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.
"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. "
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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!"
"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."
"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."
"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."
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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"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."
Excellent! Can you offer more details while keeping the STAR format for this response (Situation, Task, Action, Result)?
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"After the other design intern ended her time at the office, they tasked me with finding her replacement. It was hard to decide if it was my time to leave the job, to move onto the next stage in learning. As much as the job taught me and the rewarding outcome it provided, I chose to leave for new opportunities."
This response seems a touch scattered. Try to reign it in by thinking about a really hard decision you had to make in the workplace or in you schooling. Whether to quit your job or not sounds flip-floppy and the interviewer will see this as a warning sign that you are unsure about leaving your current job.
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