While in an interview, many of us want to know about the work-life balance of that position. The balance is a great preface to the position’s and the company’s expectations from their employees. However, asking questions about a company’s work-life balance in an interview can cause red flags. The worst question you can ask is “How is the work-life balance?” Interviewers see this question as insight into the interviewee being concerned only about their own personal life and not being loyal or a large contributor to the company. The interviewer may question your inquiry about work-life balance to mean that you are “all about you” and should be avoided. So how do you get that information without drawing a red flag?
Research shows that companies that appreciate and accept an employee’s work-life balance have higher productivity and happier employees. You can draw conclusions that their company culture is constructive and morale is high with low turnover. But every company is different and so is every employee. We suggest that you find your own definition of what you need in your own balance first. Determine how flexible you want to be in your job and if you want to telecommute some days. Also look at how much paid vacation you need in a year and other time off. Then take a look at how you like to work in an office environment; do you prefer to work very hard for a few hours and then working normally or at a slower pace for the remainder of the day? Do you always prefer a predictable schedule or are you more comfortable picking your own work hours? The more you understand about your most successful work environment, the more you will understand how to ask better questions of the interviewer.
One way to extract information about work-life balance is to ask about the company culture and what a typical day at the office looks like. While we all know there are no “typical days” this could give insight into what a company expects. Also, ask about upcoming initiatives the company might be experiencing or any major changes taking place. These will indicate that steady paces or a predictable schedule is usually not the norm. Asking about the range of hours people are in the office is also a great way to learn more about the hours of the position. Discussing the “work rhythms” is also a great topic of discussion to learn about the work culture and paces at each stage in the position.
Don’t be afraid to do some of your own research as well by reading reviews from previous employees on sites such as Glassdoor. We always recommend reading these with a critical eye, as some of these responses are from disgruntled employees that could have handled a situation incorrectly themselves.
When you understand what drives a company, you understand how you are going to fit into their work expectations. Take time to ask yourself after the interview if their answers line up with your expectations as well.