Tell Me About a Time When You Were Forced to Make an Unpopular Decision

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Questions such as ‘Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision’ or ‘Have your coworkers ever disagreed with a decision you made’ are categorized as behavioral interview questions by career experts. These questions are usually mixed in with traditional questions during the interview process- but they are far more abstract. These questions are helpful to hiring managers because they allow him or her to see how you handle real or hypothetical scenarios.

Traditional interview questions such as ‘What were your responsibilities in your most recent role’ or ‘What do you know about our company’ have concrete answers that do not involve much thinking. On the other hand- you will have to use your critical thinking skills to successfully answer behavioral questions- and unlike traditional interview questions- there is technically no right or wrong answer.

Before you embark on your next job interview- you will need to practice employing the STAR method. This will help you formulate an answer that satisfies the interviewer and provides a well-structured response. You will want to practice utilizing STAR prior to your meeting so you will not have to struggle to remember it during a potentially anxiety-inducing situation such as an interview.

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How to Answer the ‘Tell Me About a Time When You Were Forced to Make an Unpopular Decision’ Behavioral Interview Question

Choose a Decision That Had a Positive Outcome: It may seem like a common-sense measure to some- but you will fare best if you use a positive example. Use a decision that was unpopular when you were forced to make it but that allowed you and your coworkers to reap many benefits later on. For example- if you are applying for a managerial position- you may want to discuss the time you had to cut hours. This decision will have most certainly affected your popularity- but go on to discuss the fact that you did it to save money during a very financially stressful time. You may also want to go on to state that your decision prevented the business from closing and allowed your workers to keep their jobs in the long-run.

Use the STAR Method: Using the STAR method will help you successfully answer most behavioral interview questions. STAR is an acronym for the following:

  • • Situation
  • • Task
  • • Action
  • • Results

After you discuss a specific situation or task involving your handling of an unpopular decision, you will need to discuss the actions you took. Finally, you will want to wrap your answer up with the overall results of your decision.

Show Integrity: When it comes to right and wrong, everyone has a different opinion, but when you answer a question regarding unpopular decisions, the employer needs to know that you made the decision for the right reasons. For example, you may want to talk about the time you stood up for a coworker who was going to be fired for missing too many days due to health problems. This will show that you care about being professional, but at the same time, you are understanding and rational. Bosses want to hire a worker that will do the right thing, even when supervisors are not around.

Discuss Your Handling of the Situation: Even if the situation did not have an extremely positive outcome, you will want to choose a situation that shows that you weathered the storm of unpopularity. Convey that you have the integrity and resolve to stick to your guns, even when others protest or complain. You don’t want to come off as inflexible or unwilling to listen to others, but you do want to present that you do have the ability to make hard decisions when needed. Talk about how you dealt with the backlash from your coworkers or fellow students (if you are interviewing for your first professional job).

Sample ‘Tell Me About a Time When You Were Forced to Make an Unpopular Decision’ STAR Interview Answer

At my previous job, I was put in charge of a project that involved overseeing a small team of coworkers. It was a rather large project that could greatly influence our clients’ view of the company, and it needed to be finished in a short period of time. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time during the week to finish the project, and I realized that we would have to temporarily come in for a few hours on Saturdays in order to complete our tasks. When I delivered the news, many of my coworkers complained and developed resentment for me. Despite their initial misgivings, we finished the project ahead of time and managed to attract several new clients in the process. I knew that my coworkers would be temporarily upset, but I kept the prospect of attracting new clients in mind the entire time.

However you choose to respond to behavioral interview questions, just be sure to provide enough details and employ the STAR method.

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