Work-Life Balance: Can I Ask About It in a Job Interview?

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance. It's a buzzword we're hearing more and more these days. But of all the questions we're encouraged to ask in a job interview as we glean information about what might become our next workplace, those words don't often show up prominently.

This is another Q&A in our "Ask a Recruiter" series by Kathleen Downs, a vice president at Robert Half Finance & Accounting.

Q: Can I ask about work-life balance during a job interview?

A: Employers should recognize the importance of work-life balance, but when they hear the phrase brought up by a job candidate in an interview, it could send warning signals. They may begin to wonder if you’re going to be available during busy times — like month-end — or if you’re going to bolt out the door every day at 5:01 p.m.

When it comes to benefits like vacation and paid time off, the initial interview stage is typically not the time or the place. You’re there to sell your financial skills and let the interviewer know how you’ll add value to the organization.

Q: How can I find out without asking?

A: Directly asking about work-life balance is an interview faux pas, but there are ways you can ask open-ended questions so you can draw some conclusions.

Here’s one idea: Ask about the organization’s year-end operations and how soon afterward auditors come in. Follow up by inquiring how they meet their deadlines. Is it by working nights, weekends or both? This can provide you with an idea of what your schedule would be like during busier seasons, and whether that schedule will work for you.

However, you don’t want all your questions to be related to these matters. While it’s good to show interest in operations, your interviewer will be wise to you if you aren’t asking about anything else.

Q: Are there other ways to learn about the company?

A: Absolutely. One of the best ways to learn about a company’s offerings is by working with a financial recruiter. It’s part of a recruiter’s job to know, among many other things, what kind of work-life balance organizations provide so he or she can help you find the role that best aligns with your career needs and personal preferences.

At Robert Half, we have an extensive network and a deep understanding of the companies we work with, which allows us to deliver the best fit for all parties. Read more about the advantages of working with a recruiter

You can also turn to the Internet. Some companies list benefits and perks such as vacation days and flextime on their job postings. Larger organizations may have a breakdown of these perks on their careers page. Social media is another great resource, as companies that are proud of the work-life balance they offer employees will be sure to post about it. You may also find that employee profiles provide insight into the matter.

Q: When is it safe to ask about work-life balance?

A: While the initial job interview isn’t the place to discuss work-life balance, you can bring it up during your salary negotiation or subsequent interviews. You can also ask questions about work-life balance when you have your final meeting with human resources.

Looking for more job-hunting advice? Read about 4 Recruiter Tips That Can Help You Find a Job Faster, and learn some of the lingo in this Work-Life Balance piece.


Kathleen Downs, a vice president with Robert Half Finance & Accounting, started with the company in 2000. Before that, she was CEO of a recreation/retail/education organization in Bonn, Germany. Kathleen is actively involved with a number of professional organizations within the finance and accounting field and sits on several not-for-profit boards.

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