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2nd Round Interview Help - How do I ask about working hours?

(9 Posts)
CeeCee123 Mon 17-Aug-09 17:01:26


I've got a bit of a dilemma. I'm currently interviewing for a job which I'm pretty sure would be an absolute dream job for me if I got it. I do have one concern, however. They interviewed me first at 6.30pm on a Friday night and the office was still somewhat busy (although clearly not everyone was still there). Now, I know I've been lucky with my job at the moment, but I do 9 - 5.30 and commute, and I have a son who's not yet two. I am happy to work my backside off while I'm at work and even take a really short lunch break, but I want to be home to kiss my son goodnight and I really would struggle if this job expected me to be there long hours.

So, my question is, how do I ask about the working hours/working culture without sounding like a work-shy person? I suppose I shouldn't be over sensitive but I am trying to work the question so I don't give the impression that I will never be prepared to stay if absolutely necessary but actually, if I'm expected to be there until 7 every night then perhaps it's not for me!

Any advice is much appreciated.


OhBling Mon 17-Aug-09 17:06:35

Always tricky.

I think though that if they want to hire you, they have to also sell you the job and part of that is the culture, which includes working hours. In the interview I'd ask about the culture fairly generally - ask them what it's like, eg do people work oin their own projects or on teams more often, how many people, what kind of hours are normal, is out of work socialising expected, is the team quite diverse in personality and character etc?

You have to be careful that you don't sound obsessive and inflexible, but it's a legitimate question.

OhBling Mon 17-Aug-09 17:07:12

Also - if it is the kind of culture where everyone works late all the time, then really, it's not your dream job is it?

MarthaFarquhar Mon 17-Aug-09 17:11:31

I would be brutally honest about the time you need to leave work, for childcare reasons. Just state that owing to childcare commitments you do need to leave promptly at 5.30pm unless pre-arranged, and would this be acceptable.

If you are prepared to come in early, or take work home, say so. If you do have any occasional back-up (eg a partner), say that you can occasionally work late by prior arrangement should a specific project/meeting.

You need to be clear that you have some limitations, otherwise it's not going to work.

AxisofEvil Mon 17-Aug-09 17:20:52

I'd be pretty careful at second interview stage. I think it fine to ask about the culture and "so, what hours do people normally do" but I'd really not go in with "I can only do until 5.30" as it will be very offputting. If they offer you the job then by all means raise the childcare issue, that you'll need to leave most nights at 5.30 to collect from nursery/relieve nanny but you'll need to have an answer as to how work outside of this will be done. It depends very much on your job but I'd not be keen to hire someone for my team (which is a professional corporate environment and can involve some longish hours) who considered their time sacrosant after 5.30 every single day. So can you work late occasionally (up to 1-2 days a week) if needed, can you come in earlier, can you work remotely in the evenings etc.

MarthaFarquhar Mon 17-Aug-09 17:24:20

Axis, I have found mentioning the childcare thing early actually helps. People respect the fact that you have been honest, and have a bit more time to get their heads round the idea, and give some thought to how they can make the situation work. This tactic has helped me secure a few posts with hours other than those advertised.

As a recruiter, I'd be a bit pissed off if someone held this information back.

AxisofEvil Mon 17-Aug-09 17:43:01

Martha - glad its worked for you. I think a balance has to be struck depending on the job and the industry between being open and up front (and I agree if I hired someone and was then told its 9-5.30 only I'd be cross) and ruling yourself out of the process by being viewed as limited on the hours (and thus workshy). Hence why I think its up to the candidate to get the info on working hours and see if they think they could make it work.

fridayschild Mon 17-Aug-09 19:15:43

I'd agree with those who said ask about the culture. Obviously a lot depends on the type of work you're going for as to which is the better approach, which might explain why I have a different perspective to Martha. But also I think it's better that you decide if this is the job for you, based on their answers, than they decide it is not, based on your questions.

As an interviewer there is a difference between someone who does not a spot of work after 5.30, and someone who will kiss baby good night / play football/ whatever, but then deal with urgent work remotely. This tends to come across in the way you ask the question. Are you able to say that you are used to being accessible to colleagues or clients out of normal office hours (even if they've never taken you up on that?)

CeeCee123 Mon 17-Aug-09 21:50:48

Thanks for all your answers.

OhBling - my thoughts exactly. This is my dream job UNLESS they want me to be there until all hours!

Fridayschild - I think that you sum up what I'm nervous about. I'd rather decide whether it would work for me based on what they tell me rather than have them dismiss me as a workshy clock-watcher.

I think I'll try the "working culture" approach and if they don't give me a specific answer I suppose I could probe the "work life" balance as they see it. I suppose I could also ask whether they thought it was workable within reason to do the job during core working hours or does that sound inflexible?

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