How Fast Is Fast-Paced?

Oh my goodness there are a lot of job postings out there that all seem to want workers who can work at a fast pace. I often wonder though if they all want workers who work at a fast pace, doesn’t fast become the new norm? I mean, wouldn’t you have to see postings requiring people to work at a slow or average pace in order for others to be fast?

Suppose you told an employer your last job required you to work at a fast pace but when you started a new job, the new employer wondered about your ability to work fast. Could fast at one job be not fast enough at another? So what exactly is fast anyhow?

That’s a question that no one can answer except the employer who is represented by the interviewer; and it’s a question you might want to consider asking at the actually interview itself. However, in the actual asking of the question, be sure to communicate that you are inquiring simply to know what the standard of required speed is that you will be measured against. Perhaps in your new job you and your team have to churn out 175 items on an assembly line every hour. If you realize after the first hour on the job that you’ve only produced 135, you’ve got to increase your overall speed, and that should come with familiarity of your responsibilities and your learning curve.

How though do you measure your speed if you are in a job without clearly defined targets? How exactly would your speed be measured? Of course speed is one thing, accuracy another. In that previous example from the last paragraph, suppose you upped your production to 175 units produced in an hour, but 69 of them had defects, imperfections or required adjustments. Just because you worked at a fast pace in that instance wouldn’t be productive for the company as they would have wasted products and you’d actually be costing the company money to re-make or repair your items produced.

One thing to clarify when you are at the early stage of employment is to determine what the expectations are for new hires vs. longer term employees. And additionally, what is the expected learning curve, the rate of improved production and accuracy you should be meeting, and what if anything is attached to your performance. In other words, if you aren’t meeting targets by a certain date, is your job in jeopardy or if you exceed or meet those targets, are there performance bonuses or raises? Or is the expectation that you meet those targets and your wage is not affected at all, because after all, you agreed to perform the job for a set hourly or annual wage.

I knew a fellow once who for a time, managed to appear to be very busy all the time at work. Whenever he walked around, he moved quickly and took slightly longer strides. People saw him a determined, moving with purpose, and assumed he was always doing something important and was highly productive. However, what came to light was that it was really an illusion and he had accomplished no more than anyone else at the end of a day. He just walked differently. When someone was approaching him, it was always them who moved to one side because he seemed in a hurry, doing something important, going somewhere.

So there’s a good question for you to pose to an interviewer about the expected rate of productivity you should both be expected to be at in the early days of work, and after a few months. However, one piece of advice is to avoid the word, “minimum”; as in “Could you tell me what is the minimum expectation you would have for me in the early days of working here?” That sounds an awful lot like you are aiming as high as the worst employer. Now on the other hand if you said, “Could you tell me what expectations you have for the most productive employee doing what I’ll be doing?”, you’d be setting yourself up to be among the best the company has. Employers would appreciate your zeal and high personal standards.


2 thoughts on “How Fast Is Fast-Paced?

  1. I’ve often wondered if “fast-paced” is a code word that means they only want younger workers, on the (not always accurate) assumption that younger people pick up skills quickly and have more energy. What do you think?


    1. Interesting interpretation. You may have a valid point depending on the organization and their mentality. For the sake of older, mature workers, I do hope you are wrong however!


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