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5 Sneaky Ways to Check if There’s Good Work-Life Balance at a Company You’re Interviewing For

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Joanne Poh

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If you think Singaporeans only care about money, you’re wrong. While money used to be the biggest factor influencing Singaporeans’ career decisions, people now care a lot more about work-life balance.

A 2015 survey revealed that 57% of the Singaporeans surveyed said they would pick better work-life balance over higher pay, while one conducted just recently says what we already knew—55% of Singaporeans have complained that work eats into their family time.

I’m not sure if it’s because people are working longer and longer hours, or because values have changed—I suspect it’s a combination of both. But lots of Singaporeans’ greatest nightmare is showing up on the first day at work only to discover that they’ve joined a company where everyone slogs away till midnight.

It’s not always easy to tell if a job you’re interviewing for will have you working like a slave. If you’re really paranoid, here are some sneaky ways to check.

 

Drop by in the evening

In a company where employees face poor work-life balance, the office is routinely full at 8pm and later. If you can orchestrate a chance meeting or conveniently walk by on a weekday evening, you might be able to see for yourself just how serious the situation is. This is viable for smaller offices in buildings without security, since you can just rock up to the company without having to use an access pass.

For companies in big, fancy CBD buildings, this can be a lot trickier, since outsiders aren’t exactly able to wander around at all hours. However, there are some ways you might be able to drop by nonetheless, such as by dropping off a hard copy of your resume by hand beforehand or retrieving that umbrella you “accidentally” left behind during the interview. If you’re able to schedule the interview after office hours that’s a great opportunity to spy, too.

 

Stalk employees on social media

This is something I admit I’ve done too. If you’re interviewing for a company whose employees are on Facebook, stalk their social media posts and you’re usually able to see if they have lives outside of work. First check LinkedIn to pull up profiles of people at the company, preferably those at a similar level of seniority to yourself and who are doing the same job, then search for them on Facebook.

True story: years ago I was offered a job at a particular company. The interviewer mentioned that the department I would be joining was a “sweatshop” (his actual words). Obviously alarm bells went off in my head, and I checked the Facebook profiles of some friends of friends who were in that company. Lo and behold, I found countless posts about them being stuck in the office at 11pm, pulling all nighters and complaining about clients.

 

Check the company’s profile on Glassdoor

The website Glassdoor enables people to leave anonymous reviews of their employers. If your company (or the Singapore branch of your company, if it’s an MNC) is big enough, it might already have a profile on on the site, so check it out.

Submissions on the site are brutally candid about issues of work-life balance, quality of mentoring and career progression, so it can’t hurt to check, although you should be aware that these can differ greatly within big companies depending on your role.

 

Ask the recruiter

If you got your job through a recruiter, make sure you ask him or her about the work-life balance situation at the company. Also ask what time employees usually leave the office.

Most recruiters should be able to provide you with an estimate of the sorts of hours you’ll be working. I’ve had recruiters tell me most employees left on the dot, while others have made the guesstimate of about 7 or 8pm.

 

Ask the interviewer sneaky questions

Most of us don’t have the guts to ask an interviewer straight up, “So, what time am I going to be working until every day?” Some employers frown upon blatant questions about work-life balance, interpreting it as a sign that you’re not going to be dedicated to the job.

But there are some sneaky questions you can ask that can indirectly give you an idea as to what life in the company is like, such as the following:

  • What is a day in the life of someone in my role like?
  • What are the traits you look for most in your ideal candidate?
  • How would you describe the role you’re interviewing me for?
  • How often do employees get to work from home?

If the interviewer users words like “intense”, “fast-paced”, “short-handed” or “hardworking”, alarm bells should be going off in your head. Everyone knows that companies want to hire hardworking employees—if this trait is emphasised despite being so obvious, that’s a sign that the boss is someone who always pushes people to work even harder than they are already doing.

What is the work-life balance like in your current job? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • Selina Lim

    Great article! I would never have thought of such tactics, you learn something every day.