What are decision making skills?
When we make decisions, we typically do so based on reasoning and logic or our own intuition. Whilst intuitive decision making can serve us well in our personal lives, decisions made in the workplace should be based on facts and critical evaluation. This requires a combination of skills that facilitate the decision making process.
Successful application of these skills allows an individual to identify a necessary decision, explore and weigh up alternative options, and make the most appropriate choice based on the needs of all parties involved.
Whilst gut instinct can never be completely removed from the decision making process (and can actually be beneficial when based on experience), employers looking for effective decision makers should assess candidates based on the skills above and their ability to make well-informed, carefully considered and objective choices.
How do great decision making skills make an employee more effective?
Whatever role they are employed in, an individual with great decision making skills brings many benefits to an organization. They are generally more productive, make fewer mistakes and contribute more when it comes to innovation.
Here are some key reasons why employees with great decision making skills are more effective in the workplace:
1. They make better use of resources
How an employee uses the resources available to them is largely influenced by their decision making abilities. Those resources may include time, people, technologies or money.
An effective decision maker will make efficient use of what’s available, leading to greater gains for the company. A poor decision maker on the other hand may be wasteful with resources, resulting in lower productivity and financial loss.
2. They foster stronger working relationships
Good decision makers know how to interact with others. They’re able to apply professional judgment and emotional intelligence to determine how best to act in certain situations and in response to the actions of others.
This means they’re able to build and maintain effective relationships and contribute to a positive work culture.
3. They’re more likely to achieve goals
Whether it be a personal task, a team project or a wider business objective, good decision makers are more likely to accomplish goals and to do so in the most efficient way possible.
Their skills enable them to stay on course, manage their time and make assertive, effective choices when decisions need to be made.
4. They contribute to company growth
This is particularly true of good decision makers in managerial roles. These employees will weigh up all the pros and cons of every possible course of action to make intelligent business decisions that support company growth.
What jobs benefit the most from great decision making skills?
Almost all employees will face decisions in the workplace at some point. The weight those decisions carry and the frequency with which they need to be made will vary according to the industry they work in and their level of seniority.
Certainly, anyone in a leadership post or a position of authority must possess excellent decision making skills, and as such, these should be considered essential for roles including:
Decision making skills are also crucial for roles that involve the interpretation of facts and/or data in order to draw logical conclusions. For example, legal secretaries, data scientists and financial analysts.
Other roles for which decision making should rank as a priority skill include:
How to hire for great decision making skills
Assessing a candidate’s decision making skills is no easy task. The qualities required - collectively known as soft skills - tend only to show themselves in a practical scenario, typically once a candidate has been offered a role and enters the workplace.
This of course is too late, particularly if the skills in question are not as advanced as they need to be.
To avoid the possibility of a bad hire, employers should look to use recruitment techniques that allow for practical and objective assessment of decision making skills early on, and combine these with a well-thought-out approach to traditional hiring methods.
Use a decision making skills test
A decision making skills test is one of the most effective screening tools at an employer's disposal. A form of aptitude test, they are expertly designed to measure the skills, qualities and behaviors that facilitate effective decision making.
Candidates are required to assess hypothetical work-based scenarios and choose what they see as the best course of action in response. To do so, they must apply key decision making skills like logical reasoning, time management, teamwork and empathy.
The nature of the questions - designed to mirror a real-world working environment - shows you how well a candidate can use their skills in a practical context.
These tests are best used in the early stages of the hiring process, between application and interview. They can be administered at scale so you can test a large applicant pool with ease, and narrow down your shortlisted candidates to those with the most impressive decision making skills test scores.
Be specific with reference checks
Reference checks can prove a great source of information on a candidate’s decision making skills, provided you speak to the right people and ask the right questions.
The most insightful references will come from those that have worked closely with the candidate themselves, like their immediate supervisor. These contacts can offer far more detail than a member of HR, who may well never have met the employee they’re providing a reference for.
To make the most of the opportunity try and speak to them in person, and be specific with what you ask. Questions that can reveal a lot about decision making skills include:
Do you have an example of when the candidate showed initiative?
How well did the candidate manage their workload?
Can you describe the candidate’s approach to solving a problem?
Ask structured interview questions
Unstructured interviews are a great way to put a candidate at ease and get to know them on a personal level, but they typically offer little insight into soft skills like decision making. For this, you need to ask structured, behaviorally focused interview questions.
These require a candidate to look back on a situation from their past where they had to make an important decision. Their response should clearly explain what that situation was, why they found themselves in it, and what consequences rested on their actions.
They should then go on to detail what options they considered, the reason for their final decision, and the resulting outcome. Listen carefully to their answer and ask for clarification on anything that is unclear.
Here’s an example of a behaviorally focused interview question you might ask a candidate to assess their decision making skills:
“Can you tell me about a time you took too long to make a decision? Why do you feel you were overthinking it?”
How testing for decision making skills can benefit your company's hiring process
A successful hire relies on an effective recruitment process - one that considers both the technical and soft skills held by a candidate along with their experience and personality fit.
Work history and qualifications can be obtained from a resume and interviews allow you to assess character, but soft skills like decision making are much harder to evaluate.
This is why a decision making skills test is so valuable. Not only is it time and cost-efficient, it challenges the candidate in a practical manner and gives you an accurate picture of their ability.
Combine this with considered reference checks and behaviorally focused interview questions and you have a comprehensive measure of a candidate's decision making ability.
From this, you can make a well-informed hiring decision that welcomes a valuable employee into your organization.