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What Do You Find Are the Most Difficult Decisions to Make?

Making decisions is part of any job. Your ability to weigh the options and make the right decision–or at least give your best effort–will define your success in your selected role. That’s why it’s common for hiring managers to ask: What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make? We’ll explain how to show an interviewer they can trust your judgment in making tough decisions and executing the job demands.

Variations of this interview question

Some other ways an interviewer might ask about making tough decisions include:

  • Tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision.
  • What’s the hardest decision you’ve had to make?

Why do interviewers ask about making difficult decisions?

Critical thinking is an essential skill for pretty much any role. To gauge your critical thinking capabilities, an interviewer wants to understand your thought process. They ask about making difficult decisions to see how you puzzle things out and weigh different priorities against one another. 

How you make decisions and the ones you find challenging will also tell an interviewer a lot about your values. Do you place the top emphasis on money? Customer service? A sense of accomplishment? While there’s no inherently right or wrong answer, there is one that matches up with the organization’s priorities. In hearing about your approach to difficult decisions, an interviewer wants to ensure your value structure is aligned with the organization. 

What interviewers are looking for in a candidate that knows how to make hard decisions

A hiring manager isn’t just looking for you to explain why a certain type of decision is hard to make. They want to hear how you actually made that type of decision and what the outcome was. So, pick a theme you can give an actual example for, like doing the right thing when it’s not easy or making a choice even though you know it will be unpopular.

Interviewers are also probing to see how you respond to a challenge. Making a tough decision isn’t a very pleasant task, and your answer will help them ascertain how you handle yourself when you’re given a tough assignment. 

How to answer the interview question ‘What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make?’

Choose a quality you want to convey

First, pick a positive attribute that’s important for the role. You’ll find a good indicator of these in the job description. Maybe it’s level-headedness for a leadership position or good financial sense for a position that deals with money.

Come up with an anecdote that encapsulates this quality

Next, think of a time you used this quality when making a decision. If the attribute you picked was being level-headed, you might describe a situation where everyone around you was losing their cool, and you had to step up and dictate what should be done. Be sure to explain why it was difficult, whether it was nerves, lack of previous experience, high stakes, external obstacles getting in your way, a tight timeline or some other factor.

Walk them through how you made that decision

After describing the challenge you faced, give some detail about how you decided what to do. Did you make a list of the pros and cons? Consult with a team of experts? Crunch some numbers? Share this process with the interviewer and wrap up by describing the outcome–which ideally should be positive!

How not to answer

Describe a type of decision without an example

Don’t choose a type of decision where you don’t have a positive experience to describe. For example, if you lack leadership experience, highlighting how challenging it is to manage people is probably not the best idea. This will only call attention to your shortcomings.

Sample answers to ‘What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make?’

Example #1

“I really hate letting people down, so I find it challenging to make decisions requiring me to deliver bad news. One of our event planning clients recently had a last-minute request for their event, which was scheduled for the next day. I faced a tough decision: either my staff would have to work late to make the request happen, or I’d have to tell the customer it wasn’t possible. 

Because positive word-of-mouth is our number one source of business, I decided it was most important to go above and beyond to meet the customer’s request. My staff didn’t love staying late, but the customer was delighted and left us an amazing review after the event.”

Example #2

“I find it most difficult to make decisions on a tight deadline. I prefer having time to think things through and consider all possibilities, so it’s uncomfortable for me when I have to rush. Still, I know that sometimes things come up at the last minute, and part of my job is to deal with those things. 

The other day I had to make a quick decision about a vendor. Our contract with our current technology vendor was up for renewal, but at the last minute, we were approached by a competitor with a great deal that would have saved us a considerable amount of money. I had about 24 hours to decide whether to renew our contract or use the cheaper option. In the end, I decided to retain our current provider. We’ve been very happy with their service, so I felt it was justified to pay a bit more. If things went haywire with the new provider, that could’ve cost us more money to fix.”

Finally, use your research about the company and the role to inform your answer. The more you can connect your response to the job’s duties and the company’s values, the stronger your answer will be.