The very best companies offer its employees ways to better integrate their work into their life. Many more are trying to catch up as employees demand greater flexibility options at work. A demand that continues to grow as more and more millennials come into the workforce.
A recent study by Fidelity Investments found that 58% of millennials identified “quality of work life” more important than financial benefits. On average, respondents would forfeit $7,600 of their salaries for improved offerings around career development, purposeful work, work/life balance programs and an enriching company culture.
Despite the rising importance of work-life balance, discussing such policies and programs during a job interview remains a minefield for job seekers. Why? Because there continues to be hiring managers who regard questions about work-life balance as a red flag. A flag that indicates the candidate doesn’t want to work or that they’ll be unreliable or that they’re entitled.
It’s unfortunate, but it is reality.
At least for now. As more employees choose companies that will help make their lives more manageable, more companies will follow suit. In the meantime, however, job seekers need to know which questions will shed the most light in understanding a company’s perspectives on work-life balance while assessing which offerings will best meet your specific needs.
Before we get to the questions, there are a few things you’ll need to clarify first.
Define work-life for you
I’m not particularly keen with the term “work-life balance”. As I’ve shared before the idea suggests that work and life are opposing forces on the same scale. So for one to be up the other must be down. That’s not always the case.
Plus, balance between work and life means something different for each of us. That’s why it’s important that before you begin your job search you first ask yourself what it is you are looking for in a new employer, in addition to what you are looking for in a new job.
Don’t be afraid to ask
There remains, unfortunately, a number of industries where entrenched traditional modes of working stubbornly persist. In these industries, any reference to work-life balance can stop an interview dead in its tracks.
In these instances, use your judgement on how far to push the envelop. But, don’t avoid asking the questions that are important to you. Just as an employer is trying to assess if you are the right candidate for them, you, too, need to assess if the company is the right place for you to thrive.
Pace your questions
The first priority in any job interview is to determine if you are the right person for the specific job. So, your first questions in the interview should focus on the roles and responsibilities of the job. Once you’ve cleared through a few of them, you can turn the conversation to the company’s work-life balance initiatives.
Better yet, if you can, try weaving your work-life balance questions with any you have about the job or company. This way you don’t dedicate too much time on work-life balance issues.
Keep the conversation broad
Unless you have very specific requirements, it’s likely best to keep your conversation about work-life balance broad. This is especially true during the first interview. At this stage of the process, ask general questions that could apply to any employee at the organization or on the team you will join. Leave pointed questions about your specific situation for follow-up conversations.
With that said, the following broad questions are for you to consider as you prepare for your interview. Of course, you don’t want to ask all the questions at one time. Instead, look for answers on the company’s website or try asking your recruiter. From there, use your discretion to select the most relevant and appropriate questions.
- What work-life balance programs or benefits does the company offer?
- How do you measure goals or successes?
- How do you describe yourself as a manager? Alternatively, how do you describe the [name of manager]’s management style?
- What are your policies for telecommuting? What technology is provided to employees at my level?
- How does the team collaborate or stay connected on key projects?
- What do you like best about working here?
- What type of person would thrive in this role / on your team?
- What sets this company apart from others?
- Can you give me a sense of a typical work schedule in this department? Is there a period of the year/month that is more busy?
- What are your top expectations for your team members?
If you have any questions to add to this list or additional tips as it relates to determining a company’s work-life policies, leave them in the comments below.