The interview request "Describe your work ethic" isn't inherent. But it comes up often enough that you should prepare a strong response. While the hiring manager does want to gauge whether you have a hard-working attitude, this question also opens the door to expand on your other positive work attributes.
The entire purpose of the interview is for the manager to decide whether he likes you and if you're the best fit for the job. Many interview questions, including this one, center on the broader question of "What are your strengths?" Before the interview, list your strengths and compare them to the job. Identify the three or four best matches. Throughout the interview, including your response to a "work ethic" question, you should carry on the theme by emphasizing those strengths.
Aside from indicating that you have a strong work ethic, you can bring up several other effective, related qualities. You might say, "I am highly motivated and work hard when I believe in what I am doing. I have shown strong performance in a similar position because I have a passion for the work." In this response, you touched on self-motivation and passion for the work, which managers commonly look for.
Beyond providing the summary response that describes your work ethic, give examples. This point is true in essentially any question that gets to your qualities or strengths. Whether asked or not, you should offer an example to prove your point. You might say, "I am an extremely dedicated and hard-working professional, though I like to have fun and enjoy a positive work culture as well. In my last job evaluation, my supervisor noted that I have a strong mix of professionalism and personality."
Always keep in mind the key concerns of the employer. Your work ethic often gets to quality and efficiency, from a management or business perspective. In your answer, address one or both concerns. In a retail store, sales and service performance are keys. For a retail sales associate job, you might say, "I have a very strong work ethic that I have demonstrated as the top seller in my current store. I also have consistently high marks on customer satisfaction surveys." This response touches on efficiency and quality and provides tangible support.
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