Employers aren’t naive. They know that money is the main reason why most people work. If employees have any work ethic, it is not because they consider it right, or because they want to make a positive difference, and help the company maximize their profits each year. They either follow some rules because they have to, or they are tying to maximize their own benefits--getting bonuses at the end of the year, or perhaps a promotion, salary raise, and so on. Nevertheless, you can get a question about your work ethic interviewing for any job, and you should get ready for it.

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. I include on my list answers for different personalities and professions, including some unconventional answers, answers you can opt for when trying to stand out and say something else than the rest of the job applicants will say. Do not forget to read also my notes below the answers for additional hints and explanations.


7 sample answers to “How would you describe your work ethic?” interview question

  1. I always try to meet the expectations of my employer, and of the customer, if not exceed them. This perhaps sums it up, and everything else I do in work, I do to meet this main goal. Honestly speaking, I do not follow some selfless motives here. On the contrary. I know that when my employer is happy, and when the customers are happy, I will be rewarded for my efforts. Law of action and reaction cannot be broken.
  2. I would describe it as always coming on time, taking care of all duties on my list, and trying to have good relationship with my colleagues, being attentive to their needs and feelings. These are three pillars of my work ethic, and I believe they are especially important on a construction site, when the final results depends on the effort of the entire team.
  3. More than anything else, I would call myself responsible. When you assign me a task, you can always rely on me. It has probably never happened to me that I forgot to do something, or left the task unfinished. Because I care for my work, and I am extremely focused while in the office, not thinking about what I would do in the evening or at the weekend.
  4. The following sentence characterizes my work ethic better than anything else: I always try my best, each day at work. Sure enough, I am not equally productive on all days. Just like everyone else, I have days when I am feeling low, or a little bit sick, and don’t manage to get as much done as on a regular day. But even on such days I will try my best, and at the end of the day that’s the most I can do.
  5. I would characterize it with three pillars–responsibility, confidentiality, and enthusiasm. We are working with a lot of sensitive data in this business. In my opinion, it is extremely important to protect the customers, that’s why confidentiality is there on the top. Responsibility goes without saying. We can hardly get through the day without taking care of all our duties, with each and every patient. And enthusiasm is my secret ingredient of success. The days go by quickly, I enjoy my time at work, and all in all everything is easier when you have enthusiasm. I would love to stick to these pillars in my new job with you.
  6. Let me tell you a short story. We were working on a mobile app development, with a tight deadline for release. All of a sudden two programmers left the team, pursuing some start-up dreams, without any prior notice. Immediately we were understaffed and it was a serious possibility that we would not meet the deadline. But I decided it would not happen. I worked 80+ hours for three consecutive weeks, and motivated two of my colleagues to do the same. We had passion for our job and a great time in the office. Eventually we released the app in time, and I feel incredibly proud on myself and the other programmers. I think this example demonstrates my work ethic perfectly…
  7. Well, this is my first job application, so I cannot talk about an example from work, and judge my ethic accordingly. But I am a hard worker. My college studies were pretty hard, and I had to sacrifice a lot to earn my degree. But I have my goals, and I know what I want to achieve in life. That’s why I did not mind spending a few sleepless nights preparing for the exams, or limiting the time I devoted to my hobbies. I definitely want to carry this mentality to the workplace, though I realize the challenges will be quite different there.


Trying your best is an easy and good answer

In an ideal case, you should learn something about their corporate values, and work ethic they try to promote across the organization. Typically you can find the information on a corporate website, or even on their social media channels.

Having said that, it is not always obvious what values they promote, and the reality one sees in the workplace is often just a distant reflection of the promises from the corporate website. If you are not sure what to say, you can always say that you simply try your best in work, each and every day.

They may ask you to elaborate on it, and in such a case it is good to give them an example from your last job. Perhaps the number of customers you served each day (more than the rest of your colleagues), or an extra effort you put into some analysis or report (because you knew it was an extremely important one), or describing how you pushed hard and stayed overtime when you fell behind with your schedule. Show them that you try your best every day, even when you do not feel great.

* Special Tip: This isn’t the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, using logic, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!

Three adjectives will do the trick

Short interview answers can be extremely powerful. If you do not feel like narrating some situation from work, or talking at length about how great an employee you are, and how much you are willing to sacrifice for the company, you can summarize your work ethics in a few words, for example in three adjective. Some good examples:

  • Motivated, responsible, honest
  • Best colleague ever
  • Dedicated, loyal, passionate

It is good to elaborate on at least one of the characteristics, with a situation that demonstrates the quality, but you may get a chance to do so even later in your interview, with other interview answers.


First job application? Talk about school, or about work ethic you would like to have

Everyone has to start somewhere. When applying for your very first job, you should not say that you cannot say anything about your work ethic, because you lack any real working experience.

In a way school is similar to work–you have some tasks you have to take care of, you have to come to the same place every day, and you get some reward for your effort–good grades, and eventually a degree which will make it much easier for you on the employment market. Talking about your strong ethic at school, you actually demonstrate the work ethic you would like to have in the job. And that’s a good answer for every hiring manager…

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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