How to Describe Your Work Ethics on a Resume

by Ruth Mayhew - Updated June 27, 2018
Job interview and Human resources. Only women

Telling an interviewer that you have a strong work ethic and that you're a highly principled leader is fine, but at some point during the hiring process, you'll have to show what you mean by a "strong work ethic," and you might be asked to explain what "highly principled" means to you and your employer. Start by describing your work ethic on your resume, and by the time you sit across from the hiring manager, you will have specific examples of your values and principles.

Show and Tell

Once you're on the job, showing that you have integrity and that you value a strong work ethic is something you can demonstrate through conducting yourself as a professional and dealing with others in an honest and straightforward manner. Telling the same story on your resume can present a challenge, however. Consider including an achievement or accomplishment for each one of your previous jobs. Choose an achievement that says you have been entrusted with confidential information, have been a confidant to a high-level executive or even handled large sums of money. During the interview, you'll likely have the chance to discuss your current or most recent position; however, your resume will have to include information that you may not get a chance to discuss during the interview.

Reasons for Leaving Previous Jobs

Job seekers who are reluctant to share why they left one job for another might seem like they're hiding what could be valuable information. For each of your previous jobs, you could list the reason for your departure. An example might be, "Reason for Leaving: After a four-year commitment to the organization, a promotion would have required relocation. At the time of the offer to relocate, and upon discussing it with my spouse, we decided that staying in the area would be the wiser choice." That said, be careful about disclosing too much personal information, for example, marital status, on your resume. If you think it's appropriate, include it so that the prospective employer understands that you make rational decisions that involve input from the people most important to you.

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Job-Specific Requirements

Chances are that if you are in a field that requires strict scrutiny, prospective employers will know that you are able to pass a background check or, in some instances, a security-clearance investigation. In particular, if you have a government security clearance, indicate that on your resume in a prominent spot. The higher-level security clearances, such as Top Secret and clearances that require polygraph examinations are proof that you passed an extensive investigation into your personal life, business dealings and ethics.

Commitment to Your Job

Some companies have strict attendance policies or they reward employees who maintain perfect attendance. If you received an award for perfect attendance, by all means, list that on your resume under a section titled, "Awards and Recognition." And even if you haven't received an award for demonstrating this level of commitment, you can include it in the description of your job duties by stating, "Demonstrated commitment to the company and its customers through being responsive and present at all times, and volunteered to take on additional shifts for employees who were unable to work."

Choosing the Right Words

Besides creating a separate section for awards or providing specific examples of behavior that demonstrates your work ethic, the actual words you choose to describe your previous jobs and your qualifications are important. Consider using words and phrases such as accountable, integrity, business principles and steadfastness which depict your workplace behavior. If you manage a program that includes extensive reporting, you could refer to the duties you perform as follows: "Managed federal government contract, including maintaining the financial integrity of taxpayers' funds." or "Accountable to high-level executives through periodic briefings on sensitive and confidential matters." Statements like these suggest that you are trustworthy and that you exercise discretion in the performance of your job duties.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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