Artwork by: Stas Podgornov
Balancing your professional and personal life can be tricky, but it’s essential. Finding an employer who values work-life balance is pure gold. Check out our work-life balance interview questions to ensure you find that perfect employer!
Work-life balance may seem like a difficult goal to achieve as your career advances, but it’s extremely important in terms of ensuring a happy, healthy, and productive life and significantly reducing the potential of stress or a burnout.
The opportunity to pursue external hobbies and activities, spend quality time with your family and friends, and allow time for yourself to relax and recharge is critical. Effective employers encourage a healthy work life balance, but how can you find out whether your prospective employer falls into this category?
In this article we explore:
What does work life balance mean for you?
How can you ask about work life balance at an interview?
Five work life balance interview questions
“No one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’” Paul Tsongas, Politician
Identifying what work-life balance means to you is vital. Is the option for remote or hybrid working important? Does being home in time for dinner with the family really matter to you? Do you have a passion for sports and attend the gym during the week? Are your weekends sacred to you in terms of switching off and not receiving emails?
It’s a good idea to make a list of what is important to you and then organize this according to priority. There’s a reason it’s called work-life balance, so there will likely be some things on the list that may be a deal breaker for you and/or others that you may need to compromise on.
Know where your line in the sand falls so you can consciously decide whether or not to cross it.
According to an article by Forbes, 46% of HR leaders say employee burnout is responsible for up to half (20% to 50% specifically) of annual workforce turnover.
An interview is the perfect time to uncover whether you have found an effective employer who values work life balance by asking direct or follow-up questions. Prior to the interview you can also lay the groundwork via some research.
A job description can give you a good indication of whether the job itself offers good work life balance. Requirements such as “able to change directions quickly” or “thrives in challenging and fast-paced environments” can indicate a potentially stressful setting where work life balance isn’t a priority.
Apart from doing the usual company research, such as checking the company website and company values, it’s worth digging a little deeper for information on work life balance. Some strategies include:
Network and connect with current or former employees to hear about their experiences. LinkedIn is a great platform to use for this strategy.
Talk to people in the same field or industry as the prospective employer to get some idea of their reputation.
If the job role and company seem to be a yes in terms of work-life balance on the surface, during your interview you can get down to the nitty-gritty. It’s always a good idea to have interview questions prepared for the hiring manager, so including some questions on work-life balance is a great idea.
Ask general interview questions that will also provide insight into the role’s work life balance. For example, asking what a day in the life of the role looks like will show what is expected while also clarifying whether this ties in with your work life balance goals.
Ask the interviewer lots of direct work life balance questions. You may come across as someone who is more focused on the “life” aspect and not that keen on completing the “work” part.
Here are five interview questions to ask about work life balance along with examples of both the answers you want to hear and those that may raise a red flag!
Company culture is a major factor for both you and the employer in terms of finding the right cultural fit for the company. The wording of this question is important.
For example, if you simply ask what the company culture is like, you will probably get an answer that it is amazing. On the other hand, our question asks for specific examples that show company culture as a priority which is proof that everyone probably does love it there!
When attending an interview, keep an eye out for evidence of work life balance in action. If you attend at lunchtime, are people gathering in the cafeteria or working at their desks? Are people leaving work at a reasonable hour if you attend at the end of the day? Are there any signs for health and wellness sessions or fun activities?
Learning the background of the role offers an amazing insight into what the job will be like for you if you get hired, whether this is a newly created role, or if there were any negative reasons why your predecessor left the role.
If the hiring manager answers that this is a newly created role, it typically will require more of your effort and input to establish yourself and integrate with the wider team. This will likely translate to more hours at work and less chance to get home for dinner at 5.30 p.m.
If you are replacing someone, it’s good to find out why if you can. Have they been promoted to a more senior role? This is a positive answer in terms of both progression and the fact that your predecessor must be happy to have stayed with the company.
If they left to “spend more time with family” this could be a red flag in terms of work-life balance such as working too many hours. However, it could be they have a sick relative to care for or are about to have a baby, so if anything is vague it’s best not to read between the lines.
This is a smart question to ask at an interview. Many job postings simply have a list of duties and responsibilities but don’t provide a breakdown of how much time is allocated to each task or specific details of team structure.
Apart from showing a strong interest in the role, you can use this information to uncover what is expected of you and hopefully gain some information on the actual working hours involved. Try to get the interviewer to elaborate on the specifics as much as you can.
The other great benefit is that you can find out if the job is actually a good fit for you too. If your typical workday involves a large percentage of time doing something you dislike for long hours, then maybe it’s not the job for you!
How a company measures success in its employees is important from both a work life balance and personal perspective. Ideally you want to achieve something in the job and to feel that these achievements in turn positively impact the company itself.
If the hiring manager tells you that success is measured on the value of your work and that your predecessors have moved onwards and upwards in the company, this is perfect. On the other hand if working extra hours for the role is a measure of success, then move on quickly to your next opportunity..
When you are applying for a job opportunity that mentions business travel as a requirement, it’s a good idea to find out the level of travel involved. Even if travel isn’t mentioned in the job posting, this is still a good question to ask as it may be a requirement now or in the future.
If the interviewer answers that there is frequent travel regionally, nationally, or even internationally, then this is bound to make work-life balance a challenge.
Identifying your work life balance priorities is critical in order to ensure your health and wellbeing. Make a list of the deal breakers, and be prepared to compromise on some of the other things where you can.
Analyze the job description, complete a deep dive into the company, and don’t be afraid to ask some direct questions about work-life balance at your interview.
Taking time to focus on this topic is time well spent. As a happier and productive employee with work life balance, you will also be an outstanding addition to a prospective employer's team.
Helen is an experienced freelance writer with a strong background in job search and career advice, in particular resume best practices, interviewing, and personal and professional development. Before Career.io, Helen worked for high-profile recruitment firms and in the field of HR management, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in a potential employee as well as experience in supporting career growth and development.