Decision-Making Skills With Examples
Different employers look for different things, of course, but decision-making skills are sought by most companies for many different positions. In general, applicants who can demonstrate an ability to identify all the options and compare them in terms of both costs and effectiveness have an advantage over those who can’t.
Why Employers Value Decision Making
Organizational culture and leadership style together determine the process of decision making in any company. Some may use a consensus-based approach, while others depend on a manager or management group to make all major decisions for the company.
Many organizations use a mixture of centralized and consensus-based styles. How an individual employee participates in the decision-making process depends on his or her position within the overall structure of the company.
As you prepare to apply for a given position, it is important to read the job description carefully and to thoroughly research the company so you can understand which decision-making skills your prospective employer is seeking—then you can emphasize these skills in your resume, cover letter, and interview.
The Decision-Making Process
A good way to make the most informed decision is to follow a process that assures you are taking into account all relevant information and considering each of the most probable outcomes. A step-by-step checklist like this is valuable for that purpose:
- Define the problem, challenge, or opportunity.
- Generate an array of possible solutions or responses.
- Evaluate the costs and benefits, or pros and cons, associated with each option.
- Select a solution or response.
- Implement the option chosen.
- Assess the impact of the decision and modify the course of action as needed.
You will not always find yourself going through all six steps in an obvious way. You might be responsible for one aspect of the process but not the others, or several steps might be merged together. But someone still should go through each step in some way or other. Skipping steps usually leads to poor outcomes. Remember to develop strategies to ensure that you have not overlooked important information or misunderstood the situation, and be sure to uncover and correct for any biases you may have.
Even if you do not yet have management experience, you probably have made decisions in a professional setting. Because decision making is not always a cut-and-dried process, though, you might not recognize what you were doing.
These examples provide a sense of what activities from your own work history you can share with potential employers to demonstrate your own decision-making skills. Be sure to keep your sharing as relevant to the job requirements for the position as possible.
- Identifying a faulty machine as the source of disruptions in the production process.
- Facilitating a brainstorming session to generate possible names for a new product.
- Polling staff to gauge the impact of extending retail hours.
- Conducting a comparative analysis of proposals from three advertising agencies and selecting the best firm to lead a campaign.
- Soliciting input from staff members on an issue important to the company’s future.
- Surveying customers to evaluate the impact of a change in pricing policy.
- Implementing the shutdown of a designated plant with excess manufacturing capacity.
- Generating a list of options for a new regional sales territory.
- Evaluating the impact of several possible cost-cutting measures.
- Comparing the leadership potential of different team members and choosing a project manager.
- Researching possible legal or logistical problems associated with a new company policy.
- Brainstorming possible themes for a fundraising campaign.
- Analyzing data from focus groups to help select packaging for a new product.
- Comparing the strengths and weaknesses of three potential vendors for processing payroll.
Remember that the critical skill in decision making is not learning a bunch of techniques, but in knowing how and when to apply the basic principles and in constantly re-evaluating and improving your methods. If you or the teams you are a part of consistently achieve good results, then you are making decisions well.