Should work-life balance be broached during a job interview?

Should work-life balance be broached during a job interview?

31 July, 2013

Work-life balance. Does it exist in today’s world? Many believe that the ability to maintain a clear divide between business and personal is virtually impossible. While this concept is indeed becoming increasingly difficult with the massive growth in electronic communications, finding that right balance requires a commitment from the employer and of course, the employee. Regardless of the situation, if you are interviewing for your ideal job, you probably shouldn’t care.
Many companies aren’t interested in candidates that inquire in an interview about work-life balance. This is because the automatic interpretation of any candidate who asks about balance in a job interview is that they are either lazy, interested in 9-5 or is just not hard working. Some companies will alternatively raise it as a sales pitch to enhance the attractiveness of their job. Either way, it is safe to say that asking about work-life balance in a job interview is often the kiss of death. There doesn’t seem to be much upside in asking the question. Candidates should know through due diligence, if the corporate culture is appealing; and frankly, work-life balance ought not even be a consideration.
With today’s instantaneous communication it’s hard not be thinking about work whether it be when your morning alarm rings, or when you are about to turn out the lights for the evening. If you are passionate about what you are doing in your job, perhaps you wont mind checking that mobile device more frequently. The flip side? You don’t like your job, which means you won’t want to work that extra hour in the evening. How does one know then if they are passionate about their job? Easy question with an easy answer. Working won’t feel like working, nor will you mind putting in that extra time. Or, dare it be said : work will be fun.
What is more important when interviewing and doing your homework on prospective companies, is understanding their philosophy on face time. If you need to pick up a child at 5:30 pm sharp, or be somewhere else at a certain hour, how will this be perceived? It seems critical in today’s fast-paced world, that companies need to be flexible on face time if they expect their key employees to be “on call”.
In the world of law, law firms are increasingly less concerned about when someone is in the office as they can easily measure one’s success by the number of hours they can convert into billings. In the C-Suite, there aren’t such metrics. However, outside of being available to your team as a manager, spending time in the office ought not matter outside of the traditional business day.
Be careful asking about face time, however; as some will interpret the question as the same as asking about work-life balance. The safest bet: Don’t make this an interview issue or question. Do your homework, and know your personal obligations. Aside from making sure they all a fit with this new prospective employer, figure out if you will be passionate about this new job.
Warren Bongard is co-founder and president of legal recruiting firm ZSA. His columns appear every third Thursday at He can be reached at

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