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Best Possible Answers and Tips to the Interview Question “Describe Your Work Ethics”

By Aakash Gupta

Founder and Remote Work Advocate

Describe Your Work Ethics

When they say eyes are windows to one’s soul, you can give that a corporate twist to believe work ethics are a window to your work personality from an interviewer’s perspective. The classic “describe your work ethic” element in the interview is an opportunity for you to show how your best traits will be a positive fit in the organisation with respect to their values and work culture.

There may be plenty of cookie-cutter varieties of answers to this question, but we share some of the best ways to answer the "Describe your work ethic" question like a pro.

1. Why Do Interviewers Ask You to Describe Your Work Ethic?

Work ethics give interviewers a valid perspective on the kind of employee you would be in the organisation. This one goes beyond your qualifications or skill sets and has more to do about your work character. Are you someone who would take feedback constructively to do better, would you proactively try to improve on a grey area, can you go over or above your duties if needed to meet goals and more- these are questions that interviewers are seeking answers to. A good work ethic would then mean you are hard-working and committed to achieving the organisation's goal which then means you are a good fit for them.

2. How to Answer “Describe Your Work Ethic?”

While there is no win-win template to answering “describe your work ethic”, considering a few parameters such as these will help you create a winning case in your favour. 

2.1 Prepare a possible answer well ahead of the interview{ with all the adjectives}

While it may be easy to simply list down a long list of adjectives, the most important point here is to back that up with credible evidence. Make a list of specific terms that you can really identify  with to help employers understand your work ethics. These could be:

  • Dependable 
  • Committed
  • Positive

Once you have a list ready, be prepared to explain each of these in detail with factual information that lends them credibility. 

2.2 Use the STAR Method 

The STAR ( Situation, Task, Action and Result) method is a framework that’s designed to help you answer tricky questions in the most clear possible manner.

2.2.1 Share a situation

Relay a situation that was a gleaming example of how your work ethics did the needful at a time that it was most needed. For eg, It could be you having put in extra hours without being told to do so since there was an urgent deadline or a situation where you proactively came up with a solution that helped boost efficiency

By sharing a specific situation in your relevant work experience  that puts your work ethics in action, the interviewer is better able to understand you and how you could be an asset to the company.

2.2.2 Explain task

Here, you need to break down the situation you are sharing and outline specific tasks that your undertook towards the goals that were set and how those tasks correlate with your work ethics. For instance, you could talk about how you were given a specific target to achieve and what steps you took to achieve them. 

Here you want to ensure that your examples are relevant to the context of your work ethics so the interviewer has a clear picture. 

2.2.3 Describe the action

All talk without action shows poorly so make you take it one step ahead and talk about what necessary actions you took with respect to your situation in the context of your work ethics. 

This could be an instance where you helped a colleague in the team complete their work in the bigger interest of achieving team goals by breaking down their pending lists, sharing or delegating the work, communicating alternatives and more. Here the focus needs to be on the “I” as against the “We” since the interviewer is evaluating your approach and how your work ethics came into play.

2.2.4 Showcase the Result

An answer to this question would not seem complete without a bottom-line. The interviewer needs to know how all your actions led to a positive outcome. This not only gives your answer more weight but also promotes a confident version of yourself for the interview to take note. 

For example, here you could mention that by chipping in to wrap up work late, the team met their goals within the stipulated time and saved themselves from missed deadlines and a lot of negative client feedback. 

3. What are Good Work Ethic Examples?

Sample answer 1: Describe how you are positive and always ready to learn on the work

“I always have a positive mindset and believe that learning never stops. Let me explain this with an example for you.”  

“During the pandemic, our organisation, like many others, had to switch to a remote work model. As a team leader,  I was entrusted with the task of onboarding a new and relevant software to make the transition to work from home. I decided to learn all about the software in detail, figure out relevant shortcuts and share my learnings about it with my team members to make it easier for them rather than having them simply read a user manual and figure it out themselves. This resulted in a seamless transition and smooth functioning for everyone in the team without affecting work."

?  Here your answer shows the interviewer your willingness to learn something new and taking it in a positive light considering the transition could have been challenging with multiple team members involved. It also helps you score brownie points for your flexible approach towards  helping others.

Sample answer 2: Explain how you easily collaborate with the team members 

“Allow me to explain how my collaboration skills helped in completing a sales project with a relatable example.”

“I was given a task that needed me to interact with the marketing and content divisions at work. I had to interact with members from other teams and schedule meetings keeping their own time commitments in mind while trying to collaborate smoothly. I was able to do through constant communication on Slack to ensure we all were on the same page and managed to complete the project deadline on time.”

? The impression you create of being an effective communicator and collaborator helps you raise the bar. The interviewer understands how proactive you can be in reaching out to other teams and working in tandem to ensure deadlines are met. 

Sample answer 3: Mention your hard work and time management skills

“I would like to share an instance at work that exemplifies my dedication to work and effective time management.”

“As a team, we were given a software development project that had a tight deadline. However,  three of our team members were suddenly pulled out for other work that needed attention as well, without any prior intimation. At this point, we knew that with the limited resources at hand, there was no way we would make it to the deadline. I decided to proactively work extra hours for the next four weeks and also encouraged my colleagues to do their bit so we could complete the project and win the client over. I was convinced that a little extra effort  now would only lead to long-term gains for us as a team in the future.”

? Here the case you present clearly shines a light on your effective time management solution and the willingness to roll up your sleeves to get it going with a workable solution that helped in completing the project successfully

4. Tips to Answer “Describe Your Work Ethic Perfectly

4.1 Be concise and specific

Your answers need not be essay-style so the plot’s lost. Ensure you have short and crisp answers with enough detail and context for the interviewer to understand clearly. The interviewer should be able to clearly understand the crux of your response without needing to have you repeat or explain yourself again.

4.2 Practice before the D-day

Practice always makes perfect. Doing a dry run will go a long way in preparing you for the real one and ensure you can take care of any minor gaps much ahead of time.  It also helps you present yourself more confidently so you can make a great impression with a well-rehearsed response.

4.3 Provide details

Providing a generic answer without any details to back it up will not score you any brownie points and also put the interviewer on guard when considering you as a potential hire. Ensure that the details you share are verifiable and credible. .

4.4 Be honest

This one’s pretty straightforward- Always be honest when answering this question since you are relaying the best version of yourself that needs to be proved at the workplace through the actions you will take. Avoid exaggerations that may put you in the spot at a later point. 

5. Mistakes to Avoid while Answering "Describe Your Work Ethic"

5.1 Avoid clichés

Using a laundry list of adjectives is something you want to avoid at all costs. It’s easy to get carried away while listing down these but the goal is to avoid the overused and generic ones such as self-motivated, disciplined, hard working etc. Choose qualities that truly reflect your personality, that show up in your situations you relate to and pique your interviewer’s interest into getting to know you more. 

5.2 Over-exaggerating your qualities

While it’s one thing to expound on the work ethics you imbibe, going overboard is a strict no-no. You need to ensure that you share only those qualities that you truly practice and can share context for in your examples. This will also help the interviewer in making a fair judgement and navigate the interview in the right direction. 

5.3 Negativity

For a question as pivotal as this, it’s essential that you reflect an air of positivity. Choose situations that convey your proactiveness and never-quit attitude. While the "I" element is important for you to describe your work ethic, avoid a boastful note or completely ignoring the "We" factor in your response.

5.4 Not preparing for the answer

Coming unprepared to an interview is a strike one on the scoreboard for you. While you may be confident enough to steer the interview with just minimal prep, it would be wise to ensure you come fully prepared for the interview by researching the company, creating a list of answers you can refer to and honing your communication skills to make a great impression on the interviewer.

5.5 Don't rely only on adjectives

Always back up your qualities with credible facts. These can be verified at a later point so it’s best to share action-based situations where your work ethics came to the rescue.

6. FAQs

  • How would you describe your work ethic?

The way you describe your work ethic should give clarity on how you approach work individually and as part of a team for various situations you face at the workplace. Choose qualities that reflect your positive work personality, share cases where they were practically applied and then connect the dots.  

  • What are good work ethics examples?

Some good work ethic examples to share in response to a question like “Describe your work ethic” would be :

  • Positive
  • Goal-oriented
  • Adaptable
  • Enterprising
  • Organised
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