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Stop Dithering: Become A Better Decision-Maker

Stop Dithering: Become A Better Decision-Maker
Decision

    Ever encountered a project where only one decision needs to be made before you can finish the project? It may only take you a few hours to finish the project once that decision is made, but invariably, it’s the decision that takes forever to make. It’s because decision-making is as much a skill as riding a bike: it’s something that you learn and improve on as you practice.

    I think my first introduction to the concept of improving my own decision-making abilities was in The 4-Hour Workweek — one of the exercises Timothy Ferriss recommends is making snap decisions. But the issue of decision-making is being considered on a much wider level than just productivity gurus. Yesterday, the New York Times posted a column from John Tierney on their website titled “The Price of Dithering.” The reason that writers from Ferriss to Tierney are focusing so much on the topic of decision-making is the fact that dithering really can be quite expensive. An inability to move on to the next project can have massive opportunity costs, in addition to the financial upkeep needed to keep other folks ready to spring into action once a decision has been made. Avoiding these price tags is a matter of improving your ability to quickly make decisions and move on.

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    Snap Judgments

    When I talk about improving your decision-making skills, I’m talking about quantity rather than quality. Having the discernment to make the best decision in every situation is a skill that each of us spends our entire life working on. Instead, the quick fix is reducing the time that it takes us to reach our conclusion — while still coming to the same decision we would if we spent hours on an issue.

    The first step to handling big decisions quickly is dealing with small ones immediately. Most of us have too little time to spend even an extra half hour trying to pick out an outfit to wear to the office. As long as your proposed outfit is within the guidelines of your office’s dress code, put it on and get on to the next decision. Some of these small decisions can even be eliminated entirely. Effectively, you just need to make a blanket decision to cover a variety of situations — like if you are planning an investment strategy. Sitting down once a year and choosing where your money is going saves you from having to decide every time you get a little spare change.

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    Advise

    Whenever I struggle with a decision, I ask for advice. An expert opinion can often simplify a decision, after all. However, I’ve found that getting too much advice can be a double-edged sword — sure, information can help you make a better decision, but some advice can be faulty and sorting through the unhelpful information can extend the decision-making process. I’ve heard a variation on the classic example from just about every graphic designer I’ve ever met: a client is at some important decision-making stage and is looking at a design. The client asks for some time to consider and proceeds to ask for advice from his girlfriend/secretary/trash collector/whoever and that advisor just flat out doesn’t like the design. The problem is that none of those advisors has any experience with graphic design. They haven’t been in on the developmental meetings, they don’t know the logic that led the client and the designer to a particular design, and, therefore, they probably don’t have the necessary knowledge to help you make the best decision.

    My advise to decision-makers is simple. For any decision, limit yourself to one or two advisors who happen to be experts in their field. You should, of course, discuss the matter with those individuals who your decision affects (your spouse if you’re considering taking a job in another state, your employees if you’re moving your company to another state, etc.) but don’t necessarily consider them experts.

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    Confidence

    When you first start thinking about making a large purchase — television, car, whatever — odds are that you start out with a specific brand or model in mind. But then you start doing research, looking at other options and generally dithering about your decision. The whole process can take months, and, when you finally make up your mind, there is a fair chance that you went back to your initial choice.

    I’ve had plenty of problems with ignoring those initial inclinations myself. It comes down to the fact that many of us simply don’t have a whole heck of a lot of confidence in our own abilities to make decisions. And I’m the first to admit that my decisions are not nearly perfect. There have been plenty that I want to take back. The easiest way, however, to speed up the process of making decisions is to realize that you will make the best decision you can, based on the information you have available. Delaying isn’t guaranteed to give you the time to learn more and you may already have all the information you need.

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    Look at it this way: you’re not going to intentionally make a poor decision. Keeping the fact that you’re going to do your best in your mind may be able to provide you with a bit more confidence. That’s the optimist’s option, of course. For those of us who lean to the pessimistic side of things, thinking about worse case scenarios can be equally effective. It’s rare that we make a decision that cannot be repaired if something goes wrong. Sure, it might take a little work or money, but most decisions really aren’t life and death. I remember thinking that choosing a college would determine who I would be for the rest of my life. But college students certainly aren’t stuck with that decision: while I liked my school just fine, I had a classmate who transferred three times and a few who dropped out entirely.

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    Published on January 28, 2020

    How to Ace an Interview: Nailing the 10 Most Tricky Questions

    How to Ace an Interview: Nailing the 10 Most Tricky Questions

    As someone who has been in recruiting for over 10 years I can tell you the interview is vitally important to getting that new job you really want. During the interview process, there will most likely be at least 2 interviews, a phone interview and an in person interview. Both are important.

    Companies can of course have different interviewing processes but in general, there is at least one phone interview, also known as a phone screen, and a live, in-person interview. The in-person interview can be with one person or it might be with a variety of people. While they are both important, the live interview is typically the one that will make or break you as a candidate for the position you are interviewing for.

    Many of the interview questions we will review here will more likely come up during the live interview. But it’s a good idea to be prepared for them on the phone interview as well.

    To illustrate how important the live interview is, I’ll tell you about my search that happened a year ago. I’d decided it was time to move on from the role I’d been in for a little over 6 years. As I started researching and looking for a new opportunity, I began down the path with 2 companies. With the one I landed with, I’d had 3 separate phone screens, each one an hour long. They must have thought they went well because I was asked to fly to the city where the corporate office is at and do an in-person interview. — with 8 people.

    Yeah, it was a long day. The good news is I rocked the interviews across the board. I flew home that evening and the following day, I received a call with the job offer. That was less than 24 hours after I’d had the in person interview. This is how important the live interview is.

    So how to ace an interview? We can dive right in to helping you nail the 10 most tricky interview questions:

    1. What’s Your Biggest Weakness?

    This is a personal favorite of mine. The primary reason for this question is not to actually find out what your biggest weakness is. Unless of course, you say something like “showing up to work on a regular basis,” then it’s probably going to get you kicked out of consideration for the role.

    The main reason for someone asking you this question is to see if you are self-aware. That is if you know your weaknesses and are smart enough to account for them.

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    The smart play here is to answer in a modest way. You want to be able to show that your biggest weakness actually has an upside. For instance, I usually say that mine is impatience. Which is true, I like to get things done. But what I ensure what I point out is that even though I am impatient, it’s because I like to crank and get a lot of work done.

    2. Why Do You Want to Work Here?

    Interestingly enough, a lot of people don’t have an answer to this question. It’s designed to find out if you’ve actually done research on the company and if you are excited about this position.

    When I ask this question, many people have told me something like “because it looks like a good opportunity”. I mean, can you be any more generic?

    The key to answering this is to show you’ve done research on the company and that you are enthusiastic about the actual position. Companies want people that are excited to work there, not just someone that shows up for a paycheck.

    3. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

    Employers are asking you this question to see if you have somewhat of a plan for your career. It doesn’t have to be completely mapped out in a step by step manner but, a general overall plan is good to see. It means you are goal oriented and are working towards something.

    Don’t worry about answering in a way that states you are planning on sticking with the company until you retire. Rather, focus more on how it’s important to you to continue to learn and get better and better at what you do. Companies like to hire self-motivated people.

    4. Tell Me About a Time You Messed Up

    Or tell me about a time something didn’t work out the way you planned. Similar in concept. The key here is to show that you take accountability for your actions and how you react to things going wrong.

    Companies like to see that you are willing to accept responsibility for the things you oversee and own up when you are wrong. People that always find a way to blame their missteps on other people or circumstances typically don’t make good team mates.

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    The other component here is things don’t always go as planned, how good are you at adapting and thinking on your feet.

    5. Why Are You Looking to Leave Your Current Job?

    This may seem like a place to launch into all the things you don’t like about your current job. Or to talk about what a terrible person your boss is. Don’t do it. That’s the path you do not want to go down. And that’s really what this question tends to prod out of many people.

    If I am interviewing you and ask this question and you tell me all the ways your boss doesn’t appreciate you and your company has terrible leadership, I’m thinking what you’re going to be saying about me in a year when you are interviewing somewhere else.

    Make sure you are framing your answer in a way that doesn’t shed bad light on your current or most recent employer. You want to focus on things like you’ve enjoyed working for the company but your growth options are limited there so you are exploring outside opportunities.

    6. How Would Your Current Manager Describe You?

    This question gives you the opportunity to show off your strengths and what your boss appreciates about what you bring to the table. You want to focus on the positive traits that your boss likes and how it helps you in your role.

    What you do not want to do is sprinkle in the things your boss doesn’t think as highly of. Don’t say something like my boss would describe me as a focused worker, at least on the days I make it into the office.

    7. Tell Me About a Time You Overcame an Obstacle

    Another one of my favorite questions. Interviewers ask this question to see if you are able to deal with roadblocks.

    Things don’t always go smoothly, so having people on the team who are able to solve problems has huge upside.

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    Being able to overcome obstacles is a great trait to have. Make sure you have a few stories about how something didn’t go as planned that caused a challenge and how you were involved in solving the problem. It’s a way of turning a bad situation into a good one.

    8. Why Should We Hire You?

    If you are at the point of a live interview, you should be highly interested in the position.

    By this point, you should have a pretty clear picture of what the role is and how your skills and experience will help you succeed. The reason this question is being asked is to see if you are the right candidate for this role.

    This gives you a great opportunity to tell your interviewer how your expertise will positively impact the role. Right now, you are in the spotlight to clearly show that your experience is the perfect fit for the position and why. Shine on!

    9. What’s Your Greatest Achievement?

    Employers tend to ask this question to gain an understanding of what your big wins were. What are the really impactful things that have happened during your career and how you were the reason why they happened.

    This is another great opportunity for you to toot your own horn. What you want to be conscious of is how you tell the story about your biggest achievement. You want to make sure you say why it was such a big achievement.

    If possible, it’s always good to include your team as part of the big win. Employers love to hire people who can make things happen but, it’s also important they understand the importance of team work.

    10. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

    You might be asking yourself why this is a tricky question. Honestly, it’s not a tricky question if you are prepared for it.

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    What the interviewer is looking for here is how interested and excited you are for the position. You’d be surprised at how many people answer this question with a blank stare or have no questions prepared.

    Again, if you are at a live interview, you should be highly interested in a position and the company. You will convey how interested you are in the opportunity with some well thought out questions to ask.

    You don’t want to just ask one question like “How often is payday”? Have at least 4 to 5 questions prepared but don’t overwhelm your interviewer with dozens and dozens of questions. Show that you’ve given some serious thought to this position by coming prepared with solid questions to ask.

    The Bottom Line

    There you go, insight to nailing the 10 most tricky questions during the interview process. There are, of course, many other questions you might get asked during the interview process but, these tend to be the ones that trip most people up.

    Remember to take your time and thoroughly prepare for the interview. You don’t have to memorize your answers or anything but having a good idea of how you’d answer these questions will help you ace the next interview.

    Here’s to being career advancement ready!

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    Featured photo credit: Romain V via unsplash.com

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