All that is at stake in a professional job interview can lead to the interviewee falling prey to nerves and wasting the opportunity. Talking too much, not being specific in their answers, and even being too cautious in their replies. And in the case of the interviewer, they may make the mistake of not presenting the requirements of the job in detail or not explaining the company’s policies thoroughly. You would be surprised how many times the candidate returns home without knowing very well the conditions, working hours or incentives for the reconciliation of work and family life. Such a lack of clarity can deprive both parties of the opportunity to formalise a future – and profitable – partnership.
Any organisation that prides itself on putting its team first will understand its employees and work to meet their work-life needs and desires based on their personalities and work expectations. While companies alone cannot provide 100% work-life balance for their employees (they must accept some responsibility in changing their attitudes towards work and family life), there are many things they can do to help employees find and maintain a balance that is right for them.
So, since it’s already an agreed priority, why isn’t there a specific section for Work-Life Balance in job interviews, as there is for salary or holidays? A two-way sort of thing to break the ice.
From the interviewer’s side, the company’s own philosophy and processes should provide mechanisms to address the process in a natural way. The interviewee should not be the one to bring up the subject because, due to embarrassment or fear of being penalised for proposing it, it may be left on the back burner.
It’s therefore important that companies become aware of the advantages of implementing a work-life balance policy. Even if doing so implies tackling a cultural change within the business organisation which, in the most extreme cases, may even force it to transform its organisational values.
The most natural route is from the inside out, instilling the right organisational culture so that future recruitment interviews are merely an extension of internal management, not an easily dismantled imposture. The experts at Escuela de Negocios y Direccion (Bussiness and Management School) divide this culture into three levels and there is no need to mention which is the right one:
Cultur F: of fear. One in which there is no communication and each individual remains isolated. It generates mediocrity and leads to manipulation. The most important thing is status and power.
Culture I: intermediate. This is a very hierarchical structure, where information flows, but is insufficient. As a result, the employee can feel powerless since he/she is not fully involved in the processes.
Culture T: of trust. There’s a relationship of communication and trust between the leader and the employees. It encourages development and competence. The most important thing is the person. Employees assume responsibilities and contribute to the processes.
How to avoid the pitfalls of a failed job interview
And from the interviewee’s perspective, it’s enough to approach the taboo subject with a sense of decorum. Working late from time to time, coming into the office on weekends or going beyond the job description may be acceptable in a one-off or extraordinary circumstance. But we all deserve to work for a company that values personal life and understands flexibility.
The balance is to show your concerns while underlining commitment and accountability in your performance. This opens up a two-way process that leaves no room for misunderstandings about false excuses for leaving the office early.
The starting point, therefore, must be to define what work/life balance means for each individual. While for some departments teleworking is a real option, for others it is not. But, in return, they allow greater flexibility in developing the working week.
And the same is true for employees. While in some cases work-life balance may mean being at home for dinner with the family every evening, in others it may simply mean being able to take extra time each day at lunchtime to go to the gym. The earlier the needs are addressed, the quicker they’ll be resolved. That’s why respect and naturalness should be the order of the day in that process.
But just as interviewees must be prepared to raise their concerns, they must also be prepared to address the interviewer’s concerns. Even if at first the views do not fit together, causing some friction.
These situations are not common, but they should not be ruled out. Some approaches may seem ill-advised for an initial contact. But before being carried away by the first impulse, it’s advisable to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Don’t forget that there’s a very specific reason behind every question an interviewer asks. Accepting this approach will make things easier, and the two-way questions will help our work-life balance.
Identifying which elements are absolutely decisive and which ones could be compromised by both parties can save a lot of headaches later on. Because more and more professionals, especially those with senior profiles, favour an organisation that informs them about its work-life balance policy rather than one that doesn’t. For this reason, it’s advisable to address corporate culture from the very first contact.
Professionals value very positively those companies that empower them to manage their own time according to their personal and work needs, knowing that they have the absolute confidence that no matter how they organise their work-life balance, they will deliver on time. And the better both parties define their respective needs, the better the process will work.