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Work-life balance in a job interview
Old 02-29-2008, 07:41 PM   #1
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Work-life balance in a job interview

I have an interesting but demanding job with a long commute, and the likelihood of vastly increased business travel requirements in the near future. I would like to improve my work-life balance by finding a slightly less demanding job with a much shorter commute and little travel. This will likely involve a pay cut, but DH and I have crunched the numbers and we can make this work. I am looking at the amount earned per hour of work including commuting time in determining an acceptable salary. I would also want to know about benefits and working conditions, because things like additional vacation or flexible hours would make up for a lot in terms of lower salary.

I have an interview next week for a really promising job, close to home. The job is in the public sector. (I have some public sector work experience so understand the differences from private sector.) I have all of their requested qualifications, so I may appear overqualified. They have not posted the salary but I am sure it will be a pay cut. My priority is having a variety of enjoyable and interesting tasks to do. Their job description is made up of things I’ve done before and enjoyed. I would rather do hands on work than be in management. I don’t care if I turn out to have more qualifications on paper than someone above me.

I tend to stay at the same job for several years. I don’t believe I will find this job boring. Even if I do, I expect to use the additional free time from less commuting to do a number of rewarding things in my personal life that I am unable to do now – providing a big incentive to stay.

The question for all of you: put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. The candidate appears qualified to aspire to a higher level job, and probably makes more money right now than you’re able to offer. You raise your concerns, and receive the response above. Aside from being a bit long winded (sorry), what is your reaction to her explanation?

Is there anything in my explanation that should be left out, or phrased differently, to avoid setting off alarm bells in an interviewer’s mind? I keep reading articles about how work-life balance is becoming the “in thing”, but am wondering what happens in real life when an interview candidate admits to looking for it?
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Old 02-29-2008, 08:02 PM   #2
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Doesn't alarm me. I would hire you if I believed you could do the job and would stay in the position long enough for me to recoup my investment of initial training.

The last person I hired a few weeks ago fit the above profile.
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Old 02-29-2008, 09:12 PM   #3
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I've interviewed, hired and fired people in the past, so I have some experience in this area.

I assume that when you say, "I don't believe this job will be boring", you are making the statement to us and not to the interviewer. Because, I as an interviewer would not want to hear this.

Planning your q&a is important, and it looks like you're doing a pretty good job. If I ask you why you are on the down grade, I would like to hear that you are ready for a change. I want to hear that you're interested in my co and you will give 100% to this position. I want to hear that you are a team player, and that I will not be disappointed.

Learn as much as you can about the co. That is important to an interviewer.

Just my 2 cents.
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Old 02-29-2008, 09:40 PM   #4
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While your explanation is reasonable, I'd still be a little cautious. It's important how the issue is raised (if at all).

I interview and hire people in a semi-public sector organization. If I ask you why you want to leave your present position and work at my organization, I will not be impressed if you respond with "I want work life balance." I'll be a lot more positive if you respond with, "I really enjoy a hands-on position, not management. My present job requires a lot of travel, which is not my primary interest. In addition, I'm interested in an environment that is relatively close to my home and does not require an excessive commute."

You might mention that you are well compensated by your current employer. This lets the interviewer know that you are a hard-working dedicated employee and that you realize the new position will be a reduction in pay and responsibility.

Do not focus on your over qualifications, except to say "been there, done that, I'm not interested in that type of work." It's OK to be over qualified, as long as it's clear that you realize this is a "lesser" job and that you're enthusiastic about it. Emphasize your interest and qualifications for the new position. Say something like, "I've done this type of work before, I'm good at it, and this is what I enjoy." Focus on the job (your new work activities), not the "fringe" benefits.
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Old 02-29-2008, 09:40 PM   #5
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Right on bbbamI I second everything she said! (so double her .02!)
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Old 02-29-2008, 09:56 PM   #6
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Right on bbbamI I second everything she said! (so double her .02!)
Kewl. Wonder what we could buy with 4 cents?

One more point to the OP. Don't sell yourself short by saying that you don't want to be in mgt. A mgt position could come up that you would like and still be less stressful.
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Old 03-01-2008, 07:37 AM   #7
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I would simply say travel time is a quality of life issue and I am looking for an opportunity (not work) closer to home. Build your reason for job hunting around that.

However, you are going to have to balance that approach with why you think this new job in the public sector is of interest to you. Most bosses want someone who has an interest in their position, not just "I am looking for something else". You need to be able to adequately address questions about lower wages. Bosses do not want to hire someone who they think will quit soon because of wage discrepancies. Some might be concerned that you would take the local job and then immediately begin looking for a private sector job locally.

IMO - The change in lifestyle, closer to home, need less money is the best approach along with what interests you about the new opportunity is best. You can use the logic that money is not everything, you are looking at other aspects of the job. Do not spend time trying to be too convincing (going on and on with elaboration)... it will seem phony. Plus, what ever you do, do not say anything negative about the old job (seems obvious but thought I would mention it).

I would not comment on any assumptions you have about the public sector job being less demanding or less work. The interviewer may just get the impression that you are a slacker looking for an easy job.
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Old 03-01-2008, 08:25 AM   #8
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Most of the public sector jobs I've seen always advertise their salary range. Federal and State Gov't jobs, as well as local university positions etc.
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Old 03-01-2008, 08:39 AM   #9
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To me you would be a risky hire - not that I wouldn't - only because from the Employer's perspective - it is very hard to determine whether you really mean that you are willing to take less money. Have had mixed success with people taking paycuts as they come on board or make job changes.
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Old 03-01-2008, 08:51 AM   #10
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Yep, I'd look for 5 good reasons why you want the new job, with none of them being that its a lot easier on your home life than your old job.

Consider it from this perspective. Your current boyfriend is too much trouble to deal with, so you pitch yourself to a prospective suitor and explain that your attraction to him is that he picks up after himself, doesnt talk about sports as much and smells a little better than your current.

Is he gonna like that pitch?

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Old 03-01-2008, 01:01 PM   #11
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I agree with the above posters.
I do lots of hires for our non profit and we've had many people take a leap and pay cut to work with us. What we hear that doesn't ring alarm bells is: 1) i am very excited about the organization and your mission and that is important to me 2) the environment is something I am looking for (environment can be code to mean I like working with nice people even though we aren't being paid what others are) and 3) I've done that other stuff and I know for sure it isn't what I want to do (management - i think most people understand that one who have done it!) - unless they are looking for someone who can eventually fill that role.

I do agree with Chinaco that you don't want to say anything that infers that this job should be any less demanding - I've had a few interviews where people say essentially something like that and that is an immediate flag and they are usually put in the NO category!

I would also assume that the public sector job - the salary is much more fixed so you should know the ceiling coming in and that it won't move much, especially if it's govmt.
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Old 03-01-2008, 01:36 PM   #12
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is this part your answer?
I tend to stay at the same job for several years. I don’t believe I will find this job boring. Even if I do, I expect to use the additional free time from less commuting to do a number of rewarding things in my personal life that I am unable to do now – providing a big incentive to stay.

i see where you are coming from, but it needs rephrasing to tell the prospective employeer what you will do for them.

try these (if they fit for you) -

i am looking at public sector work for long term employment and stability. i want to make a positive contribution in my local community.

less commuting time means more energy and time to focus on my work and family (in that order)

i did a trade-off analysis between a high salary position at great distance and a lower salary position closer to home, and that was the basis for my decision to seek remployment.

i prefer public sector emplyment to private because......

tailor to your own desires...
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Old 03-01-2008, 02:02 PM   #13
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For better or worse, employers don't want to hear that applicants are seeking "work-life balance."

They may be enlightened employers who believe that a workforce that is encouraged to seek a balance may be happier and more productive while on the job...but that still doesn't mean they really "shine" on an applicant who mentions that a "work life balance" is the most important thing to them. They may interpret that as someone who can't hack it during crunch time in those times when everyone has to roll up their sleeves and give a little bit more.
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Old 03-02-2008, 09:06 AM   #14
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I would simply say travel time is a quality of life issue and I am looking for an opportunity (not work) closer to home. Build your reason for job hunting around that.
That is good advice, even if it does come from a clown with green hair.

I have interviewed and hired before and I understand that quality of life is a major consideration for many people. I want people who are going to fit in with my group and stay for several years and be happy. One other thing that has been mentioned in other posts that you want to do is learn as much as you can about the company and the position. Ask questions in the interview. Know beforehand why you want this position. I always ask why an interviewee wants the position. --Worst response I ever heard to that question was, "I'm not that interested in the position; I am really interested in the retirement benefits." Needless to say, that individual was shown the door.
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Old 03-02-2008, 09:11 AM   #15
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Worst response I ever heard to that question was, "I'm not that interested in the position; I am really interested in the retirement benefits." Needless to say, that individual was shown the door.
It doesn't always pay to tell the truth, does it?
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"Hey, for every ten dollars, that's another hour that I have to be in the work place. That's an hour of my life. And my life is a very finite thing. I have only 'x' number of hours left before I'm dead. So how do I want to use these hours of my life? Do I want to use them just spending it on more crap and more stuff, or do I want to start getting a handle on it and using my life more intelligently?" -- Joe Dominguez (1938 - 1997)

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Old 03-02-2008, 03:39 PM   #16
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Consider it from this perspective. Your current boyfriend is too much trouble to deal with, so you pitch yourself to a prospective suitor and explain that your attraction to him is that he picks up after himself, doesnt talk about sports as much and smells a little better than your current.
Your place or mine?

Oh, wait, I've never had a real job...
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Old 03-02-2008, 04:29 PM   #17
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Wow, I cant believe it took two days for someone to hop on that one...
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Old 03-02-2008, 04:56 PM   #18
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Wow, I cant believe it took two days for someone to hop on that one...
I try real hard to stay out of job interview threads

Obviously not hard enough..
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Old 03-02-2008, 09:41 PM   #19
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Wow, I cant believe it took two days for someone to hop on that one...
I would've responded in 10 minutes but I was waiting for some of the other posters to take a shot first...
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Old 03-03-2008, 10:17 AM   #20
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Now I remember why I hate interviewing...
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