Tell Me A Time When You Had To Make A Decision Without The Information You Needed

Sometimes an interviewer will ask, “Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed” and you might be poised to pause and draw a blank. This is a hard question to be asked. Especially on the spot.

Retroactively trying to think about your prior work experience promptly is going to be very difficult. You won’t be able to draw up many examples right away. That’s why it’s imperative that you plan your answer and your scenario ahead of time.

Let’s go through how you’d answer this interview question effectively.

What Type Of Interview Question Is It

The first thing to recognize is that this is a behavioral interview question because it starts with “Tell me about a time” or “Tell me” usually. Behavioral interview questions are those that want you to speak of previous experience and show how you were able to resolve that experience.

It’s important to remember the STAR method, which is “Situation/Task, Action, Resolution/Result”, this means you are going to set up the situation you were in, speak to the action you took and how that resulted in a resolution or a result.

Related: 13 Behavioral Interview Questions & Answers: Guide, How To Answer

Asking About Information Gathering

When the interviewer puts the question into the format of “you had to make a decision without all the information you needed” it truly is asking how resourceful and how logical you can be when thinking through your next steps.

This is like asking someone if they had to pick a number between 1 and 10, why they picked the number they did. It usually means drawing conclusions and using deductive reasoning to try and determine the best option to make.

What The Interviewer Isn’t Looking For

The interviewer isn’t concerned so much about the positive outcome. Even if you were wrong, lets say in that number guessing example, the deductive reasoning is the part that’s most important to cover in this interview question. They want to know your process. How your brain works under pressure. And how you might come to a conclusion when odds seem stacked against you. Because of this, be sure that your answer is mostly about your process and less so about the outcome.

Example Answer To “Tell Me About A Time When You Had To Make A Decision Without All The Information You Needed”

“It was a few days before our client deadline, we were working on a creative project. Our manager was out on vacation, unable to be reached. And the team had a question. One that was going to impact our ability to complete the project. The team discussed the various options for what we could do to overcome our roadblock. None of them seemed great. Or accurate. And we all felt that. I decided to go back and look at the original creative brief. And while the client evolved their needs very much so from the origination of the brief, I was able to draw some conclusions by looking at the brief and where we were today. Ultimately we made a decision that was small but ensuring the project got done and the client was happy. It was the moment of looking back on the brief that was most impactful.”

Example Answer For Sales

“It was a few minutes before we were set to meet with a prospect and my colleague and I was not entirely prepared. We knew that the company was looking to be informed about a few of our services but we didn’t know about the company history. We couldn’t find anything online minutes before the meeting. So I suggested to my colleague that we flip our script around and ask the company what problems they had before we presented. Almost like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. It worked well, the prospect felt like it was seamless and the presentation went off great.”

Example Answer For Operations

“There was a conflict between two colleagues. And both of them felt as though the other was lying about the situation. Unfortunately, no one was around when the incident occurred to help validate which one of the employees was telling the truth. One of them was going to be terminated. I made the decision to listen to the person who was being less aggressive in their delivery. We ended up later finding out that the employee who was terminated was at fault.”

Example Answer For Marketing

“One of our campaigns was set to launch and we didn’t recall the budget that our manager told us they wanted to allocate towards the marketing. She wasn’t available to be reached, either. And our partner needed an answer right away with regards to the budget. What we did was use deductive reasoning with our overall annual marketing budget and the rest of our allocations to determine what the marketing budget was supposed to be for this campaign. It ended up being correct but we definitely took a chance.”

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

Share

Help us by spreading the word