What is the riskiest work-related decision you’ve ever made?
This question tells me so much more than asking how much of a risk-taker someone is! It’s about learning how resourceful the candidate is, and if he or she has the ability and confidence to make difficult decisions without a lot of direction. I ask this question when interviewing someone for a retail manager job, or a role in our regional office. Great answers show me that you’ve been in situations where you didn’t have all the information, and made a decision based on what you knew about your business, customers, or peers. A good answer demonstrates how you handle yourself under pressure.
How do you prepare for this type of question? Prior to your interview, think of two or three situations where you made risky decisions. Perhaps when your manager was not available, and you decided to act on something unexpected or challenging. If you have experience in retail or quick service situations, this could be handling a customer complaint or reacting to an influx of customers. Another great situation could be if you made a bold move in a school project or at work, and radically changed the way something was done previously. Even if the situation didn’t end positively, it can be alright if you’re able to articulate what you learned from the mistake.
A bad answer to this question is one that misses details, and doesn’t explain clearly why the situation was risky. Candidates with bad answers to this question typically don’t know what they learned from their difficult situation, even when I prompt them to share this with me. Risky decisions and mistakes happen in business all the time — it’s what we learn from them that is important.
So if a recruiter or hiring manager does ask you this interview question, you want to explain the situation you were in, what decision you made, why it was risky, and what actions you took. Proactively share with your interviewer if there’s anything you would do differently next time, and why this is. Show them what you learned from the situation, and why you’ll shine in your new position!