Interview Question: "Describe Your Work Pace"

Busy office
•••

 Westend61 / Getty Images

When you apply for a job, a typical job interview question is, "How would you describe the pace at which you work?" This is where doing your homework is important. While all employers want their staff to work efficiently and effectively, and not dawdle, there are some work environments, such as startups and news organizations, that historically are more fast paced than others. On the other hand, there are work environments, such as rehab centers, that are historically slow-paced.

What the Interviewer Really Wants to Know

Your potential employer wants to know what to expect from you in terms of work productivity and how you’ll fit in with the company culture. If you are interviewing for a job in a company and industry in which the pace is traditionally fast and you’re a slower, more deliberate worker, your interviewer needs to know that. The same is true if the work environment at the company at which you are interviewing is a bit slower and you are a fast-paced worker. If the work pace at your place of employment doesn’t suit you, it will have a definite effect on your productivity.

How to Answer “How Would You Describe Your Work Pace?”

The description of the job that you responded to should give you clues about how to answer this interview question.

You will get a hint about the corporate culture if you see keywords such as “fast-paced environment” and “deadline-driven” in the job description.

You'll know your answer needs to emphasize speed. Also, spend some time exploring the company website; many businesses describe their work environment and company culture online. Check out the “About Us” section.

Speed is not always the most important factor for an employer. Instead of a fast pace, an employer might value a steady, consistent pace. Or, an employer might hold accuracy, thoroughness, and attention to detail in high regard. Consider the difference between working in a research library, a TV newsroom, and a hospital. The best approach is to play up your strengths that match the job description to emphasize why you’re the best person for the job.

Examples of the Best Answers

Here are some sample answers to get you started. These answers play up a specific strength and then explain how that strength contributes to working at a fast (or efficient) pace. After you describe your pace, it’s always a good idea to give examples from your previous jobs to qualitatively back up your answer.

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 answer works because there are strengths stated. The strengths are organizational skills and the ability to finish projects early. There is an explanation of how that was done in a previous position.

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 can balance working steadily on multiple tasks. It allows me to complete my work on time, meeting my deadlines, and produce quality results. I won 'best salesperson' three times at my previous company.

Why It Works: The employee states a strength, which is the lack of procrastination, and how it is accomplished. Examples are given concerning how the work is accomplished and the result of the strength, which is meeting deadlines. The answer shows how the work pace that the employee strives for even ends up in winning an award.

I'm terrific at multitasking, so I typically get all my work done ahead of schedule. I use my calendar to schedule multiple projects, estimating the time blocks I need for parts of each project each day. Even though I know I’m going to get phone calls, texts, and messages about all the projects all day, I use note-taking software to keep the message and phone calls organized. I’ve been successful taking on multiple projects using this system in my current job and in previous jobs.

Why it Works: This answer shows the interviewer that the potential employee is accustomed to multitasking and is skillful at it. It says the right things concerning keeping several projects going at the same time. It shows that the employee not only met deadlines but also produced the volume required by the current employer.

Tips for Giving the Best Answer

Deadlines. Meeting deadline are important to just about all employers. Be sure and let the interviewer know that you can and will meet your deadline and cite your track record.

Volume Requirements. Handling the volume of work required is another criterion considered important by most employers. Give examples of how you have handled work volume in previous positions.

Prepare an Answer Before the Interview. Think about this question before the interview and have an answer prepared. Be honest with yourself and the interviewer.

Research the Company Culture. If possible, research the company culture before the interview. Use your networking skills to try to find someone familiar with the work pace of the company and, specifically, the position you are applying for. You should use any local contacts you have if the position is local. If it is distant from you, use your online contacts on your social media accounts to help you.

What Not to Say

Be Honest. Don’t try to fit your work pace to the company’s requirements. If you don’t work fast, don’t say that you do. If multitasking isn’t your thing, don’t say that it is just because you think it’s required. If you’re hired under false pretenses, it won’t turn out well for either you or the company.

Don’t Just Talk About Your Strengths. Be concise. Don’t go on and on about your strengths. Have a few sentences prepared before the interview about your work pace. Think about a weakness you might have because your interviewer might ask you that question.

Don’t Talk Too Much About Your Current/Previous Job. You can give an example of your work pace from your current or previous job, but don’t talk too much about that job. If you do, your interviewer is going to have questions about why you are leaving it.

Possible Follow-Up Questions

  • Do you feel like you are a steady worker, even when you are working rapidly?
  • Have you ever been in a work environment where your work pace was different than others? If so, how did you respond?
  • Do you think you are a productive employee? What evidence do you have of that?

Key Takeaways

  • When job hunting, research each company’s culture and pick a company where the work pace of the job for which you are applying matches your own.
  • Have an answer prepared for this question on work pace before going to your interview.
  • Be sure you can answer questions on meeting deadlines and volume requirements.
  • Be prepared to address your ability to multitask and give an example.