabetized folders for them on the computer. Doing this upset my manager, but I guided him through my document setup. I showed him how to alphabetize it and how easy it was to use. He eventually thanked me for my work and appreciated my commitment to improving internal business functions."
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