Today is Friday, July 17, 2015. I am in the middle of an actual interview process for a real role, that is over 200 miles away, I believe I need to know the kinds of hours this companies' employees are expected to work.

I know Mark says "give me back my wheel" ... 


  • I have a job in the city where I live
  • This company has approached me
  • I have succeeded in two separate phone interviews already (thanks in large part to the MT Interview Series)
  • I have a phone interview with the hiring manager next week (where I will most definitely NOT ask a question about hours)
  • If that goes well, I will be invited for a site visit. 

Prior to the site visit, if I am invited, I think it is a good idea to know standard work hours. As MT says, Questions are for us to assess a company to know if it is a good place for us to work, so I think asking how many hours are expected of an employee is a reasonable question. If it is a shop where work flexes, averaging 40 to 50 hours per week, of if the culture is Silicon Valley esque, regularly expecting 60 to 80 hours per week.

I would like to ask the company recruiter after the manager interview and prior to the site visit. 

Any advice would greatly be appreciated.

ashdenver's picture

You might fare better with indirect questions such as, "Please describe a typical day in this role" or similar things based on the flow of the conversation. The recruiter may not know the answer to the hours question directly because that person doesn't work in that department or for that supervisor. If you get the opportunity to speak with peers and/or subordinates, it might not be a bad idea to probe a bit on what their daily or weekly life is like at the organization. Probing about the company culture (what they value, how they express it) is a valid line of inquiry.  There are ways to find out that sort of thing without asking directly about the hours.

Related note: over a year ago, I was approached by a recruiter and I was pretty clear that I was looking to scale back to 45-50 hours a week and he told me "Don't worry - they're not working those kinds of (Silicon Valley-esque) hours." I took him at his word and did get some small amount of feedback from a soon-to-be subordinate about the rare individual consistently working more than anyone else. I figured all was good and took the job. Within two weeks time, I wa putting in 80 hours a week regularly. For seven solid months. In that case, it was due to a new contract and what the recruiter had told me was true at the time: in the first half of 2014, they were only doing 40-50 hours a week.  The contract hit and it was suddenly 80+ hrs a week for everyone. Every other weekend. Holidays. You name it.

mmcconkie's picture

When I was looking at transitioning, I was also concerned about work time. I asked current and past employees of the company I was interviewing with. I felt like I could be a little more candid and open with them. A quick LinkedIn search may be helpful to find another employee at that company.

Good luck.

williamelledgepe's picture
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I have a hard time believing something like the number of hours worked by an individual is a function of the company.  I believe it is more about the individual.  

For most of my career, I have been in a situation where I was billing a client for each single hour I worked on their projects.  Every year I was supposed to bill my clients for 1960 hours (multiply hours by my billable rate an you got my "personal revenue").  Then of course there was work to be done that could not be billed.  And don't forget the pet projects from supervisors to build skills and knowledge when promotion time rolled around.  In this environment it is very easy to work as many hours as humanly possible.  And for those of us who are task focused, possibly addicted to work or seek the rewards work can provide, it is even easier to get sucked into working so many hours.  BUT - even though I was regularly working 50 hour week, plenty of people in that same environment rounded up to 40 hours/week and struggled to meet 1960.  Indeed every year there were some who did not meet 1960.  And that was in the kind of environment where everyone was meticulously tracking each hour and focused on billing their clients as the number one metric (no balanced scorecard - just billable hours).  Those of us who broke 2000 hours received what we called the iron-man award (this was before the movies of the same name).  Within that environment, there was still a wide range of billable hours per week from individual to individual.  Any given week the range for individuals who were not on vacation would easily vary by 30% off the median.  

My point is - in my experience - company culture does not dictate number of hours worked - it is more a function of personal psychology.  

Whenever anyone says "an 80-hour work week" I tune out, because whatever comes next is cadswallop.  You can do it occassionally, but after about about 3 weeks of 80 hour weeks, your brain is not functioning.  You can sustain 50.  60 can be managed as an exception, but even that can't go much past a month.  

williamelledgepe's picture
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A better question is, "What metrics are used to measure success in this position?"  The answer will give you an idea of what is needed from an hours worked perspective.  If the metric is billable hours - expect to work yourself to your bones.  If the metric is employee satisfaction, it is unlikely you are walking into a workaholic environment.  If they have no metrics, ask for example behaviors of people who have been successful on that position.  Based on the answers, you should be able to judge for yourself how much you need to work to meet that standard.  

ugottom's picture

Thanks to each of you. Thanks so much. 

These ideas are great fuel to prepare my Questions for that part of the interview. Today, I have the privilege of speaking with the Manager of the group. I'll definitely seek to be wisely searching. 


Thanks again.