“What is your philosophy towards work?”
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never been asked to describe your work philosophy, so this can be difficult to navigate if you’re not prepared for it.
It’s a big question with a lot of potential pitfalls, so let’s unravel it.
Variations Of This Question
The first step is to identify the different variations of this interview question, as it can be phrased differently from one interview to the next.
- What approach do you take towards your work?
- What philosophy guides your work?
- What is your attitude towards work?
- How would you describe your work ethic?
- What attributes make for a good worker?
- What does a day’s work provide you with?
What The Interviewer Really Wants to Know
The interviewer asks this question because they want to find out if you’ll be a good fit with the company. With such a short amount of one-on-one time, it can be hard to determine which applicants are the best suited for the job.
By asking about your philosophy towards work, they’re encapsulating a variety of questions in one, to get a quick feel for you and the kind of worker you’d be.
How To Answer: “What Is Your Philosophy Towards Work?”
There are a few different parts to this answer, and you’ll need to pair them together consecutively for the best results.
1. Tell Them Your Work Philosophy
Philosophy is a set of ideals, standards, or beliefs used to describe behavior and thought.
There’s no single defining characteristic you embody that makes up your entire work philosophy. It’s a combination of things.
For example, you could say your work philosophy includes being a hard worker. In reality, though, hard work just means showing up every day, focusing for long periods of time, and committing to finishing tasks.
Take some time to understand your own personal work philosophy. What is it that you’re good at, and what behaviors help make you good at it?
Here’s a short list to give you some ideas:
- Learning from mistakes
- Having a good work/life balance
- Leading by example
- Serving others
- Commitment and dedication
- Making a difference
- Doing your best work
2. Explain What It Means (And Why It Matters)
After you explain your work philosophy, expand by telling the interviewer what it means to you.
For example, you could have a philosophy of “work hard, play hard”, but how does that translate into real life?
It probably means you’re focused, dependable, and all business during work hours, but you like to reward yourself when the workday ends. This reward could consist of anything from hobbies to any number of leisurely activities.
This should lead you seamlessly into your “why”.
In the case of work/life balance, it could be as simple as having enough time to unwind and recharge your batteries at the end of each workday, allowing you to be refreshed and ready for work the next day.
3. Add Context (Optional)
To really put the cherry on the cake, back up your philosophy by providing an example of it in action.
This will add some context to what you’re saying, and help the interviewer apply your beliefs to a practical work environment.
After all, if what you described is really your philosophy towards work, you should have no trouble recalling a time you successfully applied it.
Putting It All Together (Example Answers)
It’s one thing knowing the theory behind a great answer, but how do you actually put this all together in a real interview scenario?
Let’s cover some sample answers:
Example #1: Delivery Driver
“In my last job as a delivery driver, it was a highly time-sensitive position.
However, customers also expect that rapid delivery won’t compromise the quality of their goods.
For these reasons, my work philosophy was to be diligent while providing the best service I could at all times.
There were also plenty of times I worked late, especially during the Christmas season, getting people’s parcels delivered in time for the holidays.
By taking this approach, I also got a lot of personal satisfaction from it. I felt I was contributing to my community, and I also enjoyed the feeling of productivity that came with the work.”
Example #2: Guitar Teacher
“My philosophy towards work is simple. Keep things light, but focus when it’s time to put in the work.
I’ve been teaching guitar for over 11 years now, and the only way to see improvement with any instrument is consistency.
There’s a time for work and a time for play. Teaching an instrument can sometimes feel like play, but you have to take it seriously if you want to see the progression.
I always present my students with a calm and relaxed atmosphere to learn in, but they’re expected to have worked on the lessons I give them each week.
Watching them come in and play something they couldn’t 7 days earlier is really gratifying for me, as I’m passing on my knowledge to others that can benefit from it.”
Example #3: Receptionist
“I’d say my philosophy towards work is to be highly communicative, dependable, and serve customers as well as my coworkers.
In a receptionist role, you have to be ready at all times to answer the phone and deal with customer inquiries at the drop of a hat.
This can be tricky at times. Not only do I have to set appointments or provide customers with the correct information they’re looking for, but I have to communicate to my coworkers effectively as well, so they’re kept in the loop.
However, I do enjoy the work and get a sense of pride and accomplishment after each day, knowing I’ve been able to give back to others.”
How NOT To Answer
Like most interview questions, there’s more than one way to approach this — but not all of them will get you in the good books.
Here are some things to avoid:
This question may feel like it’s tempting a philosophical debate, but you should treat it with the same respect you would any other interview question.
Most employers want their company to run flawlessly. One way to ensure this is by hiring employees that are all on the same page in terms of company values and goals.
This question attempts to get to the bottom of that, so allow the interviewer to get what they need by being open and willing to share your perspective.
Don’t Be A Know-It-All
Some people believe that if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself.
While this philosophy can prove accurate at times, it’s often not productive in a work environment, and not an admiral outlook from the perspective of recruiters or hiring managers.
Companies want to hire team players, not dictators. They want workers who are easy to get along with, not know-it-alls.
Don’t Give Canned Responses
There are only so many ways you can respond to this type of question, but you also don’t want to sound like every other applicant.
That’s why you should avoid canned responses, meaning anything that could be considered a generic, overused one-liner. If it has a cliche feel to it, it probably falls firmly in that category.
At most, they offer a good starting point, but you should try to expand so your answer doesn’t come across as scripted or robotic.
- Learn the different variations of this question
- Familiarize yourself with the most likely lead-up questions
- Explain your philosophy in broad terms
- Talk about what it means to you on a personal level
- Paint a picture of your philosophy in action
- Treat the question with respect (be honest and open)