Author Topic: Interviewing: Questions to discover work/life balance?  (Read 1958 times)


  • Stubble
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Interviewing: Questions to discover work/life balance?
« on: May 04, 2018, 07:45:24 AM »
I'm in the process of interviewing for a new job as a software developer. The things I care most about are flexibility, work/life balance and PTO time, followed distantly by the kinds of software I'll be developing. You can see why I want to retire early...

I'm having great difficulty sussing out that information from the initial phone screens and I'm worried I'm going to end up wasting a bunch of PTO time at my current job going on on-site interviews for companies that are a poor fit. Anyone have advice on the kinds of questions you can ask to diplomatically approach these topics? I think employers don't like it when you only seem to care about that stuff (even though that's basically the case for me).


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Interviewing: Questions to discover work/life balance?
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2018, 07:48:57 AM »
Did you try checking out GlassDoor?  It's a site for those who already work there to post anonymously about the workplace, so you can get their view on what it's like.  Of course, it probably skews towards those who have a gripe.
Also if it's a MegaCorp. then things could vary a lot depending on department and manager.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Interviewing: Questions to discover work/life balance?
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2018, 09:46:41 AM »
If possible, use your professional network to inquire about these companies from people who work there. I would also state during the interview what is your ideal work environment and look at their reaction. Look to see what the turnover is like. How long has the team been together?

Or you know, don't be a wimp and just flat out ask "how much flexibility is there in this job... As an example if I....".


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Interviewing: Questions to discover work/life balance?
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2018, 10:05:58 AM »
I wouldn't trust responses in interviews. It's all about details and definitions, and these are glossed over in the few minutes where a candidate asks questions. Is work/life balance "only" 50 weeks with emailing on weekends? How easily can people disconnect from work? Tough to describe and may be misleading.

Also, what is the cost? You may be able to survive while maintaining a personal life outside of work, yet only workaholics busting their asses 24x7 get the raises and promos. Maybe that's fine with you, but difficult to figure this out in an interview. Best bet is to seek out contacts on the inside and get their take... go to lunch and ask lots of very specific questions about different aspects of work/life balance, vacations, hours, promotions, and such.

That said, in the absence of inside info I think it's worth asking about work/life balance ASAP in the interview process. Even if you don't get accurate answers, it will weed out those companies that don't value it, either because they don't have an answer or because they flag you as a bad fit and you don't get called for onsites.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Interviewing: Questions to discover work/life balance?
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2018, 10:52:50 AM »
I generally ask

1) What would my goals look like?  How are these assigned? How are deadlines calculated for a project?
  [if there isn't developer input, I'm not interested]

2) Describe the company culture.
   I know that some company's talk about their culture is different than the reality, but at least if they leave out flexibility and work/life balance, that's a warning sign.

3) What does "crunch time" look like?  Are there any special times of the year that are "crunch times"?


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Interviewing: Questions to discover work/life balance?
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2018, 11:27:43 AM »
You can be bold during the phone screen and ask some more hard hitting questions AFTER the HR rep asks if she can schedule you for an on-site interview.  Script to be something like:

HR: Are you able to come in for an interview with Mr. Dickman sometime next week?

You:  I'd be happy to!  Could I ask you a couple more questions about the position first?

HR: Of course!

You: I've noticed companies can be all over the map with benefits packages and vacation time, and that can make a big impact on the total salary package.  What benefits are available for this position? 

Every HR rep under the sun knows this information by heart, and it's not a weird question to ask.  Lots of new hires fall apart when a particularly crappy health insurance plan is revealed, or the PTO package is pathetic, and I'm sure HR doesn't want to waste time chasing a candidate that isn't going to want what they can offer.

I also feel like those gentle push back questions can give me an idea of where I rank in the stack of resumes.  If the phone interviewer is accommodating and in sales mode, then I'm probably a top candidate.  If the interviewer sounds annoyed or put out that I'm daring to ask questions, then I'm more than likely the obligatory "3rd" they are dragging in for variety.  (Or it's just a crap-tastic place to work.)

I'm like you. I don't want to waste my precious vacation day on a waste-of-time interview, so I try to answer as many important to me questions as I can while I have them on the phone.  There's nothing worse than being 15 minutes into your interview with a fake smile plastered on your face thinking, "Seriously? If I had known about this, I never would have come in here.  Well, this is a dealbreaker."

One of my life goals?  To hit that moment in an interview, and instead of just sitting there going through the interview motions and playing my part, to be 100% bad ass and just stand up and say, "Sorry, but the low wage combined with the work load you're expecting isn't something I'm interested in.  I'm afraid I'm going to have to end this interview now.  Thank you for your consideration, and good luck with your hiring process!"



  • Stubble
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Re: Interviewing: Questions to discover work/life balance?
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2018, 11:34:44 AM »
Thanks for the tips! I've been a little more bold asking work/life questions than I used to be because I still have a job so I'm not desperate, but diplomacy never hurts. I never thought to ask after the on-site invite, that's a really good idea.

Interviewing is so stressful and such a crapshoot. It's hard to get a straight answer on the things that will actually make your life good or bad.


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