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Why ask candidates decision-making interview questions

Employees are required to make work-related decisions about either regular tasks or unexpected situations on a daily basis. For example, designers might need to choose between two logos, developers may have to decide which feature to implement first and hiring managers might need to select between two or more qualified candidates.

Decisions – both good and bad – have an impact on the entire company. Good decision-makers:

  • Evaluate circumstances, consider alternatives and weigh pros and cons.
  • Use critical-thinking skills to reach objective conclusions.
  • Are able to make decisions under pressure.
  • Opt for a “problem-solving” attitude, as opposed to a “that’s not my job” approach.
  • Help teams overcome obstacles.

Decision-making interview questions will help you identify potential hires with sound judgement. Test how candidates analyze data and predict the outcome of each option before making a decision. Also, keep in mind that in some cases a creative decision that breaks from the norm could prove to be innovative and more effective than a traditional approach.

Examples of decision-making interview questions

  • Two employees are having regular conflicts with each other and often disturb the team’s balance. How would you handle this situation?
  • Describe a time you made an unpopular decision. How did you handle the feedback? How would you have handled the situation differently?
  • Do you usually make better decisions alone or with a group? Why? When do you ask for help?
  • In your experience, when you’re working on a team project, do you make the most decisions or do you prefer to step back and follow someone else’s guideline?
  • Describe a time when you had to make an immediate decision on a critical issue.
  • While working on a team project, you notice that some of your coworkers are falling behind. What would you do to help your team meet the deadline?
  • How would you deal with a demanding external stakeholder who keeps changing requirements about a specific project you’re working on?
  • You want your manager to buy a new software that will help your work and you’re trying to choose between two options. The first is more expensive, but has better reviews and the second has fewer features, but is within budget. Which one would you recommend and how?

How to evaluate candidates’ decision-making skills

  • Challenge candidates with hypothetical scenarios in which they have to reach an important decision. Use realistic examples to discover their decision-making skills for situations that are likely to occur on the job.
  • Asking follow-up questions is a sign that your candidates want to have as much information as possible before jumping to a conclusion.
  • Professionals who reach a decision after a thorough analysis of pros and cons should be able to present and explain their choice. Opt for confident candidates who support their decisions.
  • In most work-related issues, we don’t have unlimited time to solve a problem. The best decision-makers strike a balance between a good and a quick decision.
  • Ask candidates for examples of situations when they have made effective decisions at work to discover how they have approached problems in their past positions. Team players are more likely to have used other employees’ input and advice.

Red flags

  • Yes/No answers. Candidates should be able to explain how they reached a decision. Going only by their gut or choosing one of the options without justifying their decision are red flags for their judgement skills.
  • Not mindful of consequences. Decisions often carry small or bigger risks. Candidates who give superficial answers to hypothetical problems mightn’t be prepared to deal with the consequences of their decisions.
  • Stressed/uncomfortable. Employees in senior-level roles will eventually need to make tough decisions, like delegating tasks, setting deadlines or letting people go. Opt for candidates who show they’re reliable and comfortable enough to take accountability for their decisions.
  • Ignorant of facts. The decision-making process involves taking all the relevant facts and information into consideration. If candidates answer your questions without paying attention to the facts, they’re prone to wrong decisions.
  • Track record of wrong decisions. If candidates struggle to understand why they were wrong and keep repeating the same mistakes, they don’t learn from their mistakes and possibly don’t realize the impact of a bad decision.
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