When you're asked to describe the pace at which you work, be careful how you respond. This is an interview question where faster isn't necessarily better. Most employers would rather hire employees who work at a steady pace and produce quality results.
Someone who is too slow to get the job done in a reasonable time frame isn't going to be a good hire. Neither is a candidate who works frenetically all day, because they might make more errors, or more easily burn out.
When answering this question, avoid exaggeration, and demonstrate that you are a steady and dependable worker.
What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know
In addition to seeking insight about your work pace, the interviewer is also trying to gauge your level of self-knowledge and to determine if your pace would be a good fit for the organization’s needs. Some jobs are more fast-paced than others; some require your flexibility in sometimes stepping up and accelerating your pace in order to meet rising production deadlines or to accommodate for a department being understaffed.
Research the job and the company ahead of time so that you’ll know if you’ll be expected to multitask, meet unanticipated deadlines, or change your pace at a moment’s notice.
How to Answer Questions About Your Work Pace
Here are a few strategic ways to answer questions about the pace at which you work. Your goal in answering should be to demonstrate how your work pace produces tangible results for your employer.
Emphasize Steadiness and Quality. The most important qualities to emphasize when answering this question are steadiness and quality work. Steadiness means that you can work at a consistent pace without getting burned out. Quality means that your work is free of errors.
When saying that your work is steady, you, of course, don’t want to imply you are a slow worker. You might say that you work at a consistent pace, but you usually complete work in advance of a deadline.
You also want to emphasize that you achieve quality results at your pace. You might explain that you work at the pace you do in order to avoid mistakes and to take the time to check over your work before submitting it.
Explain Your Work Method. If you have time, explain the method you use to produce quality work at your pace. For example, perhaps you break big projects into manageable daily tasks, and slowly complete the project piece by piece. Or perhaps you always aim to finish a project two days in advance to give yourself time to check your work for errors.
If you work at a job where you have set criteria (i.e., a number of calls made or responded to) that measures accomplishments, discuss what method you use to achieve (or exceed) these production goals.
No matter what your method, be sure to emphasize that you never focus so much on one task that you avoid all your other responsibilities. Mention that your process involves juggling both the specific task and the other parts of your job. Employers want job candidates who can multitask effectively.
By stating your method, you will show the employer exactly how you get your work done successfully.
Provide Examples. When answering a question about your work pace, provide at least one specific example of a time when working at your pace helped you achieve results. For example, you might mention a time you had to complete a report by a certain date. You could explain how you set aside two hours every morning to devote to the project until you finished it two days ahead of time.
You might also provide a concrete example of a time your work pace helped you not only to get a job done, but to complete it without error. For example, you might describe how your articles rarely need copy editing, or how you have been praised for the precision of your reports.
Sample Answers to Interview Questions About Work Pace
Here are some examples of effective ways to answer questions about your work pace. All three of these sample responses utilize the STAR interview response technique, where one describes a past example of a relevant situation, the task or challenge involved, the action taken, and the result of this action.
Example Answer #1
I usually work at a steady, consistent pace. Because of my ability to organize and plan out my work schedule, I always complete my work ahead of time. For example, when I was assigned a large project due in six months, I broke the project into large goals and small, day-to-day goals. I created a schedule, and steadily checked off each of these goals while still successfully completing my other duties. I ultimately finished the project a week ahead of schedule.
Why It Works: This response demonstrates how the candidate is able to maintain a steady pace: by planning out her tasks ahead of time and breaking each one into manageable stages. It shows that she is able to proactively strategize in order to ensure her tasks are completed on time.
Example Answer #2
I consider myself a diligent worker who avoids procrastination. At my previous sales job, we had to make at least 30 calls every shift, on top of our other administrative responsibilities. While some people saved all their calls for the end of their shift, which sometimes led to people missing their quota, I divided my time between making calls and doing my other duties. I am not easily distracted, but instead can balance working steadily on multiple tasks. This allows me to complete all of my work on time and produce quality results. In fact, I won "best salesperson" three times at my previous company.
Why It Works: Here, the interviewee touches upon the soft skills that are necessary for success at his job: diligence and the ability to multitask. Other skills that one might allude to when answering this question are effective time management, adaptability, creative thinking, decision making, and flexibility.
Example Answer #3
I have been praised for my ability to hand in assignments well ahead of schedule. Although I work quickly, I also produce quality work. For example, I am currently responsible for writing our quarterly newsletter. I tend to complete the assignment at least two or three days before the submission deadline, which gives me time to thoroughly proofread my work. Both employers and colleagues have commented on my error-free newsletters.
Why It Works: This answer is effective because it focuses on quality, providing a tangible example of the good results the candidate achieves by working at the fast pace she does. Although working quickly might be an issue if it led to errors, she explains how her pace actually gives her time to proofread and produce error-free assignments the first time.
What Not to Say
Don't say that you like to procrastinate. Even if it’s true. This is not the time to present yourself as someone who believes that “panic precipitates performance.” Instead, spin the question by saying something like, “Although I prefer to work steadily and focus on quality, I’m able to quickly pick up my pace when deadlines loom. For example …”
Be careful about alluding to monotasking. Although almost a decade of studies at Stanford University suggest that multitasking is overrated in the workplace, leading to sloppiness and errors, many employers still expect their personnel to wear multiple hats when required. Unless you are certain that the job is best done by single-tasking, it’s probably better not to mention your preference for this work style. If you do, however, think about describing how you use a strategy like chunking to ensure that all of your work tasks are completed on time.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- Why do you want this job? - Best Answers
- How do you handle stress and pressure? - Best Answers
- Do you work well with other people? - Best Answers
STEADY WINS THE RACE: When describing your work pace, nine times out of ten the safest response will be to describe how you are a steady, dependable, and flexible worker. Use an example to prove how your work style achieves quality and timely results.
DISCUSS YOUR WORK METHOD: Go into detail as you describe the processes you use to ensure your consistent success in completing assigned work tasks.
DON’T BE A PROCRASTINATOR. A job interview isn’t the best place to claim what might be construed as a “negative” work style such as procrastination. Focus instead on your ability to multitask or rise to challenging deadlines.