Steinfeld began acting at the age of eight, initially appearing in several short films to gain experience. She played the role of Talia Alden in the award-winning short film, She's a Fox. She went on to make several television commercials and guest appearances on television programmes. Steinfeld was chosen out of 15,000 girls for the role of Mattie Ross in True Grit. She was announced as a nominee for Best Supporting Actress at the 83rd Academy Awards on January 25, 2011.
In May 2011, Steinfeld was chosen to be the new face of Italian designer brand Miu Miu.
She played Juliet Capulet in a 2013 adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, by director Carlo Carlei. She was cast in 2011, when she was fourteen. Due to her young age, there was some concern she would be asked to appear nude in the film. Director Carlo Carlei explained that "there was a lovemaking scene that included nudity for the married Romeo and Juliet. The script was written with a 20-year-old actress in mind. As soon as Hailee Steinfeld was cast, all nudity and love scenes were excised from the script making it age-appropriate for a 14-year-old."Julian Fellowes stated, "We did feel it would be nice to have romantic, married love, and that purity was an important part of the film. They don't make love until they have been married." Steinfeld finished filming her scenes for the film on March 7, 2012.
Her upcoming projects also include a role as Violet, one of the leads in Begin Again (formerly called Can A Song Save Your Life?), a romance-drama directed by John Carney. Also, she starred as Petra Arkanian in Ender's Game, a science fiction action-adventure film directed by Gavin Hood, based on the book by Orson Scott Card. The film was released on November 1, 2013. Paramount Pictures has closed a deal for screen right to Forgotten, a novel by Cat Patrick in 2011, in which Steinfeld will play London Lane, the leading female role. The movie was said to be released in 2013., but that release has not been commenced. Steinfeld is also said to be starring in a screen adaptation of Daniel Handler's romantic-comedy book, Why We Broke Up as Min Green. The film will be directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller and is due for release in 2014. In addition, she was announced to be cast as Eliza in film adaptation of Ten Thousand Saints, which is set to be released in 2015. She will play alongside Asa Butterfield in the drama. Steinfeld was originally cast to play the female role in the 2015 film, For the Dogs, but was replaced by actress, Emma Roberts. 
^McClintock, Pamela; Appelo, Tim (March 4, 2011). "Black 'Thor' Actor Blasts Debate Over His Casting". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on March 4, 2011. "People were so desperate for any sign of color at the Feb. 27 ceremony that many media outlets, including the Boston Globe, accepted as fact the rumor that True Grit nominee Hailee Steinfeld's mother is part African-American. (Steinfeld's rep told THR that the claim, spread on the Internet in recent days, is erroneous.)"