Question forms part of
Other interview questions that are similar
How do you set a course of action when you don’t know all the facts?
How do you make limited information decisions?
Have you ever been pressured into a decision before all the points had been explored?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
The interviewer wants to understand your decision making process and how that process works under less than ideal situations.
It is easy to say what you would do when the ‘correct’ answer is obvious, but the interviewer is looking to see how you cope when the ‘correct’ answer isn’t obvious.
And of course with questions like this the interviewer is not only looking for how you WOULD handle the situation they are also looking at how you HAVE PREVIOUSLY handled similar situations.
The interviewer wants to see that you have faced difficult decisions before and they want to see how you fared.
The best approach to answering this question
As with all scenario based questions it is best to use the Situation Task Action Result method. Come up with a time that you needed to make a decision and then talk it through with the interviewer.
It is important that you recognise that making decisions without all the facts is not an ideal scenario.
The first thing you should mention therefore is how this differed from your normal decision making process. Talk about how you tried to follow your usual process (in order to make an informed decision) but something caused you to be unable to.
It is best – in an interview setting – to lay the blame on an external party or force. A random shift in the weather might have caused your timescales to change and an immediate decision was required. Or even a vendor going bankrupt unexpectedly causing a disruption in the supply chain.
Something that you could not have seen coming and forces you into a bind.
Then use some time to discuss how you went about making your decision, using your experience and expertise to make the best possible decision given the hindrance.
Finally wrap up your answer by talking about how after you made your decision you went back and looked at why you were put in that spot in the first place, i.e. why wasn’t the information available, and how you took steps to prevent a re occurrence in the future.
How NOT to answer this question
“I do not make decisions until I have all of the necessary information, I always prepare in advance so that nothing can surprise me”
You might think this is a good approach to this question. You show the interviewer that you prepare for all eventualities and as such are never caught off guard. Thereby being able to make rational informed decisions every time.
But that is not feasible.
In the real world there are a lot of unknowns. You will often have occasions where the info you require is unobtainable.
If you answer this question like above the interviewer will not be impressed with your thoroughness and level of preparedness. No, the interviewer will think you are inexperienced and naive. Probably cocky as well.
Which is not good
“In the end I just went with my gut and it ended up being the correct decision”
If you say this in the interview the interviewer will just think you got lucky, not that you have some special heightened instincts for decision making in business.
Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed – Example answer
“When I worked as a store manager for X I was there on Day 1 of a new store opening and it was my job to make the staff schedule.
Now if you’ve ever been responsible for creating the shift rota you know that the number of colleagues you need is based on forecasts. Forecasts that are largely driven from past data.
But this was a new store so I needed to decide how many staff we should have in without knowing how many staff we were going to need!
I had to think about things tactically. While it would not be ideal to have too many staff in it would be worse if we had too few; so any judgements I were to make would have to err on the side of over staffing.
Through my experience I knew how many staff members were needed to manage a store when empty and when at peak. Now I just needed to make an informed estimate of how many customers to expect.
I reached out to similar sized stores in the organisation and started to speak to the store owners within the area to get an idea of what to face.
Eventually using the information I had gathered I completed the schedule. Day of opening rolled around and luckily we had enough staff to motor through, toward the end of the shift we probably had too many colleagues on the shop floor but that just meant we were able to provide even better customer service. Gotta make a great first impression after all!
After things had settled down I reported to my senior management team that in the future it would be wise to provide the store manager with the analysis that was used when deciding to open the store in this location as it would have had a lot of the necessary information for me to make my decision”
Let’s dive into this answer and see what was done right:
- The scene was set quickly and in an easy to understand manner
- The interviewee quickly realised what information was missing
- The interviewee made educated and rational judgements in formulating the decision
- The answer shows that the interviewee was correct in her judgement without coming off as boastful or cocky
- The whole thing is wrapped up with suggestions on how to improve for the next time around
To make the answer even better the interviewee could have talked about how they usually make a rota but given that the answer is already quite detailed I would say any interviewer would be impressed with the above.
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