What is a Decision Matrix?

Using a Matrix

I am a total nerd about this whole job selection thing, that’s why I’m writing a book about it. But stay with me a little longer and the idea of a decision matrix might just change your whole life- I know it changed mine forever.

What is a decision matrix?
A decision matrix is an analytical way of making and justifying important decisions. I first used a decision matrix for a sales class when we had an assignment to hire 20 new employees for a simulation. Our task was to read through 50 resumes, determine 5 decision criteria, establish weightings for each criteria, and select the final 20 candidates for hire. Examples might be “Relevant Experience” with a weight of 8 out of 10, or “Location Preference” with a weight of 5 out of 10. Then for each of the 50 applicants we filled out this matrix evaluating each candidate in 5 categories. We then multiplied each rating by the weight we had given the criteria and the 20 who scored the highest were the ones we hired. (This is pretty much how recruiting works in case you were wondering.)

Creating a decision matrix helped my group hire the right people for our class simulation. I next used the idea of a matrix in a case competition for a fashion designer in Japan to determine which stores the client should close depending on traffic to the store, location, and sales. Our team won first place internationally because we had the most logical approach to solving this problem.

My love for decision matrices got serious when I created one to help me choose a job.

When I received several job offers I created a decision matrix to map out the pros and cons of each position and to help me figure out what my important decision criteria would be. The most difficult part of creating a matrix is deciding what your criteria should be and how important they are. My chart had criteria like “compensation” “location” “opportunity for advancement” “how competitive the job was” “how much I liked the management team” “company size” “access to executives” “brand recognition” and a few others. Each criteria was given a ranking and I filled out my chart.

The thing about a decision matrix is that it is a completely logical, and rational approach to decision making; the thing about choosing your career is that there is an emotional component.

I made my chart and all signs indicated I should move to Atlanta because that was by far the best job offer. I called my family Easter weekend to tell them the news. I had accepted the job and was waiting for the contract to be sent over. Had I gotten the contract that week I would have signed it. But when I called my aunt and uncle again that weekend to tell them the news they asked me some questions I hadn’t thought of- questions about my potential “happiness” at that job. “Happiness” had not been one of my decision criteria.

I called the company I thought I would be happiest working for and asked them to send me a contract. I would be moving to Boston working for the company that offered me the least amount of money and the most new training. It was a situation very similar to what my grandmother had experienced. The job in Atlanta was much more money and much more responsibility where I would be demonstrating skills, the job I chose would be learning new skills for less money.

So in the end I threw out my perfectly rational matrix and “went with my heart.” A decision matrix is meant to be used to help you make sound, defensible decisions.  The most important thing a matrix reveals is your decision criteria and how important they are to you. Spend some time thinking about what is really most important to you in your job, I think you will be surprised it’s not always about the money.

Kelli Lampkin

Kelli Lampkin is a writer, traveler, comedienne, and entrepreneur.

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