How to Discuss Work-Life Balance During an Interview, With Examples

How to Discuss Work-Life Balance During an Interview, With Examples

5 min read
How to Discuss Work Life Balance During an Intervi

Work-life balance is a key factor to consider when applying for a new job. It's important to find a position that allows you to be productive and successful at work while having enough time and energy to enjoy what you work for.

Are you concerned that asking about work-life balance might make you appear disengaged? We’ll help you with how to bring up the topic without seeming like you would rather not work hard. Because, actually, you’d only work hard if you considered the work-life balance was healthy.

Why is asking about work-life balance so significant?

72% of workers believe work-life balance is a critical factor when choosing a job. And even if you’re among this majority or not, you should ​​take some time to find out how companies promote a balanced work-life for their employees. If you’re in the minority and aren’t convinced that work-life balance is important, ask nonetheless. A sound relationship between work and life is significant for your well-being and performance at work. And remember that good performances often bring bigger pay cheques. So, by understanding how the work-life scale tilts, you’re hedging yourself and investing in your career.

49% of surveyed workers reported burnout, but figures are higher as burnt-out workers quit before responding

But it’s a tricky research you’ll be doing, since you would rather not sound sleazy when asking your HR counterpart about everything outside work. That’s why asking indirectly is typically considered the best approach. You’re also allowing your interviewer to open up and vent, so you’re even giving them room to balance their own scale.

Ways to ask about work and life balance in an interview

There are several ways to ask about work and life balance indirectly in an interview with a potential employer. Here are a few of them:

1. “What does a typical workweek look like?”

To find out if workers commonly stay in extra hours, you can ask questions such as “Could you describe what a typical workweek looks like for someone on this team?” or “What kind of hours does a typical person in here work?”. By asking these questions, you aren't directly inquiring about how long the work shifts are, which by law have their due limit, but you are getting that information.

2. “What does it take to be successful here?”

Asking “What does it take to be successful at this job?” is a way of finding out how much workload is required for the job and if staying extra hours may be required. If they mention “Working on Sundays” as essential to earn an Employee of the Month award, then 🚩 a red flag arises.

3. “Can you tell me about the company culture?”

Asking about culture in an interview is a way of finding out about the values, goals, and attitudes of the company. Knowing about a company's culture is a way of determining how it prioritises work-life balance for its employees. You can always refer to company reviews to get a glimpse of it. Even so, learning about it from a protagonist is always a good idea (or an excellent method to check if they’re genuine).

How not to ask about work-life balance

It is not advisable to ask about work-and-life balance directly in an initial interview. This is so because, during the first get-together, you’re expected to focus on your professional skills. Consequently, you can come across as not interested in working hard — or too traumatized — if you strike them with a work-life balance question before asking how to pronounce their names!

Here are three questions we strongly recommend not to ask in an interview about the balance between work and life:

1. “How does the company promote work-life balance?”

Addressing the work and life balance directly in an interview may be considered a red flag by the interviewers, as it can imply that you are not interested in making an effort or even impressing them. Remember — the interviewers or HR recruiters are your colleagues too, and they are as burned out as you are. So don’t blame them for passing on to a new candidate if you ask the work-life balance stuff too bluntly.

2. “Do you support a balance between work and leisure?”

This question can be taken wrong because it may seem like you are not confident about the company promoting work and work-life balance. Also, it can come across as if you are not interested in hard work. And even if you’re not, and that’s totally acceptable, you still have to land the job.

3. “Do workers commonly stay in for extra hours?”

This question may seem like you are not committed enough to the job. There are situations such as crises that may cause you to stay in overtime, and many countries have appropriate legislation to cover employees who are compelled to put in more hours. So asking if workers commonly stay in for extra hours may make you look as not willing to stay in for the team. And HR recruiters want long-term allies, not one-off speedsters.

Can you ask about the work-life balance directly?

Yes, you don’t always have to be indirect when asking about a company’s work-life balance. Some cultures and people will not raise an eyebrow or cross your name from a list if you’re point-blank.  But please note that being indirect is not a matter of being elusive or shady. It's the opposite: You’re actually being polite.

Just like you, the HR recruiters have a lot of work in their inboxes and have to juggle meetings and projects. So by asking about work-life balance indirectly, you’re letting them think about the best answer and elaborate on their thoughts. It’s a mutual-help system, and the HR pals will appreciate it.

Learn about the company to understand their work-life balance

Before your interview, do some research. Look up the company's website and social media pages to see if they mention work/life balance in their values or mission statement. Check company reviews and check how colleagues have brought up the work-life balance matter. This information is of utmost importance to ask the appropriate questions. And you don’t want to miss your silver bullet.

Analyze the job description, complete a deep dive into the company, and don’t be afraid to ask some discreet questions about work-life balance at your interview.

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