Every day we make decisions. What to wear? What to have for breakfast? Whether to go to the gym after work. We make so many simple decisions every day that we probably don’t even think about them. But what about the difficult decisions? You’ve likely made a few both in your professional and personal life. But which difficult decision would you discuss if you were asked at interview? And why?

Here are some tips on how to answer: What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make?

The question

First, why are you being asked this question at interview? Essentially, the hiring manager is trying to find out how you deal with challenging situations. It’s a golden opportunity to demonstrate your logical, confident decision-making process, a must-have skill, especially for managers and executives.

The scenario

You’ll want to pick a situation from your professional experience that was genuinely challenging. Aim to select a scenario that highlights the skills that are required in the new role, e.g. strategic thinking, adaptability, active communication.

Example: I’ve had to make some difficult decisions in my current role as Marketing Manager. One of the most challenging was deciding who to select as my new Assistant Manager when the previous one moved interstate.

The options

Outline a couple of potential courses of action and show that you weighed up the costs and benefits of each one. When you do this, you are showing the hiring manager that you have considered the impact of your decision on employees, the business and yourself.

Example: We advertised the role both internally and externally. I interviewed five high quality applicants with my HR manager. One was an internal candidate I had worked with for 3 years. He had all the required skills, an excellent knowledge of the company and was looking for promotion. The other candidate was from a competitor firm. She had less experience in our industry sector but sound skills as a junior marketing manager and project coordinator.

The course of action

State your chosen course of action and explain what you did to follow through. You might have taken a collaborative approach and consulted with a co-worker or employee focus group. Or perhaps you researched and compared costs by contacting client companies.

Example: I reflected on the Assistant Manager role requirements and business needs. Then I discussed the relative merits of each candidate with my co-interviewer, my HR manager. I then decided to make an offer to the external candidate.

The outcome

Discuss the outcome of your decision. What were the positives? What were the negatives and what did you do to resolve them? You may also want to reflect on what you would do differently next time.

Example: In retrospect, I know I made the right decision. My Assistant Manager easily transitioned into the role and has made a significant contribution, especially in project coordination. She is widely respected within the team. It wasn’t easy telling the internal candidate he had been unsuccessful, however. I explained my decision and assured him that he was a valued member of the team. I also said that I would provide him with mentorship and opportunities to develop his leadership skills.

Hiring managers are not looking for a decision-making process that satisfies everyone from start to finish. They are after a scenario that shows your ability to steer a clear, confident course in the face of challenge and potential adversity.

Now – decision time! Pick a couple of situations where you’ve had to make a difficult decision. Then reflect on what you did and why, and you’ll be ready for the question at your next interview.

If you’re in the process of deciding where to go next with your career, talk to the professional team at Optimal Recruitment today. You can reach us on or 02 8416 4181.