How to Showcase Your Work Ethic

Work Ethic and Ethics in Business

In a world where everyone complains about being time-poor, it might seem like we’re all hard workers. But in fact, employer attitudes don’t bear that out. As we explained in a previous post, 70.4% of employers surveyed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers said they were seeking out candidates with a strong work ethic.

If employers were getting all the hardworking candidates they needed, they probably wouldn’t be thinking so much attracting hard workers. That means a strong work ethic is not just a must-have; it’s an opportunity.

But anyone can tell a potential employer they’re a hard worker. How do you prove it?

Showcase Your Work Experience

You might have work experience from your teenage or college years, or from more recently, that doesn’t seem glamorous or important. But if you’ve got room for it on your resume, leave it there. Many employers will see a job waitressing or working in fast food as a sign you can work hard at something even if it’s not your dream job.

Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Amy Astley told the New York Times that work ethic “I love seeing someone who scooped ice cream or was a waitress. To me, it means they had to make some money and they had a job dealing with the public… that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a good work ethic, but it’s a jumping-off point where we can talk about it.”

That advice is doubly important if you have volunteer experience. Showing that you’ve taken the initiative to help people in need, without the reward of getting paid, is a strong indicator of work ethic.

Describe Your Actions on Your Resume

“Show, don’t tell” is essential to good resume writing. If you haven’t heard this advice before, it means: don’t tell potential employers you work hard, show them situations where you have worked hard.

To do this, you’ll need to think about your previous work experience. For instance, in a previous job, did you:

  • have responsibility for opening or closing a store unsupervised?
  • clear a backlog of work or do a task no one else wanted to do?
  • work especially hard to complete something for a client?

If so, consider including a line on your resume.

This works even better if you can include numbers: a resume action like “cleared a backlog of 30 case files” or “worked 80 hours in two weeks to complete a client assignment” is a powerful demonstration of just how hard you work.

Be Ready with Examples in Interviews

A common technique in interviews is behavioral interviewing—asking the applicant to give an example of a time they had to show a particular quality, like work ethic. Be prepared for this kind of question, and be ready with examples of times when you’ve worked hard, including some that aren’t on your resume.

One good way to answer questions about work ethic (and other behavioral questions) is the STAR method:

  • describe the situation when you had to work hard. What was the problem you had to solve?
  • explain the task required of you
  • explain the activity you did to handle the situation
  • describe the result, emphasizing the success you had.

For example, if a co-worker was sick (situation), and you were responsible for ensuring the team finished its work (task), you might explain that you did your own work as well helping with the co-worker’s (activity) delivering a great result for the client (result). That would be a powerful way of showing work ethic.

There’s a lot you can say about work ethic other than just claiming you work hard. For help improving your skills and qualifications, be sure to visit our schools page.

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