When an interviewer asks, "What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made and how did you come to that decision?" the person is giving you a gift. This is a golden opportunity to show exactly how you’d perform as a worker under a new boss.
The interviewer wants to know how you’d handle challenging and stressful situations and how strong your critical thinking skills are, says Jody Michael, founder and CEO of Chicago and Atlanta-based Jody Michael Associates. "Describe how you effectively approached the challenge, how you weighed the options, and how you reached your decision," she says.
Get this one right and you’ll score some major points. Of course, you’ll have a few difficult decisions to make right there in the interview room in answering the question. We’ll help you tell a story that will knock the interviewer’s socks clean off.
This is your chance to show that you’re up to the task of making good decisions in challenging situations. So start with a story that shows you were successful in solving a tough problem—and that shows a positive result for your boss and the business. (Stick to a work story, by the way. While all of us face challenges in our personal lives, they won’t have as much relevance to the job at hand.)
"And whatever example you use, make sure it highlights a strength you would bring to the role," Michael says. "For example, your flexibility and ability to navigate change, negotiating skills, or perseverance."
Your first move is to lay out exactly what the challenge was, and why it was important for the department.
You say: "In my previous position, I was in charge of selecting vendors to print our promotional materials. We have a longtime vendor we’ve been working with for over a decade. However, for one of our biggest print jobs of the year, another vendor came in with a lower bid."
The interviewer is interested in learning how you think. Put yourself in her shoes. Any job comes with problems, and she wants to know that you’ll be purposeful and careful in weighing the options.
So your second part of the answer is to give a glimpse into the thought process you went through.
You say: "I didn’t want to take the work away from a vendor with whom we did so much business with, but I couldn’t justify picking them out of loyalty if someone else was doing the same job for less money. So I told the old vendor frankly about the other bid to hear what they had to say, and I also solicited references from the new vendor to see if their work matched that of what we had been getting."
Make like Houdini and dazzle your audience with the reveal. Tell the interviewer what choice you came to.
You say: "Our longtime vendor was able to bring down their bid. They actually did the job for less than the new vendor would have, so we ended up saving some money."
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.