Job Search & Interview

How To Describe Your Work Ethic In An Interview

The purpose of an interview is for the interviewer to learn what kind of employee you are. They do this by asking a series of questions. Some of these are pretty straight-forward, while others may catch you off guard.

One thing they are sure to ask is, “How would you describe your work ethic and moral character?” By preparing ahead of time for this question, you’ll be able to provide a clear and direct answer that portrays you as a reliable and dedicated worker.

What Your Interviewer Wants to Know

What the interviewer really wants to know is what you’ll be liked as an employee and if the job you’re interviewing for is a good fit for you.

They’re trying to figure out if you’re the type that takes off the second the clock strikes your scheduled end of shift or if you’re going to stay until the day’s work is complete. They also want to know if you’re going to be a team player or focus solely on your own interests.

Don’t worry about giving the perfect answer. Instead, focus on honesty. While you are trying to advertise yourself as a good worker, a truthful answer is always best.

They may decide you aren’t a good fit for the job you’re interviewing for, but that doesn’t mean they won’t keep you in mind for another position that’s more suited to your skills.

Related Article: “I Have No Work Ethic”: 11 Tips To Fix Your Poor Work Ethic  

Describe Your Work Habits with Examples

When asked how to describe your work ethic, you don’t want to just sit there and recite a list of adjectives that they’ve heard a million times. You want to be specific and give examples. By being precise, the interviewer gets a better idea of what type of employee you’ll be.


What is your work ethic best answer? By having a good idea of how you’ll answer this question before you ever walk into the interview, it’ll be easier to give an effective response. Choose only three to five words that describe you. Once you have your words picked out, elaborate with examples.

Share a Specific Situation

Think back to a specific situation when your work ethic helped you complete a job. Was there a time at a previous job when your employer needed to reach a deadline and you stepped up and offered to help?

Describing a specific time when your dedication helped you succeed shows that you understand how important a good work ethic can be.

Explain the Task

Once they have heard you describe the situation you are using as an example, talk about the goal your employer wanted to reach and how you helped.

Did you volunteer to work overtime? Did you develop a good plan? Did you work well with others in order to accomplish this task? They want to hear about how you exceeded your boss’s expectations.

Describe Your Actions

Go into detail. For example, if you did offer to work overtime, explain why you volunteered. Explain the tasks needed for you to complete the job. Providing a complete description of the situation demonstrates how the interviewer will benefit from having you as an employee. You want them to look at you and think, “This is exactly the type of employee I need.”

Discuss the Results

Don’t forget to talk about the results of your actions. Was the task completed successfully? Did your employer show their gratitude? Did you go on to help in other similar situations? This shows the interviewer that you understand how important a strong work ethic can be.

Related Article: The 15 Best Books on Work Ethic Everyone Should Read

Tips for Providing the Best Answer

• Be specific by using a particular example of your work ethic.
• Be concise when explaining.
• Focus on qualities that are valuable for the job you’re interviewing for. Keep in mind the job description and all you know about the company. Highlight any qualities you have that they’ll find useful.

Words to Describe Work Ethics

There are several wonderful adjectives to describe work ethic. Consider working the following words into your answer in a casual way:
• Dependable
• Reliable
• Trustworthy
• Dedicated
• Committed
• Positive
• Goal-Oriented
• Loyal
• Self-Starter

Don’t give the interviewer a long list of words. Instead, sprinkle them throughout your example of when you showed a good work ethic at a previous job. Many of these words are frequently used, so it’s a good idea to consider using a few less obvious ones too.
• Persistent
• Level-Headed
• Determined
• Fastidious
• Steady
• Accountable
• Responsible
• Resourceful
• Energetic
• Enthusiastic
• Honest

Pick three to five of these adjectives and focus on only them. This keeps your answer on track without sounding redundant. Remember, you don’t want to overdo it. No one is the perfect employee, and your interviewer knows this. 

What Not to Include

Don’t use adjectives without support. Your interviewer doesn’t want to hear a list of characteristics that you may not have. It’s better to use a couple of words that are backed up by honest examples than to get carried away to the point that what you’re saying doesn’t seem truthful.

Don’t use cliches. Phrases like “hard worker,” “team player,” and “self-motivated” are often overused. Try to rephrase them in such a way that they’ll sound original. For example, instead of saying, “I made sure I was a good team player,” you could say, “I was determined to work towards the goal with my co-workers.”

Don’t be dishonest. They’ll check your references and compare your answer to other responses you’ve given in order to see whether you’re consistent or not.

Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t think that this question isn’t important. You may not think that it relates to the job you’re applying for, but it’s obviously important to your interviewer, or they wouldn’t ask.

Don’t come across as though you don’t like to work or that all you care about is getting a paycheck. Try to show your interviewer that you are proud of your work and that you find being part of a team to be rewarding.

If nothing else, demonstrate that you’ll come to work each day full of energy and ready to make an effort at furthering your career. They’re looking for a consistently good work ethic.

When figuring out how to describe your work ethic, practice your response ahead of time. It shows you’re prepared, makes you sound confident, and keeps you from rambling. When you sound unsure of yourself, they may think that you’re trying to hide something.

Practice the points you want to make, the stories you plan on telling, and the points you want to make with a friend until you are confident in your answer. You could also record yourself so that you have a clear idea of how you’ll come across to the interviewer.

Go Into Your Interview with Confidence

Learning how to describe your work ethic properly will give you a good start toward having a successful interview. The interviewer will see a confident person who has shown their dedication to previous employers by stepping up when it comes to completing tasks and working well with others. As long as you are honest and truthful with your answer, they’ll appreciate your effort.

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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