How To Answer “Describe Your Work Ethic” (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar
Jun. 26, 2022
Articles In Guide

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During an interview, the hiring manager is trying to see what kind of person you are and what you will bring to the table. The best way they do this is to ask “describe your work ethic.”

By learning how to properly prepare to answer questions like these, you will feel more confident in acing your interview. In this article we will go over how to answer this question, give examples answers, and provide the do’s and don’ts of describing your work ethic.

Key Takeaways:

  • This question can feel like a curveball because there are so many different ways to describe work ethic, but overall it is simply telling a company what kind of worker you are.

  • When you consider that work ethic is defined as the belief that hard work is morally beneficial and a driver of strength, you can see why this value in particular is of interest to hiring managers.

  • When describing your work ethic it is important not to lie or exaggerate on what you are saying because they will find out once you start.

How to Answer Describe Your Work Ethic With Examples.

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

When an interviewer asks you about your work ethic, they are really trying to find out how much value and dedication you put into your work. They want to know if you are a self-starter or if you require a great deal of guidance to find direction.

Recruiters want to gauge how efficient you will be at completing tasks and if you will make the goals of the organization drive how you handle individual and team tasks. When an interviewer says, “describe your work ethic”, here are the questions they are trying to find answers to:

  • Do you hold yourself accountable for your actions?

  • Do you work well with team members?

  • Are you dedicated to completing tasks?

  • Are you willing to go above and beyond?

  • Are you consistent?

  • Can your team members count on you?

  • Will you be a good fit for the company culture?

Every employer wants to hire candidates that will come to work and exceed expectations, so being able to express that you have a good work ethic is a sure way to impress recruiters.

How to Answer Interview Questions About “Describe Your Work Ethic”

Questions surrounding your work ethic provide valuable insight to recruiters, which is why you should rehearse your answer beforehand. You can come up with a list of traits that accurately describe how you behave in a work environment. To help you with this task ask yourself some of the following questions:

These questions should inspire you to think about your experiences and how you work. Do you prefer management that allows you to work independently? That means you are confident in your abilities and decision-making.

Did you accomplish closing on a big project due to putting in extra hours? You could describe yourself as tireless and devoted. Think about certain keywords that stick out in your mind and add them to your list.

Here are some other characteristics that are indicative of a solid work ethic:

  • Committed

  • Diligent

  • Driven

  • Enterprising

  • Enthusiastic

  • Fast-learning

  • Persistent

Remember, having specific examples for each characteristic is key to being able to successfully sell yourself and ace the question during your interview. You want to use work experiences to show the interviewer evidence of how you exemplify these characteristics.

This is called the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Response.

Examples of the Best Answers

By simply looking at examples and taking time to prepare, you will be able to conquer many of the most tricky interview questions.

Remember that there is no wrong answer for describing yours, as each individual performs and approaches work scenarios differently. When asked to describe your work ethic, are some of the best answers to set you apart from other candidates:

Example 1 – Traits: Driven, Efficient

I am driven to find the most efficient processes at work. In my last position, I was able to streamline the entire content production process from start to finish. I utilized tools such as Asana and collaborated with other team members to develop a system that worked best for our needs. Ultimately, other departments took notice of the increased production for my team and asked to shadow our meetings to learn more.

Example 2 – Traits: Enthusiasm, Passion

I am enthusiastic when it comes to taking on new tasks, and my managers often consider me for new opportunities. At my last job, I took the lead on spearheading a March Madness giveaway for our audience in order to increase engagement and drive conversions. I conceptualized the promotion and liaised with other departments to ensure that all necessary elements were completed. My passion and enthusiasm for the project resulted in my editorial director asking me to launch several campaigns with other verticals within the organization.

Example 3 – Traits: Positivity

I pride myself on always having a positive outlook and motivating my colleagues to do the same. After one of our busiest weeks, I decided to organize a retreat for our department. I believe in positive reinforcement and keeping morale in the workplace high, which is why the event was very important to me. We did plenty of activities to build teamwork and create a happy, fun environment. This happened to be the first employee retreat at the firm and is now something that management plans every quarter thanks to my efforts.

Example 4 – Traits: Strategic

I have proven to be a strategic thinker that always has long-term goals in mind. I was able to renegotiate our 3-month, $50,000 contract with a vendor into a 6-month, $120,000 agreement. I did this in order to help my team reach our projected revenue for Q4.

Example 5 – Traits: Reliable, Responsible

I take pride in the fact that my team members and those from other departments can always count on me. When I receive a Slack message, I always do my best to respond promptly. I became a major point of contact within my organization due to the roles I played on various projects. I believe it is always my responsibility to provide resources to my colleagues the best I can.

Do’s and Don’ts For Describing Your Work Ethic

Here are some tips for what to do and what not to do when describing your work ethic:

What to do:

  1. Do practice. Practicing how you will answer the question beforehand will help you to be concise in your delivery during the interview. You want to be able to clearly articulate your answers to interview questions, and this is especially important during timed rounds with multiple people.

  2. Do consider the position. While you likely have dozens of examples that you could use to describe your ethic, try to keep the position at hand in mind. You want the interviewer to be able to relate your previous experiences to the new role, allowing them to see the value of adding you to the team. Consider the keywords and phrases that were used in the original job posting.

  3. Do provide details. Part of answering the question correctly is being able to provide specific details. If you give a trait and then a very surface-level explanation, this may be a red flag to recruiters that you either did not have the experience or you just are not particularly strong in that area. That is why proving how you demonstrated instances of good work ethic is key to winning over the interviewer.

What not to do:

When it comes to answering interview questions, there are also things that you should not say.

The goal with this question is to showcase that you have the kind of work ethic that the company is looking for in new hires and long-term employees.

Use these guiding principles to find out what to steer clear of and make sure that you come up with the best answers possible:

  1. Don’t over exaggerate. This is another way of saying be honest during your interview. Give accurate accounts of your experiences and how you performed. Being truthful will allow you confidently answer any follow-up questions the interviewer may have, plus what you say may later be verified by one of your reference contacts.

  2. Don’t be negative. It should go without saying that you should only discuss positive experiences during your interview. Sometimes, applicants will try to spin their weaknesses into a positive, but this is unnecessary when it comes to describing your work ethic. Choose to convey your best traits and work examples.

  3. Don’t just list adjectives. The last thing your recruiter wants to hear is a long list of adjectives without any type of support. Think back to the preparation stage, where you have your traits and examples readily available and fresh in your mind for the interview.

List of Words That Describe Your Work Ethic

Of course, having a word bank can provide a good starting point when considering which traits fit you best. Take a look at some of the words below that are commonly associated with work ethic:

  • Active

  • Adaptable

  • Cooperative

  • Confident

  • Dedication

  • Dependable

  • Disciplined

  • Earnest

  • Enterprising

  • Honest

  • Integrity

  • Loyal

  • Motivated

  • Organizational

  • Professionalism

  • Positive

  • Purposeful

  • Reliable

  • Responsible

  • Strategic

  • Tenacious

  • Tireless

  • Trustworthy

  • Zealous

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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