Most of us strive to juggle the demands of both our personal and professional lives. But only some jobs afford us the ability to achieve just that.
The problem is, it’s hard to know before you actually start working in any given job how much work-life balance it offers.
Of course, you can outright ask the interviewer about it — but there’s no guarantee they will be completely honest, says Matt Mickiewicz, cofounder of Hired, a site for finding high-paying tech jobs.
Luckily, there are a few “sneakier” ways to suss out the work-life balance situation in the interview, he says:
1. Ask about a typical day/week/weekend in the life of an employee in this job.
“The trick is to be thoughtful about how you pose the question about work-life balance,” he says. Instead of explicitly asking, try something like, “Walk me through a typical week or day in the life of this position,” or, “Can I get a sense of whether you usually work on weekends?” or, “When was the last time you had to pull an all-nighter?”
2. If they mention perks like catered meals, ask whether dinners are brought in and at what time.
“If there is free dinner every night at 8 p.m., it’s likely a sign that people are there relatively late,” says Mickiewicz. “Generally speaking, the more perks like dry cleaning, meals, gym and transportation that are provided, the more likely employees are to work long hours. Many companies provide these services with the intention of negating reasons to be out of the office.”
3. Find out if working from home is allowed and/or encouraged.
Ask, “Do you allow working from home? How frequently do people work from home?”
The follow-up question is crucial because it’s one thing for a company to allow telecommuting, and another if people are able to do it without feeling guilty.
If working from home is part of the company culture, that’s a good sign employees have great work-life balance.
4. Dig into the company’s project pipeline and priorities.
“If resource issues are never cited as a reason for not taking on a particular project, it’s probably a bad sign,” says Mickiewicz. This could mean people at the company are overworked.
“Try asking the following questions: ‘How do you decide what not to do in a given quarter or month?’ ‘When was the last time you took something off the list of priorities and why?’ and ‘What’s an example of something you’d like to do, but can’t because of resources?'”
5. Do your homework.
This one is sort of a no-brainer, but many people fail to do their research.
Check out sites like Glassdoor and ask friends or connections who currently work there what it’s like to be an employee, Mickiewicz suggests.
“It’s important to know your limits and to decide how important work-life balance is to you before embarking on a job search,” he adds. “The interview process is a major investment for both sides, and it’s best to be honest with yourself about what kind of environment you need and to make sure the position aligns with that. In many cases, if you find out that a job you really want requires crazy hours, it might no longer be the job you really want. The bottom line is that being caught off guard on your first day about how many hours you’re expected to put in is almost always a recipe for disaster.”