Interview Question: 'How Do You Make Effective Decisions?'

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 16 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Interviewers commonly ask about how you make effective decisions, and they often request examples of your effective decision-making skills. This sort of question is applicable to many roles, because good decision-making skills are important in almost any working environment. Knowing how to answer this question, and having some examples prepared beforehand, can help you make a good impression during an interview. In this article, we explain the importance of this question, how to answer it and provide you with some examples to inspire your own answer.

Related: Decision-Making Skills: Definition and Examples

Why do interviewers ask about making effective decisions, with examples?

Interviewers ask about making effective decisions, with examples, because this ability is a desirable trait in almost any candidate, for nearly any role. Whether you're interviewing for an entry-level or top management position, your work may require you to regularly make decisions in some form. You may have to decide how to best help customers, how to facilitate productive workplace interactions or make managerial decisions. Even if you're only responsible for your own work or tasks, being an effective decision maker means that your manager and colleagues can rely on you.

Effective decision-making is also relevant if your potential employer is looking for a long-term candidate who could grow within the organisation. If you're interviewing for a managerial or executive position, your decision-making skills are going to be vital to the daily operation of the business. The way you answer this question can also provide an interviewer with insights into your mentality, priorities and how organised you are. It's an opportunity to show that you're insightful, a good communicator and that you can delegate and consult others.

Related: 31 Common Interview Questions and Answers (With Tips)

How to answer 'how do you make effective decisions?'

It can help you respond to interview questions with confidence when you have answers prepared in advance. To effectively answer a question regarding how you make decisions, try these steps:

1. Explain how you analyse a situation

In some cases, an interviewer might present you with a hypothetical situation and ask you what decision you'd make and why. In other cases, they may ask general questions about potential experiences. If they've presented you with a situation, carefully analyse the variables: who is involved, who has an interest, who might be affected and what the potential repercussions could be. If there's no hypothetical situation, explain how you would identify these key variables in any scenario.

You can also show that you use a decision-making system or framework. You could mention the use of something like a SWOT analysis, a decision matrix or Pareto analysis:

  • SWOT analysis: stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This is a useful way of identifying many variables and categorising them by the role they play in a given situation.

  • Decision matrix: this is similar to a pro and con list. However, in a decision matrix, you rank the importance of every item listed to better identify your priorities.

  • Pareto analysis: this is based on the Pareto Principle, which states that 20% of factors generally account for 80% of an organisation's growth. This is a more statistical approach, but identifying the 20% is a good way of determining priorities.

Related: Analytical Skills: Definitions and Examples

2. Discuss how you'd gather more information

Depending on the situation, you may need more information to make a good decision. By explaining this to your interviewer, you show that you're thoughtful and not prone to rash decisions. Gathering additional information may mean asking a customer about their concerns, finding out the other side of the story in a dispute or seeking to verify certain facts. You can also talk about whom you'd consult.

It's also important to be aware of when there isn't the time, or opportunity, to acquire more information. Some decisions must occur quickly using the information you have available. Make sure you communicate this to an interviewer, to convey confidence in your decision-making skills.

3. Give a confident answer

If the interviewer has presented you with a hypothetical situation and asked you how you'd deal with it, then use these steps to explain how you'd reach a decision. How you reached your decision is often more important than giving the right answer. If you haven't been asked to react to a hypothetical situation, you can give a real-life example from your previous work.

If you're applying for a job for the first time and have no work experience, you can talk about how you had to make a decision during a group project in school or university, or a similar situation.

Related: How To Build Confidence at Work

Tips for answering 'how do you make effective decisions?'

When you're answering a question about how you make decisions, remember these tips

  • Use a positive example: if you use an example from your previous experience, make sure you choose one that had a positive result. You can then indicate how the positive result happened due to your ability to make sound decisions.

  • Take your time: interviewers generally won't mind if you take a few seconds to think before answering this question, as long as you don't take too long. This is preferable to saying that you don't have an answer, or trying to rush and becoming flustered.

  • Show your process: even if you're asked to give a definitive decision to a hypothetical scenario, your process for reaching that decision is usually the most important thing. Go through your thinking process in a step-by-step manner to show the interviewer that you're organised and calm.

  • Be confident: remain self-assured when you answer this question, and calmly explain your thought process. Practise possible responses ahead of time to build confidence in your answers.

Example answers

Using an example from a previous experience can be a successful way to answer questions about your decision-making process. Here are some ways you might answer this question:

Example 1

'Although this would be my first job since leaving university, I've had to make tough decisions before, especially when working on a group project. I like to use a SWOT analysis to inform my decision making, as this allows me to identify the different variables involved. I also try to identify who might gain or lose the most as a consequence of my decision, and factor this into my thought process.

For example, during our graduation project, one of the group members failed to turn up on our last day of preparation. The project still needed work to be completed, and there was no room for further delay. We couldn't reach them and had to decide whether to wait or proceed without them. It fell to me to decide, and after considering the situation I felt that the risks of waiting far exceeded anything else. I volunteered to cover as much of our missing colleague's work as I could, and helped the others split the rest.

It transpired that they'd experienced a personal emergency and didn't show up. Thankfully, we'd split up the work and finished on time, allowing us to all get top marks for the project.'

Related: Teamwork Skills: Definition, Types and Tips for Improvement

Example 2

'In my last job, I was responsible for a small team of sales personnel in a shop. On one occasion, a customer asked to see me through one of the sales team. The team member explained how this customer had been rude and belligerent, and was clearly offended and upset. I went with them to see the customer, who was still quite difficult and unwilling to listen.

Although it was unfortunate, I knew what the correct decision was. I've always tried to develop a decision matrix in my head to identify the most important priorities. Despite the customer clearly being in the wrong and having upset one of my team members, I knew that our first priority was good relations with our customers. I apologised to them personally and offered to help them myself in any way I could.

I knew my team member was upset by this, but I spoke to them later to reassure them that I knew they were right, but that our job was to keep customers happy. The customer even returned a few days later, and was quite apologetic about their behaviour.'

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