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Work ethic interview questions to ask potential employees

Apr 26, 2022

Work ethic is an important characteristic of a successful employee, but it might be harder to find a candidate who demonstrates these attributes than many employers realize. According to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, all employers rated work ethic as 100% essential but stated only 42.5% of employees exhibit these behaviors. Luckily, discovering an individual's work ethic can start during the interview process.

Here are five interview questions that can help you evaluate a potential employee's work ethic — before they join the team.

Question 1: Can you share a time you went the extra mile at work?
This is an effective way to determine what hard work means to the candidate. They should be able to easily provide an example of when they took the initiative to ensure a task was completed or a project was successful.

Question 2: What does having a good work ethic mean to you?
Simply asking candidates about their relationship with work ethic can help you evaluate them moving forward. They should clearly explain the importance of work ethic and provide an example of when they feel they demonstrated it well. This will help you understand how they view the principle, as well as see if it matches your company's views.

Question 3: When have you worked hardest and what motivated you to do so?
Posing questions that lead to examples of work ethic is also an effective way to evaluate a candidate — without directly asking about it. It's not only important that potential employees can share past examples, but also that they can explain what motivated them to put in the extra effort. This is beneficial for an employer or manager to understand what will successfully keep the candidate motivated and productive at the company.

Question 4: When you've finished all of your tasks or things are slow at work, what do you do?
It's easy for employees to take breaks or feel like they've finished their work for the day once a task is finished. However, individuals with intrinsic work ethic are likely to keep themselves busy even after something is completed to make the most of their workday. Asking what they are inclined to do after a project is a great way to identify this.

Question 5: Describe a tough challenge at work and how you solved it?
A candidate with a good work ethic will also be motivated to overcome challenges and obstacles they face during their workday — as opposed to being discouraged and subsequently disengaged. Asking for an example of a time they were challenged will be beneficial to understanding how they are likely to approach any hurdles in the future.

A strong work ethic is a good sign that the interested candidate will be motivated and engaged, as well as derive higher satisfaction from their role in general. This is essential, considering 71% of executives claim employee engagement is critical to their company's success, per a report from Haiilo. Asking the right questions during the interview process can ensure you hire candidates who want to be part of a successful team.

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