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What’s the best way to describe your work ethic to a potential employer?

What’s the best way to describe your work ethic to a potential employer?

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • Why do employers ask about your work ethic?
  • 5 Tips for describing your work ethic in an interview
  • 1. Choose the right words
  • 2. Talk about a situation
  • 3. Explain the goal
  • 4. Discuss your approach
  • 5. Share the results
  • What not to do when describing your ethic
  • Be casual
  • Act pretentious
  • Come across as unprofessional
  • Examples of describing work ethic to an employer
  • Key takeaways

Not all job interview questions are about your management style and strengths and weaknesses. Some relate to your overall attitude at work. Here’s how to best describe your work ethic to an interviewer.

When you’re interviewing for a job, the interviewer will likely ask you questions about your approach to work. If you’re asked to describe your work ethic, the interviewer wants to determine whether you have the right aptitude for the job. For this reason, it’s important to answer this question using the right words so that you don’t come across as too laxed or pretentious. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss:

  • The importance of work ethic for a potential employer

  • Tips on describing your work ethic

  • Sample answers to questions involving your work ethic

Why do employers ask about your work ethic?

Work ethic is one of the many intangible skills your potential employers are looking for in an ideal candidate. Every organization has a certain culture and an image of what the ideal candidate would look like. If your work ethic is on par with the company’s expectations, you’re likely to make it to the next round of the interview.

Your employer may also be interested in knowing how you can help the company achieve its goals. This is where your work ethic comes in. For instance, if the company’s objective is to have someone address common customer concerns, and your work ethic is all about taking a proactive approach to problem solving, you can make a good impression. 

Your work ethic can also help you determine whether the job is the right fit for you. For example, if you’re a creative individual who prefers to work with flexible deadlines and you notice a job posting for a deadline-driven position, you probably won’t consider applying for that job. 

Statistical Insight

According to the latest statistics, 92% of hiring managers in the United States believe that employees with a good work ethic have higher chances of getting hired.

5 Tips for describing your work ethic in an interview

The way you describe your work ethic will go a long way in increasing your likelihood of getting that job. Consider using the STAR method, discussing a specific situation, task, action, and result to illustrate your work ethic. Here are a few tips for using this method when talking about your work ethic:

1. Choose the right words

When an employer wants to know about your work ethic, they’re looking for certain adjectives to help them decide whether you’re the right fit for the job. It’s also important to remember that the interviewer probably has several other questions to ask, so you need to be mindful of their time. Keep your answer short and mention three to five qualities that best describe your work ethic.

Expert Tip

When describing your work ethic, consider using one or more of the following words: 

Persistent, goal-oriented, self-motivated, reliable, dedicated, enthusiastic, level-headed, driven, determined, accountable, positive, resourceful, and attentive to detail.

2. Talk about a situation

Throughout your professional career, there may have been several instances where your work ethic allowed you to successfully navigate a challenge. For example, your supervisor might’ve given you a vague project brief, and you relied on your dedication and commitment to see the project to fruition, even when the details weren’t clear. This particular “situation” is a good place to start a discussion about your work ethic with your potential employer. 

3. Explain the goal

After discussing the situation, talk about what was your role in it. What did your employer expect you to accomplish? For example, you could mention volunteering to hop on a call with the client after work to better understand what the project is all about, establish expectations and timelines, and commit to a plan of action. This shows ambition on your part, and it could help convince the hiring manager that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get the job done.

4. Discuss your approach

Talk about some of the steps you took to address the situation. For instance, if you decided to hop on a call with the client, discuss the details. What did you agree upon? How much work was required? What was your overall strategy to work - did you delegate or do it all on your own? Describing your approach to handling a challenge is one of the best ways to describe your work ethic to a potential employer. 

5. Share the results

Now that you’ve talked about the situation, task, and action, it’s time to share the results with the interviewer. Was the client happy with your work? Did you receive praise from your supervisor and/or colleagues? Were you able to deliver on your commitment? If you can tie your work ethic to concrete results, you’re likely to leave a positive impression on the interviewer and convince them that you’re the right fit for the job. 

What not to do when describing your ethic

Since questions involving work ethic aren’t always asked, they’re likely to catch you off-guard. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare for these types of questions. If you’re asked to talk about your professionalism, avoid making the following mistakes.

Be casual

During a job interview, every question is important. Even if it involves something as simple as describing your work ethic, the hiring manager is looking for specific words to help them make a decision. So, don’t treat this as a causal question. Prepare your answer well before speaking.

Act pretentious

You want to come across as confident and dedicated, so don’t make any unrealistic claims. If you make claims like “increasing sales by 500% in three days,” your interviewer might think you’re bluffing, at best, or simply being pompous at worst. 

Come across as unprofessional

Employers are always looking for candidates who are passionate about their jobs and want to make a difference. If you sound like someone who dislikes their current job or is just working for a paycheck, you could end up making the wrong impression on the interviewer. 

Examples of describing work ethic to an employer

Example 1

When it comes to work, I’m extremely dedicated and goal-oriented. For example, at one of my previous jobs, I was tasked with completing a deadline-sensitive writing project for a big client during the holiday season. We were short-staffed, and the client needed the work done before taking off for their vacation. Rather than pushing for an extension, I took it upon myself to complete the project.

I created a detailed content strategy for the client, and then spent some time after work to complete the first set of deliverables. I shared them with the client during a live call, obtained their feedback, and made revisions on the very same day. As a result, I was able to complete the project by December 23, and we received a positive response from the client.

Example 2

I would like to describe myself as a problem-solver with a strong attention to detail. As a systems engineer, I take a pragmatic approach to troubleshooting common issues. My objective is not just to fix the issue, but also to make sure that the customers don’t experience the same issue again.

For this reason, I maintain detailed documentation on all the steps I took to resolve the issue. After that, I try to recreate the same issue in our software, checking the backend programming and devising the necessary patch to prevent the issue from happening again. Given my expertise in programming, I work closely with the QA Team to ensure that this solution does not create errors in other areas of the software.

Example 3

I take pride in my work and I’m always willing to go the extra mile to get the job done. I probably picked up this habit from my mother, who was one of the most reputed and well-respected faculty members at my college. I approach each day with positivity and optimism and try to deliver consistent results so that my supervisor and team members can always count on me to get the job done.

My dedication is reflected in the value I add to my company. As an educator for children with special needs, I have helped design a new, interactive teaching method by leveraging ClassBoard to provide parents with better insights on their children’s progress and learning development. The end result has been a steady increase in enrollment rates, an improvement in group participation, and the highest test scores across the district. 

Example 4

I’m extremely reliable at work. As an accountant, my job involves meticulous data entry to produce accurate financial statements. During the month of January, our payroll department was short-staffed, so I volunteered to process payroll transactions for a month. Given my reputation as a reliable individual, the payroll manager immediately accepted my assistance. As a result, we were able to process payroll in a short timespan and provide timely disbursement of staff salaries.  

Example 5

I am consistent and reliable. I thoroughly enjoy my job, and I find it easy to stay positive and motivated at work. I also feel better after I’ve had a productive day, so even on the days where my work is disrupted by other events, I manage to maintain my calm and work a little extra to make up for the time lost. This way, I meet all of my targets on time. 

If you need help preparing for an upcoming job interview, check out our Interview Prep and Simulation tool

Key takeaways

  1. During a job interview, the interviewer might ask you to describe your work ethic. Even though the question seems simple, your response could affect your chances of getting hired.

  2. The objective behind a work ethic interview question is for the interviewer to assess whether you have the right capabilities and aptitude for the job.

  3. When discussing your work ethic, consider using the STAR method. Your response should include an example of a situation where your work ethic helped you overcome a challenge at work.

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