Human life is a long series of decisions that seems to have no beginning or end. According to scientists, we make approximately 35,000 of choices every single day. These range from very trivial choices (which seat to take in a bus, which bread roll to eat first, whether or not to smile on that cute passerby) to extremely complex decisions which can change the course of our life.
This interview question refers to difficult decisions, some choices we struggled to make. And it makes a perfect sense to ask it in a job interview, since your answer tells the hiring managers a lot about you: the way you think about a problem, whether you can analyze pluses and minuses of different options you have in any given situation, if you can eventually decide on your own, how do you bear with the consequences of you decision–if it turns out you made a wrong choice, etc.
Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this interesting interview question. Do not forget to read also my notes below the answers, as they will help you to understand how to make the right impression on the hiring managers with your answer.
7 sample answers to “Describe the most difficult decision you’ve ever made” interview question
- I am quite fortunate in my life, and I haven’t had to make decisions that would threaten my life, or life of anyone else. Probably the most difficult decision I had to make in my young life so far was whether to study law, or opt for a vet school. I always felt close to animals, but I also wanted to have some impact in my work, and we had a long tradition of legal jobs in my family. The pressure was high, and everyone tried to convince me to study law–for obvious reasons (better salary, easier school, prestige of the job, family tradition, etc). But I felt that law wasn’t my true calling, and that I should follow my heart in this case. Hence I decided to go against my relatives, and opted for studies at a vet school. It wasn’t an easy decision, considering everything. At the end of the day, however, we should follow our own dreams, and not the dreams of our parents, or of anyone else.
- The most difficult decision I made was to leave my country, in order to pursue a better future. I had great ties with my family, and I enjoyed everything about our place–local community, nature, freshness of air, the way of life. But I also couldn’t ignore other things–the ever-present poverty, the environmental issues, the negative outlook of the future in my native city. Leaving the country and applying for a scholarship at the foreign university was definitely a very difficult decision to make, and I carefully considered all pluses and minuses, not only in terms of my happiness, but also in regards to the well-being of my parents, the local community, etc. At the end I came to a conclusion that I’ll be able to do more for them once I have a degree, once I earn a decent living somewhere else. I just had to sacrifice something for a better future. And I did it.
- It may sound strange to you, but the most difficult decision I’ve made in my life was ending a relationship I had with my long term boyfriend. We were in love when we were very young and life was simple. But as we grew older, our perspective of life changed. Suddenly we had different expectations, and wanted to pursue different directions in life. In my views, a couple should have the same vision, something big they can pursue together. But it wasn’t possible anymore with my boyfriend. Though being together for long eight years, I decided to end the relationship. It was tough emotionally, and it took me long time to make the final move, and to get over it emotionally. But at the end I think I made the right thing for the both of us.
- I had to fire a long term colleague and friend in my last managerial job. That was really tough to do, because we knew each other for years, and I also knew that they had a young family and the job was very important for them. But they made a big mistake, several times, and they also started to have problems with alcohol. I wanted to help them, and talked to them several times, suggesting some options. But they did not listen, and eventually I had to fire them. Looking back, I consider it a good decision, because emotions have no place in an effective management. But back then it was super difficult for me to make the decision.
- The most important decision of my life actually happened in a flash. I was returning home from work, driving my car as usually, going over a small bridge. But suddenly the car started sliding, there was an ice on the road, and before I knew I was in the wrong line, heading to hit another car. What can one do in such a situation? If I jumped on the breaks, I would make the situation worse. The car would start spinning and it would be impossible to control it. But I decided, or maybe it was higher intelligence, to stay calm and to just let go the breaks, hoping to hit a dry patch of the road again and regain control. And that’s exactly what happened, and I escaped the crash in the very last moment. This decision has probably saved my life and perhaps also the life of the other driver…
- I made the most difficult one just recently, and we would not be sitting here together if I didn’t make it. I decided to quit my job. Working for the same employer for ten years, I had the job security, good salary, and I found it relatively easy to handle the job. But I didn’t feel challenged anymore. I wasn’t happy in work. You know, it’s not so easy to start from scratch when you are 40. And I knew I would start from zero in a new career field. I had to sacrifice a lot, and also my family had to bear the consequences, which made my decision even more difficult. Nevertheless, I decided to quit. I believe it makes not sense to do the job you do not enjoy, to go to work only to earn money. And that was exactly what I was doing for the past two years. I made my choice, and here I am, interviewing for a job with you, ready to start from scratch again.
- Decision to adopt a child was the most difficult one I made. I wanted to be a mother, but I did not have luck with partners. I knew what people would say, and how having a child would make my life more difficult–it’s a huge responsibility before anything else. But I also wanted to follow my instincts, and I felt that I wanted a child more than anything else in my life, and was ready to sacrifice a lot for this dream. So I eventually opted for adoption, after weighting all pros and cons, and today, many years later, I can say it was the right decision.
Examples from work are great, but some answers are even more powerful
At the end of the day, your attitude matters for the hiring managers, not the particular situation you narrate. And you can demonstrate the right attitude describing any tough decision you made, even in your personal life. What is the right attitude in this case?
- When talking about work-related decision, it means to prioritize the company, to not let the emotions interfere with your work (for example when deciding about dismissing someone, see sample answer no. 4).
- Another thing is to show that you are ready sacrifice something, and step out of your comfort zone, when you try to find personal fulfillment and meaning in your work. Check sample answer no 2. or no 6. for your inspiration.
* Special Tip: This isn’t the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!
Stories are easy to remember–do not hesitate to use them in your interview
Everyone loves to hear a good-feel story, or a story with a lot of drama. Such a story can illustrate something important in our life, and it can help the audience to learn an important lesson. Even if it doesn’t meet any of these goals, however, and there is just the drama, hiring managers will remember it long after the interviews.
For example when you escaped a car crash or another disaster making the right choice (see sample answer no. 5), or when you decided to end a long term relationship in order to pursue some higher ideals (or just your dreams, that suddenly didn’t alight with the dreams of your partner anymore). Check sample answer no. 3 for an illustration.
Conclusion, next steps
At the end of the day, the hiring managers should get an impression that you aren’t afraid to make an unpopular decision, and that you do not think only about yourself… And of course that you can actually make a decision on your own, and do not wait for someone else to make it for you.
As long as you manage to convince them about these things, they will be satisfied with your answer.
Ready to check 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions? I am sure you will choose something from our list:
- Tell us about a time when you had to make a decision without all information.
- Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
- Interview Success Package 2.0 – Answers to all 104 questions you may realistically face in an interview (paid product).