How to Identify Job Candidates with a Strong Work Ethic


When building a team, you need to seek out candidates who possess certain traits and skills. It’s obviously important to hire people with relevant qualifications and experience. That said, even if you hire people who possess the necessary practical skills, you team may still struggle to thrive if they aren’t productive.

That’s why it’s also important to hire employees who possess a strong work ethic. You simply need to know how to identify who these people are when assessing candidates. This isn’t always as easy as it may sound.

The following tips will help. If you want to be certain that the people you hire have a tendency to work hard, you should keep the following tips in mind.


Consider a Candidate’s Entire Job History

When people apply for a job, they often edit their resumes to include only the most relevant information. Someone applying for a job as an app developer would likely assume that their experience working as a summer camp counselor while in high school isn’t important to the people making the hiring decisions.

However, you may want to specify in your job posting that you actually do want candidates to include all of their work history with their applications. This can make the process of identifying people with a strong work ethic much easier.

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For instance, if someone got their first job as soon as they were legally old enough to do so and seem to have been consistently employed since then, it’s a good sign that they’re hard workers.

Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that someone who hasn’t held many jobs must lack a strong work ethic. They may be hard workers who have nevertheless been unemployed for a period of time for reasons such as raising children or attending school. While this can help you to identify dedicated candidates, it’s not the only factor that you should take into account.


Ask about Failures

It’s always a good idea to ask candidates about the challenges and failures that they have experienced in previous jobs. Your goal is to hire people who can honestly admit their weaknesses and take steps to make the necessary improvements.

Asking these questions will also help you to determine which candidates have a strong work ethic. This is because a person with a strong work ethic is typically confident in their ability to perform well on the job. Thus, when asked about failures or weaknesses from the past, they’ll freely admit to them and eagerly explain what they did to ensure that those weaknesses don’t continue to hold them back moving forward.

This is a key trait of hard workers. They are willing to go the extra mile and to be honest when they don’t meet their own expectations.


Find Out If They Are Competitive

Again, it’s important that you not assume all these points and factors are universally applicable. Someone with a strong work ethic isn’t guaranteed to be competitive.

That said, hard workers do tend to enjoy a certain degree of healthy competition. It’s in fact the fuel which drives them when others may be inclined to put in less effort.

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Ask candidates about instances when they felt proud of something they achieved that was ideally the result of a competitive spirit. For instance, they might have graduated at the top of their class in college because they wanted to outperform their classmates. Or, maybe they helped a previous team win a client who had considered working with the competition.

You do have to strike a delicate balance when hiring competitive employees. For instance, if someone mentions a particular situation in which they excelled in a competition, consider asking them how others contributed to their success. If they are willing to openly admit how they benefited from extra help, they can probably manage their competitive spirit in a healthy way.


Look for Trends

If you are uncertain about whether a particular candidate would be a good fit for your workplace, then it’s important to look for trends in his or her professional history. For example, consider a candidate who rose up the ladder fairly quickly at some previous jobs. If you review their full work history, then you might find that it was a rare occurrence and that it might not be indicative of a strong work ethic. On the other hand, if someone appears to have consistently thrived at most of the places where they have worked and at educational institutions that they have attended, then it means that they probably worked hard to succeed.

Remember these tips the next time you’re hiring new team members. While they don’t represent the only factors that you need to take into account, they will make the process of finding hard workers much easier than it would otherwise be.