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Evaluate Work Ethic During an Interview

July 10th, 2015

By the time your candidate walks into your office and sits down for her interview session, you already know plenty of facts and details about her readiness for the job. You have her resume printed out and sitting on the desk in front of you (ideally), and you’ve already looked over each section and prepared a few meaningful questions based on what you see. You’ve also made a brief assessment of her personality and corporate style based on her appearance, posture and body language. But so far, you don’t know very much about her basic work ethic. Here are a few questions that can help you gather data on this subject.

Just ask.

It’s okay to be direct. Simply asking a candidate to describe her own work ethic may feel like requesting a canned response; and yes, a few applicants will simply blurt out the positive, empty answer they think you want to hear. (“My work ethic is amazing!”, “I’d rather work than breathe!”, “I’ll work all day and night!” etc, etc)  But most of them won’t. It may come as a surprise, but trusting candidates to provide an honest answer will often encourage them to do just that.

Ask open-ended questions.

These are sometimes called “behavioral” or behavior-based questions, and they usually involve asking the candidate to tell you a story about her past. Try a question like: “Can you tell me about a time when you were asked to work harder than you usually do? What were the circumstances and how did the situation play out?” This question can provide value on two levels: first, it can give you sense of the candidate’s baseline definition of “hard work”. And second, it can provide insight into how the candidate responds to pressure and heavy workloads.

Read between the lines.

A candidate may tell you that he works harder than anyone else in the world, but if his resume looks like an unaltered template riddled with typos, and his cover letter looks like a lazy mass mailing, you’ll be wise to dig a little deeper. The same applies to the details of his background. If you ask why he made a certain career decision in the past, or why he moved from one city or industry to another, scan his answer carefully. His words, tone, and personal philosophy may reflect his attitude about shortcuts and easy options.

Ask about future plans.

Ask where your candidate would like to take his career in five years. If he shrugs and tells you that he has no plans beyond this job and this company, take that into account. But if she launches into an ambitious description of the future, and her plans align with yours, that may be a great sign.

For more on how to evaluate and select the right candidates for your open positions, reach out to the staffing team at Merritt Staffing.

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