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Do you have what it takes to pass the Wilson Work Ethic test?

April 15, 2020 - 1:48pm
Leslie K. Wilson
Dean Leslie K Wilson with UNI Business students

A few weekends ago, we spent a lot of long hours cleaning up a seven acre property. With that space, social distancing would not be a problem, so we hired three Panthers to help get it done. Fortunately, they all passed the Wilson Work Ethic test. 

We know from conversations with recruiters that everyone is trying to determine a prospective employee’s work ethic. They realize that employees who have a  strong work ethic are intrinsically motivated to do their best. They will be dedicated, reliable and motivated to deliver their best work on time.

How do employers assess work ethic?


Initially, employers try to assess work ethic from a cover letter and resume. They often use awards and recognitions as a proxy. 

The Interview

The interview is usually peppered with behavioral interview questions that ask you to provide examples of work ethic in previous positions. Here are a few questions to be prepared for:

  • Can you describe a time that you went the extra mile to get something done?
  • Tell me about a time you had to work as a member of a team to get a project done?
  • Tell me about a time you had too many things to do at once. How did you manage to get everything done?
  • Have you found yourself on a team that was not motivated? How did you motivate yourself and others to get the job done?
  • When things are slow at work, what do you do?
  • What does “hard work” mean to you?

As you prepare for your next job interview, spend a little time searching for questions that a prospective employer might ask to assess your work ethic and consider how you will answer. Guaranteed one of the big questions will be, “What would a past boss say about your work ethic?”

Reference Checks

Employers often rely on references to give more details about your work ethic that they can’t get from the resume or interview. This is usually the last step when gauging work ethic. This is why it’s important you choose the right references for your resume.

As the ‘employer’ of these students who helped clean up the property, what kind of reference could I give them that would prove they have a strong work ethic? They passed the Wilson Work Ethic test by:

  • Showing up on time.
  • Working the entire time. 
  • Only taking necessary breaks. 
  • Being an equal and active participant in all of the work.
  • Being thorough; although the job was tedious and mind numbing. 
  • Ignoring those blisters. 
  • Not watching the clock. 
  • Being efficient. 

Work ethic is a value that is displayed an innumerable number of ways, from the pride you take in cleaning a toilet, to the projects you complete on the job. What will a former supervisor say about you?

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by the University of Northern Iowa.


Leslie K. Wilson, Dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Northern Iowa

Leslie K. Wilson

Leslie K. Wilson is the Dean of UNIBusiness at the University of Northern Iowa. UNIBusiness is recognized by Princeton Review as one of the best business schools in the world and maintains accreditation from AACSB International, a status achieved by only the top 5% of business schools in the world. As Dean, she works with the College's stakeholders to establish the strategic direction and priorities of the College, manage the budget and seek new revenues.