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Finding a Lifestyle-Friendly Employer - 4 Key Questions to Ask

By Nancy Collamer

Are you searching for a more lifestyle-friendly employer?

If so, you likely have discovered that finding an employer that values work-life balance is no simple task.

Even among companies that have won awards for their work-life policies, the actual use of those policies tends to vary from department to department and manager to manager.

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How can you determine if a company is a good place to work?

You need to do your homework and prepare to ask smart questions during the interview, but you'll want to ask them in a way that doesn't set off alarm bells with the interviewer. To help you do that, here are four questions that should give you a better feel for the corporate culture and priorities, without being too obvious about your concerns in the process:

1. In what ways is a career with your company better than one with your competitors?

This question allows the interviewer to focus on whatever she wishes. If the company does indeed offer a great work environment, she will likely tout that in her answer, and if not, she will choose to highlight other things. Listen for an answer that includes references to work-life balance or a friendly corporate culture. Be wary if the employer references on-the-job "perks" such as catered lunches or on-site dry cleaners that tend to be used by companies where long working hours are the norm.

2. What do you enjoy most about working here?

Here again, this is a safe open-ended question that can lead to some interesting responses and insights. It's a smart way to ask about the corporate culture without seeming overly eager to hear about options for flexibility. Interpret it as a good sign if the employer responds to this question with lots of energy and enthusiasm.

3. What characteristics do the achievers in this company seem to share?

Is this the type of place that places a big premium on face time? Do they only promote people who put in long hours or do they value results, creativity, and teamwork as being equally important? Try to determine if people who work flexible hours have been promoted as often as those who log long hours at work.

4. What qualities are you looking for in the candidate who fills this position?

Is more emphasis placed on accomplishments than on" face time"? Is the employer willing to allow you the freedom to determine how to get a job done even if that means you occasionally work from home or leave work early? Be wary of employers that respond to this question by emphasizing the need for someone who is "committed to the job" or " willing to do whatever is needed" or other descriptors that reveal a bias towards employees willing to put work above their personal lives.

Other clues...

Finally, don't forget to pay attention to other indicators of the company culture when you go for your interview. Are people smiling? Is the office comfortable and attractive? Do people have personal photos or memorabilia on display? Those little visual clues can reveal meaningful information about the company's values and work environment.


About the author...

Nancy Collamer, M.S.,is a career coach, speaker, and author of the new book Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement (Random House, 2013). In private practice since 1996, Nancy gained national prominence in her tenure as the Career Transitions columnist for Oxygen Media. She has spoken at venues ranging from Harvard Business School to the California Governors Conference on Women. Please connect with Nancy on Twitter @NancyCollamer and on her website at MyLifestyleCareer.com.


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