How to Describe Your Work Pace During a Job Interview
When you apply for a job, a typical job interview question is, "How would you describe the pace at which you work?" Your potential employer wants to know what to expect from you in terms of work productivity and also how you’ll fit in with the company culture.
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.
Accessing the Corporate Culture
The description of the job that you responded to should give you clues about the corporate culture. If you see keywords such as “fast-paced environment” and “deadline-driven,” 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.
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.
Depending on the job, the speed of your work may not be as important as the fact that you can meet deadlines consistently. Some key phrases to incorporate in your answer (followed by examples from your experience) include:
- Keep up with the workload
- Complete all projects on time, or ahead of schedule
- Organize time well and set schedules to ensure meeting deadlines
- Pace is flexible and can speed up when necessary to meet deadline pressures
- Work at a steady, consistent pace with great attention to detail to ensure accurate work that meets high standards
- Set realistic priorities and use time well, or don’t waste time
Meeting Volume Criteria
Some jobs set volume goals, such as making a certain number of phone calls over a specified period of time. In these cases, describe how you plan to meet that criteria and how you met volume goals in your previous jobs.
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."
- "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 all of my work on time and produce quality results. I won 'best salesperson' three times at my previous company."
- "I work very efficiently, so I accomplish a lot in a short amount of time."
- "I'm terrific at multi-tasking, so I typically get all my work done ahead of schedule."
- "I am very focused on my work, and consequently, I am able to work quickly."
- "Because I am very organized, I am able to accomplish a great deal in a limited amount of time."