A person who has a strong work ethic is someone who is a diligent, self-disciplined, and virtuous worker. They try their hardest at work to do their best work as productively and ethically as possible.
Employers value people with work ethic because they will be trustworthy and reliable employees. Therefore, in interviews and job applications, you are often asked to describe a time when you demonstrated strong work ethic.
Examples of work ethic include always turning up for work on time, consistently working hard while on the clock, and aiming to produce the best quality work you can within the shortest timeframe.
Good Work Ethic Examples
- Turning up early for work so you can start as soon as your shift begins.
- Working late to get the job done.
- Not stopping until your task list for the day is complete.
- Working hard even when you’re unmotivated.
- Waking up with a desire to be productive for the day.
- Looking for more tasks to do once your assigned tasks are completed.
- Having the initiative to find more work to do even if you haven’t been assigned that work.
- Always looking for new ways to increase productivity at work.
- Suggesting new and innovative ways to improve the workplace.
- Organizing groups when working in teams rather than waiting for someone else to take the lead.
- Putting your hand up to do extra roles within the team at work in order to demonstrate your abilities and value to the workplace.
- Having a competitive spirit where you will work hard to make sure that you’re number one.
- Being a university student who will put in long hours studying in order to submit an assignment on time.
- Being the university student who doesn’t just study in the last few weeks before an exam, but who studies every single week of school in order to make sure you succeed.
- Working extra hard in order to show your boss that you deserve a pay rise or promotion.
- Getting a promotion out of recognition that you are the hardest worker in the team.
- Turning up on the weekend for a shift because the workplace suddenly got busy and needed a back-up on short notice.
- Finishing your projects 2 weeks before deadline because you work so hard.
- Deciding to continue working hard even if your colleagues are slacking off.
- Making sure you’re back from your lunch break and ready to start work on time, every time.
- Setting personal productivity goals at work and trying to beat them each week.
- Having the self-discipline to not check your phone at work because you want to keep busy.
- Turning up early to meetings to make sure you definitely don’t miss any of the first few minutes.
- Being the sort of person who has to do physical labor in their workplace every day in order to feel healthy and fit.
- Following-up on emails with your boss if she forgets because you’re on top of the work and want to make sure it gets done.
- Taking pride in your work and making sure it’s the best it can possibly be every single time.
- Adhering to workplace standards of behavior at all times, especially when others are encouraging you not to.
- Maintaining professionalism at work all the time, including when interacting with colleagues and clients.
- Conducting regular self-assessments then testing to see if you can outdo that self-assessment the next week.
- Setting medium-term goals for yourself and trying to reach them for your own personal interest.
- Keeping an inquisitive mindset at work and always looking to learn better ways of doing things from colleagues.
- Choosing not to say anything negative at work or in the locker room in order to maintain a professional workplace culture.
- Dressing professionally at work in order to maintain the respectful image of the workplace.
- Being passionate about what you do and giving it your best.
- Regularly asking your boss to assess your performance and give feedback in order to identify new ways to work better.
- Putting as much effort into a task that is less enjoyable than the amount of effort you put into tasks that you love doing at work.
- Keeping a positive outlook at work and ensuring your colleagues know you’re attentive and open for collaboration.
- Approaching customers and asking them if they need help rather than sitting back and waiting for customers to approach you.
- Making up for lost time if you turned up late.
Poor Work Ethic Examples
- Turning up late to work regularly.
- Taking extra long lunch breaks.
- Doing the minimum possible work then standing around and talking for the rest of the day.
- Trying to avoid the boss in order to avoid them asking you questions about how your work is going.
- Leaving tasks to the last minute before completing them.
- Never studying for exams.
- Always being the person asking your professor for an extension on your papers.
- Making unconstructive comments about your boss and colleagues at work.
- Avoiding responsibilities and instead trying to get other colleagues to pick up that work.
- Calling in sick to work when you’re not actually sick.
- Taking credit for work that another colleague did.
- Trying to find ways to get around the rules at work.
- Choosing not to contribute ideas during a brainstorming session because you find the work boring.
How to Demonstrate Work Ethic in a Job Interview
1. Talk About When you Went Above and Beyond at Work
People with high work ethic tend to go above and beyond in the workplace. This is because they turn up to work with the determination to do their personal best every single time.
You could go above and beyond when submitting a project that does more than the basic outline asked for, or when you spent extra time on a task to make sure it was perfect.
Here’s an example of what you could say:
“One example of how I demonstrated work ethic was when my team was preparing a conference weekend for our workplace. We could have simply booked the most well-known caterers in town, but instead, I went to each catering company and asked them to demonstrate why I should choose them. Thanks to this extra effort, we got a 25% discount on our catering services and the food was delicious!”
2. Talk About How you Test Yourself at Work
One of the best ways to show work ethic is to talk about how you test yourself and try to set personal bests. This might be by literally timing your speed on tasks or by using more subjective measures like asking your boss to set you some goals that you can try to meet.
Here’s an example:
“To me, work ethic is about doing your absolute personal best every day. I get to work and challenge myself to meet my personal best every day. I love to try to squeeze out 1% more effort from myself by testing myself against my previous time to complete a task.”
Of course, this quote misses one important point: quality! Don’t forget to let your potential employer know that your idea of work ethic includes a focus on both productivity and quality.
3. Express your Aspiration for Career Advancement
Often, employers and HR departments associate aspiration with work ethic. People who are aspirational in their career will come to work hoping to impress their boss.
Aspirtaitonal people will want to do well at work and stand out in order to be positioned as the best employee. This, in turn, should help them achieve career advancement.
So, in your job application, you could write:
“I am applying for this job because it helps to fulfill my desire to work within an organization with career advancement opportunities. The size of the company means I will always have internal advancement opportunities that help me meet my career goals while adding extra value to the company. I intend to come to work every day looking for ways to excel in my job with the goal of positioning myself well for future internal job opportunities.”
Notice here how the phrase ‘work ethic’ wasn’t used once? Nevertheless, through the vignette, it was obvious that the applicant is going to come to work with something to prove to themselves and the company. They’re not going to settle with mediocrity.
Work ethic is one of the most desirable workplace skills you can have. It’s a skill that transcends all job roles and titles, and is perhaps the single most important skill for someone looking for career advancement.
If you can use these work ethic examples to demonstrate to a hiring manager that you have excellent work ethic, you can situate yourself in the best position possible to get that job you want. But once you’ve got the job, you need to demonstrate that you weren’t making things up. Proving your work ethic on the job is up to you!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.