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Common Interview Questions

30 Questions and Answers by

Rachelle Enns is an interview coach and job search expert. She works with candidates to perform their best in employment, medical, and post-secondary admission interviews.

Common was updated on June 19th, 2020. Learn more here.

Question 1 of 30

What is the hardest decision you have had to make recently?

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Common Interview Questions & Answers

  1. 1.

    What is the hardest decision you have had to make recently?

      How to Answer

      The example you use in this answer will help the interviewer to determine the level of responsibility you have in your current position. For instance, if your hardest decision is what to have for lunch, you may not leave a fantastic impression on the hiring manager.

      Discuss some of the weightier responsibilities and decisions assigned to you in your current or most recent role. In the end, you can give a qualifying statement that addresses how these decisions and experiences have shaped your ability to excel in this new role.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "The hardest decision I made recently was related to budget cuts. Tasked with eliminating non-core expenses in the sales department, narrowing down which ones to cut was more challenging than I initially thought. After a day of deliberation, I presented two options to my boss. He is currently weighing the options I brought to him. The experience taught me a great deal about cost analysis, and I even strengthened my knowledge in Excel spreadsheets, a skill that I know will be very important in this new role. "

      Rachelle's Answer for an Admin Interview

      "Last quarter, I had to decide which temporary associate to choose for our Sales Administrators' vacation coverage. I carefully chose a temp associate who I knew would catch onto the job quickly, but also fit in well with our clients and staff. This responsibility strengthened my skills in reading resumes and performing better pre-screen interviews. I understand that this role requires some HR administrative responsibilities, and I am glad to have gained even more exposure to these tasks."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Manager Interview

      "Just yesterday, I faced a very challenging situation. I terminated two of our lowest sales performers. These terminations came after I provided many coaching opportunities and performance plans with no marked improvement. It is never fun to let people go, but sometimes it needs to be done to keep productivity and to reach corporate goals. I read a book last month called 'How to Fire an Employee.' It sounds basic, but there were some useful scripts that I ended up utilizing as a guideline for these terminations. Now, I bring increased confidence in my ability to have valuable exit interviews."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Marketing Interview

      "My agency owner asked me to fire a client last month. It was a challenging situation because I do not enjoy conflict; however, it needed to happen. The client was not cooperating with the processes required to deliver our best product within their demanding timeline. I researched and learned how to have constructive conversations surrounding expectations. I discussed the broken communication and unrealistic demands while providing supporting examples. In the end, the client agreed, and we parted ways amicably. As tough as the situation was, I learned a lot about outlining expectations and leading difficult conversations."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Retail Interview

      "The hardest decision I made recently was while creating the staff schedule for the next week. My manager usually does the team schedule, but I was put in charge of this task when she took a holiday. Building a balanced staff schedule is harder than it looks! I wanted to make everyone happy while also being aware of not stacking the schedule or giving someone too many prime shifts. I believe that I did an excellent job, and I gained confidence in my scheduling abilities - a skill that I can bring to your company!"

      Rachelle's Answer for a Sales Interview

      "Due to an imbalance of client numbers, I had to swap around the territories of our team last month. There were a few sales reps who were not happy about the change, but they were also the ones who were underperforming. I explained the system and also reminded them that the premium client accounts belong to the top performers. I never find it easy to disappoint someone; however, I also will not shy away from making tough decisions that benefit my employer."

      Rachelle's Answer for a Teacher Interview

      "I recently recommended the suspension of a student with severe behavioral issues. It was not an easy choice; however, I had to evacuate the classroom a few times the past couple of months. This behavior is unfair to other students, and I needed to take action. I have completed training on de-escalation in the classroom, and this knowledge was beneficial in this particular situation."

      5+ Community Answers

      Anonymous Answer

      "The hardest decision that I had to make was to let go of employees due to budget cuts. The company no more could afford the extra burden of employees, so in that place, we had to let go of the employees who were not technology-friendly."

      Rachelle's Answer

      This would have been challenging, indeed. Try walking the interviewer through how you decided on who to let go, what the benchmarks were for your decisions, and how you led the termination conversations.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "The hardest decision I had to make was to let go of a long term employee. I gave her adequate notice and helped with the hiring process. I made sure she found good employment. Because I was empathetic in the job process, I was able to retain her for future projects."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It's terrific that you were able to keep a good relationship with this person for future projects. The primary goal with this question is to discover your process amid challenging times. When it came to deciding to terminate, be sure to take the interviewer through that decision making process.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "One of the hardest decisions I've had to make recently was re-evaluating our pricing guide for the new fiscal year. With heavy sales goals and high demand on the cost of foods & goods, I am set with a challenge of increasing prices to still have an ROI and not pricing ourselves too high where we lose volume of sales. This has been quite a daunting task and has taken a lot of time and research."

      Stephanie's Answer

      This is a solid response. Despite the challenges of re-evaluating your pricing guide, you have practiced active problem-solving and ongoing research. To strengthen your response, add another sentence or two showing the outcome of your time and research. What has occurred as a result of this new guide? What are the impacts?

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I had to fire a long-term colleague and friend. That was really tough to do because we knew each other for years. But he made a big mistake several times and did not listen, and eventually, I had to fire him. Looking back, I consider it a good decision, because emotions have no place in effective management. But back then it was super difficult for me to make the decision."

      Stephanie's Answer

      Wow! That's a really tough decision to be faced with, as you were required to balance personal and professional relationships and priorities. In your response, you sound very reflective and confident in your decision, which is important.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "The most difficult decision I had to make was leaving the last company I worked at. Being with the company for 20 years, I became a subject matter expert in quite a number of processes and was able to help so many customers with production issues. I also mentored a number of team members, including the offshore team. I made sure they knew they could call me any time if they ran into an issue and needed assistance."

      Rachelle's Answer

      This situation would be a challenging decision, indeed! Be sure to share what led you to this decision, and how things have turned out for you thus far.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I had to decide to push a supplier very hard in a negotiation. I was a bit worried it would push the supplier away, or the entire negotiation would backfire. Instead, the supplier and I went through 3 levels of negotiation, and it was a win/ win for both sides that was one of my best negotiations ever."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Excellent! Can you offer more details while keeping the STAR format for this response (Situation, Task, Action, Result)?

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      Anonymous Answer

      "The hardest decision I made recently was when I decided to close my catering business. My catering business was successful in the last six years, but because of the pandemic, all business and schools closed temporarily. From that point, I was not earning any profit for my business; instead, I just spent money to pay my rent and bills. So, my business suffered financial hardships and that's how I decided to close down my catering business."

      Stephanie's Answer

      What a tough decision! I imagine that this was a difficult choice for you to make. To strengthen your response, I would encourage you to include a little more about how you responded to this decision or what you learned from this (see example below.)

      "The hardest decision I made recently was deciding to close my catering business. My catering business was successful for the last six years, but because of the pandemic, all businesses and schools closed temporarily. From that point on, I was not earning any profit for my business instead I just spent money to pay my rent and bills. So my business suffered financial hardship, I decided to close down my catering business. While this was a very challenging decision to make, I learned from it that sometimes unexpected situations arise in life, and I am more resilient than I realized. I gained many marketable skills from owning my business, which I look forward to translating into a new career opportunity."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "The hardest decision I had to make is to give feedback about several teammates with a recommendation on who should stay on the project and who should leave. At that time, I worked closely with our team lead, he trusted my opinion, and I knew everyone was pretty good. This made the decision much harder. But the client wanted to make cuts in the QA team, so I gave my recommendations. Later I found out that the team lead didn't want to make such a decision by himself, and as it turned out, our recommendations matched."

      Rachelle's Answer

      This situation would be incredibly challenging, indeed! How did you come to your decision/recommendations? Be sure to share your method so that the interviewer can assess your analytical and problem-solving skills.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "Recently my wife and I have been blessed by having a lot of opportunities, some of these have been in different locations. We decided to move back to our home town, this seems like an obvious choice for us, but it was a difficult choice since we loved Wichita. We weighed the pros and cons and decided that this is the best move for us, and we are confident in that."

      Chad's Answer

      Good answer! It can certainly be a difficult decision to move locations once you have established roots in a community. Try walking the interviewer through how you ultimately made the decision to move back to your hometown, and the reason why you believe it was the best decision.

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      Anonymous Answer

      "The toughest decision I've had to make recently is what to do in between law school and being admitted to the bar. I resolved to look for a position that would serve an ancillary role to the employer’s legal team, as opposed to seeking employment within a law firm. My main goal is to become an in-house counsel for a major player in the industry, one whose ambitions are aligned with my own. The problem with that is I know how unusual of a career path it is to begin working in-house without at least a couple of years with a firm under my belt. My belief is that working while pursuing my law license might allow an opportunity for lateral movement within the company down the road."

      Rachelle's Answer

      The moves you are making might be unconventional but they make sense! Your reply is honest and well thought out.

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