3 Ways to Tell if a Company Has Good Work-Life Balance Before the Interview

work-life balance

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The Career Counter565
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June 19, 2024 at 10:24PM UTC

Picture this scenario: you just started your new dream job. You’ve pictured it inside your head for weeks. You’ll finally be able to work that 40-hour-per-week schedule. Working from home a couple of times per week is going to save you tons on gas (not to mention being able to work in your pajamas!).

However, shortly after starting this new gig, a pit begins to form in your stomach as you realize the reality of the job is nowhere near what you had fantasized about. Working from home, you’re told, is actually not an option. You quickly realize that your coworkers are putting in at least 50 hours per week (and those are the “lazy” ones).

Like thousands of other workers, you must now contemplate the dreaded decision to either try to stay and tough things out, or once again throw yourself out into the scary job search realm. 

What if I were to tell you there’s a way for you to minimize the chances of this happening? Here are several ways to tell if a company has good work-life balance before you even reach the interview process.

1. Do some soul-searching.

Work-life balance does not necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. What are your deal-breakers? For example, if you know that working from home three days a week is a must, do not compromise on this factor. Also, if a company states in the job posting that working from home isn’t an option, don’t think you can accept a job and then change their mind.

Maybe for you, work-life balance means working 40 hours per week. Or perhaps it’s taking more time off for vacations. 

2. Do some preliminary digging.

Sites like Fairygodboss and Glassdoor are great places to start researching potential companies. Because employees can leave anonymous reviews, you will be sure get the real scoop on whether or not your targeted company walks the walk in terms of offering (and following through with) work-life balance policies.

3. Do some more digging.

Reading about a company online is one thing, but actually having conversations with current or former employees of your targeted company offers a 360 view of the climate and culture.

Once you’ve done some preliminary research online, jump on LinkedIn and search for people working in your targeted companies. From your LinkedIn homepage, in the upper lefthand search bar, type in the company name you’re targeting. Next click on “People.” From there you can narrow down further by connections.

Then, send a message to your connection and ask for an informational interview, or a short 15–20-minute chat via Zoom or phone where you can ask about the company culture. This part might seem intimidating – what if they say no? Well, if that’s the worst that can happen, what do you have to lose? 

In my personal experience asking for informational interviews, I’ve found that most of the time professionals are more than happy to chat with job seekers. It’s kind of a pay-it-forward thing. We’ve all been job seekers at one point, and chances are we’ll be there again asking for an interview ourselves.

Initially, the informational interview should be all about your contact – start with questions like “how did you get started in the field?” Read closely through your contact’s profile before the interview and find some mutual ground like interests, work, or education-related experiences that you can chat about to get the conversation going. In other words, you don’t want to come right out and say, “so give me the dirt on XYZ company’s culture.” You also don’t want to ask outright for a job. 

If the conversation goes well, you can ask a question like “Work-life balance is important to me. What’s the culture like at XYZ company?” In my opinion, it doesn’t benefit you to beat around the bush. If work-life balance is something that the company isn’t known for, it’s better to hear it from your contact than find out first-hand after starting the job.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Lee Cristina Beaser is a career coach and certified professional resume writer (CPRW). She is the founder of The Career Counter, where she empowers women to find happiness and fulfillment in their careers. For tips and tools to help you change careers or jobs or return to work after a career pause, click here

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for finding out whether a company has good work-life balance before the interview? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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