Question forms part of
Other interview questions that are similar
- Can you describe a time when you had to convince a team member to agree with your approach to a problem?
- How have you dealt with a situation where you had to convince a stakeholder to support your project?
- What strategies do you use to ensure that your decisions are well-received by your team?
- Have you ever had to sell an unpopular decision to your team? How did you handle it?
- How do you handle resistance when trying to implement a new policy or process?
- Can you share an experience where you had to convince a client to take your suggested course of action?
- How often do your ideas or suggestions get implemented in your current role?
- Have you ever faced opposition to a proposal you presented to your superiors? How did you handle it?
- Have you ever needed to persuade someone to accept your decision?
- Does management normally approve your proposals?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
Decision making is a key part of many roles. It is so important that “Making Effective Decisions” is one of the core behaviours that is tested when applying for roles within the UK Civil Service.
How you approach making a decision is something that interviewers will be interested in. Part of the decision making process is ensuring that you are using all the information available to make the most informed and correct decision that you can.
When you have made your decision it needs to stand up to scrutiny. Are you able to defend your decision when challenged?
This is what the interviewer is looking for by asking this question. Do you have experience with defending your decisions, and how do you handle yourself while defending your decision?
- It is easy for people to make a decision but then change that decision immediately when challenged.
- It is easy for people to make a decision and then double down and refuse to listen to legitimate challenges
The interviewer wants to see if you are capable of listening to challenges, fairly and calmly assessing the challenge and choosing the most appropriate action to take.
The best approach to answering this question
This is a “Tell me about a time” question. So the best answers are going to be utilising the B-STAR interview technique. Let’s see how that should go:
B – Belief – Talk about your approach to decision making and mention how you believe in getting input from as many people as possible.
S – Situation – Describe the scene. What decision had you been asked to make and what was the challenge. Try not to get too bogged down in the minutiae of the situation. Keep it simple to explain. “You had decided X, colleague said why X and not Y, you discussed the matter further”.
T – Task – What was your responsibility? It is crucial when answering this question that your role be the decision maker and that you had ensured that your information was correct.
A – Activity – What did you do when your decision was challenged? The best answers will talk about how you took the time to explain your decision to ‘the challenger’, showing them how you came up with the decision and discussing why the decision was better than the alternatives
R – Result – What happened about your decision? There are 2 ways to answer this, either say that you explained your decision making process to the challenger and they agreed with your decision, and your decision ended up bearing fruit for your organisation. Or say that the challenger provided a new point of view (or gave new information) that was not available to you at the time that meant you changed your decision, and your decision ended up bearing fruit for your organisation. The first option will be a lot easier to explain in an interview setting but the second option does show humility on your part. Either way you should mention how the final decision was good for the business.
How NOT to answer this question
Do not say that your decisions have never been challenged. The interviewer will be expecting you to have this experience and you need to show that you do.
Do not give an example of when you reversed your decision immediately. If you do change your decision as a result of the challenge make sure you talk about how you investigated the alternative and realised it was better for the business. Also ensure you have a good answer as to why you never make that decision in the first place.
Do not give an example where you do not welcome the challenge. Sure nobody likes to have their decisions questioned, but it is also dangerous to never receive any input. Make sure to emphasize that you requested input/feedback on your decision and this discussion was a result of that request.
Do not give an example where the challenger and the interaction was hostile in nature (unless you expect this to be the case in the new organisation). Interviewers want to make sure you can hold your own in the business setting but they still want everything to remain professional. In your example talk about how, even though you were being professionally challenged, everything was still civil and a final decision was reached amicably.
Tell Me About A Time Someone Challenged Your Decision
Example answer 1
Sure, let me share an instance from my previous job as a project manager. We were working on a project that was running behind schedule due to some unforeseen complications. To get us back on track, I proposed working additional hours and redistributing certain tasks among the team to accelerate the pace.
However, one of my team members, an experienced senior developer, challenged my decision. He argued that merely extending work hours could lead to burnout and impact the quality of work, which I, of course, agreed with. However, the timeline we were working against forced us to consider some less than ideal options.
To handle this situation, I initiated an open discussion within the team, where everyone had the chance to express their opinions and suggest possible solutions. The senior developer presented a compelling case for implementing automation in certain areas of the project, which would minimize the manual labor and thus save time without necessarily extending work hours.
Although implementing automation required a significant upfront time investment, I recognized the long-term benefits and efficiency we could gain. I took his proposal seriously, ran the numbers, and indeed found it would benefit our timeline without exhausting the team.
So, I decided to reverse my initial decision, instead favoring the implementation of automation tools in specific areas of the project. In the end, this not only saved us time but also improved the overall efficiency of our workflow, leading to the successful and timely completion of the project.
This experience reinforced the importance of considering different perspectives and being open to feedback. It reminded me that leadership is not just about making decisions but also about creating an environment where everyone feels heard and valued.
Example answer 2
“Whenever I make a decision in work (or anywhere for that matter!) I ensure that I have looked at all the possible options and weighed the pros / cons accordingly to make sure my decision is the most effective one for the organisation as a whole.
That is why I enjoy when others question or challenge my decisions, as it allows me to hear differing opinions and improves my decision making abilities for the next time.
One such occasion occurred recently. I was put in charge of choosing a supplier for a part we needed on a new product range. We had taken proffers from 4 firms and it was my job to decide who to go with.
Using all of the information I could gather I made my choice, but before I rubberstamped my decision I invited some of the key stakeholders to a meeting to talk things over.
It was at this meeting that my preferred choice was challenged. The colleague raised good points in favour of one of the other suppliers, namely that we have used this supplier before so were already familiar with how they operated and would not need to create new relationships.
I agreed with my colleague and politely told them that I had considered that information when making my decision. I explained that the supplier I had chosen was cheaper than the supplier we have a relationship with. I also showed how this new supplier had recently hired a number of key personnel from our usual supplier meaning that we would be liaising with people we already had existing relationships with. Granted we would still need to create new accounts for the new supplier but for the cost savings I believed it was well worth it.
Once I mentioned this the colleague was immediately relieved, her main cause of concern was with dealing with new suppliers as our products were highly specialised and it often took a while for suppliers to get used to our requirements.
After the meeting I signed the contracts for the new supplier and we have received a number of shipments from them without incident.
More Sample Answers…
The examples provided above can serve as a foundation for creating your unique answers. For additional inspiration, our new guide includes five sample responses to this question and over 100 answers to all of the most common interview queries.
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