Smart work may involve solidifying a strategic approach to the work and identifying things that you need to do, while hard work might include just pressing through with a task without really determining in advance how you are going to complete it and do a good job.
By asking this question, your interviewer wants to know that you will make the most efficient use of your time. Hard work is more involved with putting in the hours and working throughout the day, while smart work implies being more efficient in your work.
Points to Emphasize
You want to paint yourself as an employee who can work smart and hard. Here are ways that you can showcase both.
- Give specific examples. Give some examples where you worked hard and others where you worked smart to show you can tell the difference.
- Show how you have overcome mistakes. There are probably times where you were neither a hard or smart worker. If you bring these up, talk about how you overcame them.
- Bring up times that you have planned. Working smart involves planning a project. Talk about times that you developed a strategy or suggested a new approach.
- Working smart also involves prioritizing, knowing what needs to take up your time and what can wait. Provide examples when you prioritized multiple projects.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
Exude confidence while showing the interviewer that you can work hard and smart. Here are some things to avoid to help with that.
- Don't rush into the answer. There is nothing wrong with telling the interviewer that you need a moment to think.
- Avoid lying or telling half-truths. Telling the interviewer that you are a smart worker without having anything to back it up is not helpful.
- You may know of experiences where you worked harder or smarter than other. Find a positive way to say this rather than tearing other people down.
- Avoid being negative. As always, stay positive throughout your interview. Getting frustrated that you don't know the answer is not helpful. Just breathe and think about it.
The key to answering this question positively involves knowing the difference and giving examples where you have discerned the difference, as in the following example.
To me, the difference between smart work and hard work is that hard work involves just putting in the hours and plowing through the hours. I'm not a work horse and I suspect that working here is more than just putting in the time without anything to show for it. I am a smart worker, which means I always approach every project with a plan and organize them by priority. This ensures the work is done when it needs to be and that my execution of the plan was well thought out.