Interviews are simply a Q & A session. Hiring managers love to quiz candidates about their strengths and weaknesses or dig deeper with questions like “Tell me about yourself.” In this blog, we tackle another common interview question -“The difference between hard work and smart work” This question on hard work vs smart work is to basically understand a candidate’s work ethic. In this blog, we have put together easy sample answers for you!

Click here to read the complete list of frequently asked HR interview questions and answers.

Possible Answer #1

The difference between hard work and smart work is based on how I approach my task. Hard work would mean spending long hours to complete my work without any shortcuts. It definitely ensures results but the process is long and stressful. Smart work would be aiming for the same results but with planning and prioritization of tasks. In College/Law School, the trend of examination questions was repetitive. The questions asked in the last few years would be asked again. I realised this after my first semester. Since then, for the examinations, I would only study the previous 5 years’ questions. For the rest of the year, I would focus on studying everything else. Therefore I worked hard to study the entire syllabus for my own knowledge and worked smart to score well in my examinations. A combination of both has guaranteed me the best possible results always!

Possible Answer #2

I think to answer this question, in today’s world, one has to redefine the terms ‘smart work’ and ‘hard work’. Most of us think of hard work to be a ‘physical activity’ and smart work to be a kind of ‘mental ability’. Although this was true before the age of the Internet, it no longer holds true. Excellence is all about doing smart work day in and day out. This in itself can be considered as hard work. In this industry, there is a lot of competition. The entire idea is to deliver fast and deliver the best to the clients. To keep delivering great work every day is hard work, but my agency has been winning the ‘Best Agency Award’ for the past few years and this is a commitment to excellence I carry with me too. Hence, I am sure I fall into the category of hard workers.

Possible Answer #3

I think that smart work and hard work together make a genius. I am deeply inspired by three famous personalities – Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan and Warren Buffet. In their stories, it is clear that they spent years working hard in their respective fields and were able to produce results, that the world had never known before! Today, Warren Buffet can make smart judgments in the field of investments because he has worked hard to gain those skills. I do not shy away from hard work as I see that the end result will be my ability to work smartly and be the best in a particular field. My current manager would definitely say that I am a hard worker. Besides, once I pick up a new skill, I am quick to apply it to get quicker results, which kind of makes me a smart worker too!

Possible Answer #4

I feel hard work is synonymous with bull work, while smart work is logical effort! Hard work scares me and hence, I have always strived to be a smart worker. Since childhood, I have discovered that I cannot concentrate on one task for long periods of time. Rather than considering this as a weakness, I worked on achieving more in short time spans. I have developed my own process to work – as soon as I am assigned a task I spend 15 minutes researching about the same. Then I take 5-10 minutes to note down any questions that I might have. Over the next 20 minutes, I try to break down my task into 1) actionable steps to be taken 2) goal to be achieved. If my supervisor has a few minutes to spare, then I try to get clarity on my questions. If not, I focus on steps which I have the most clarity on and start there. It allows me to start a project feeling focused and positive. To avoid being non-productive, I plan short breaks in between my work schedules to stay engaged. Hence, I am a smart worker.

Possible Answer #5

I believe, hard work and smart work are two different tools to complete a single task. Or you can say that they are two faces of the same coin! It depends on the duration of the task or the level of difficulty, on the basis of which a measurable amount of hard work and smart work should be put in – together! I have learnt to adapt myself accordingly to situations and accordingly apply myself. If the deadline is 2 days away, I am a smart worker. I focus on various aspects of the task, which clients need and which will have long term impacts. If we have 2 months to complete a task, we spend time on the details and work hard to gain results. Hard work always guarantees amazing results but requires more effort and time. I work hard or work smart depending on the situation.

Possible Answer #6

I consider myself a smart worker. I think the idea of hard work is outdated. In the olden days when there was lack of technology and information, most people worked hard to achieve results. In my opinion, hard work can be defined as ‘physical work or long hours of labour’. But today, we have technology, tools and strategies to help us work faster and achieve similar or even better results. Since college, I have been involved in many activities and now for the past few years in my work environment, I have learnt to prioritize tasks and multi-task. My peers and managers know that I spend time on planning ahead. Although this is smart work, I consider it extremely hard. Planning requires an immense understanding of the resources in hand – therefore there is hard work involved. I work smart and I do so for long hours. Consistency is the sign of a hard worker and I aim to work smart consistently.

Possible Answer #7

Hard work is like trying to push a big rock downhill with bare hands and smart work would be using a lever to push down the same rock! I think smart work and hard work go hand in hand. At the beginning of my career, I was a classical hard worker. I took instructions, understood my job and would immediately start working towards completing the task. Over the last 5 years, I have observed seniors and equipped myself with crucial skills. Today I can do a mundane job in lesser time, than I used to take back then. For instance, I use popular browser plugins allowed by my office, to detect plagiarism, eliminate grammar errors and improve any text in emails and documents. I also use online spell checker tools to double check my drafts. I feel I have developed as a smart worker. But I firmly believe no one can be a smart worker without working hard first.

Possible Answer #8

The difference between hard work and smart work is innovation. I am a creative thinker and love to come up with ideas that streamline the work process. Every time I am given a task and I already know how to do it, I take a step back and consider better possibilities. I buy time from my boss to brainstorm with my team, pool in free resources and come up with more efficient solutions. The last project I was assigned in my current company was similar to a project I had done with my previous employer. Instead of starting out on it immediately, I tried to find out if there was a faster way to do the same work. Brainstorming with my team introduced me to three new tools which eventually reduced our collective hours. It took me a day to learn the tools but ensured that in the future, the work would be delivered in even lesser time. I do not work hard blindly and instead, keep finding new and improved ways to work smart.

Possible Answer #9

A smart worker is one who sets goals and is constantly working towards his/her goals. S/he also understand the importance of unwinding and keeping a healthy mind. A hard worker also works towards his/her goals just like a smart worker but s/he might lack the traits of analytical thinking, problem solving or delegation. I am a worker focused on results, and I do not hesitate to ask for help to get my work done. I have been described as a “smart worker” by the upper management as I have been successful in leading my team to finish projects before time. In addition to this, physical health is a personal goal. Therefore I spend an hour in the gym daily trying to work hard enough, to stay fit and sharp.

Possible Answer #10

It is best to answer this question with a personal example. I have worked with my current employer for the past 18 months. In the past 12 months, I have reduced costs by 14% and driven down wastage by 25%. How did I do it? Well, simply by encouraging new hires in my team to bring their own devices to work. That way, the office saved a lot of money on buying and issuing new laptops and desktops. Also, my new employees were comfortable with their own devices from day 1 and they mastered the use. This added more productive hours to the team’s plan. I do not believe in walking down a straight set path. I am a result oriented individual, constantly finding new ways to reduce costs, wastage and most importantly save resources like time and money. This broadly fits into the “smart work” category but honestly, I think I am a combination of both – hard work and smart work. Besides, I quickly adapt to any work ethic that helps me achieve desired goals.

Organizations want both smart work and hard work. But they definitely need all their workers to think and work smartly to save time, money and effort. Innovative thinking and constantly questioning is the attitude the hiring manager is looking for. At the same time, reassure them about you being ready to work long hours if needed.

Some other variants of this question are:

  • What do you think is more important; hard work or smart work?
  • Would you consider yourself a hard worker or a smart worker?

Be the candidate who thinks smartly and works hard, so that the hiring manager appreciates you. Lastly, try and include as many personal experiences pertaining to hard work and smart work individually or even about hard work vs smart work, to earn more brownie points!

All the best! 🙂

HR Interview Questions & Answers