Easy Way To Say 8 Hour Day Is My Limit?

Dear J.T. & Dale: How do I tell a company that eight hours is my max? I have a life outside of work, and I want to live it. Is there a way, in an interview, to tactfully share that I will not work more than eight hours a day? — Katie

Dale: You don’t want to be tossing out your personal work rules till after you’ve won over the hiring manager and gotten the job offer. At that point, you can consider “the culture.” To get an honest answer, I’d try throwing out a bit of overstatement, something like, “What’s the culture like around here — do you guys come in on Saturdays and work till 9 or 10 every night?” That way, you give the hiring manager plenty of room to be candid without giving away your personal attitude.

J.T.: Holding back your opinions is wise, because you might come across a terrific job and the only downside is that your prospective boss answers Dale’s culture question with, “Well, we usually get out of here at five, but once a quarter we have extra record-keeping, and we end up working late a night or two.” If, early in the interview, you had blurted out, “Before we go any further, I have to tell you I will NOT work for more than eight hours on any given day,” you’d never learn the real situation and wouldn’t get the chance to decide if the occasional long day is worth the job.

Dale: Get the offer, then the information; then make the decision. But I should warn you, Katie, that you probably won’t find too many employers agreeing to strict limits on work hours, unless you’re paid by the hour and they hate paying overtime. It’s a buyer’s market.

J.T.: And it’s always good to remember that we get back what we put in. Limiting your time commitment also could limit your advancement and earning potential.

Dale: Which is another way of saying make sure you know what you’re saying no to.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success” (John Wiley & Sons). Please visit them at www.jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

2 Responses

  1. Cynthia Says:

    Having been in management 23+ years, I would say the suggestions noted above are excellent. But, based on your question what comes to mind for me is that I would only offer the following expanded information: as they mentioned looking for a job posting that pays hourly and a company that doesn’t like to pay OT (most don’t because it not only increases the obvious salary expense & causes havoc in maintaining pre-determined payroll budgets, but also depending on how their benefits are structured can increase costs there as well, and causes increased costs for workmen’s comp insurance premiums as well– thus impacting more than the simple payroll budget); most similar to hourly but with a bit more security would be a salary non-exempt position (which also entails OT pay over 8 hours depending on the position’s classification and/or state you are in-for ex. CA requires OT pay over 8 hours for ALL non-exempt positon, I’m not sure about other states that might also.)

    You don’t indicate what field or line of work you are in, but you might concentrate your search by looking for businesses which keep limited hours of operation for their customers (such as banks and some local government, or other government related-however federal government positions-even more so generally than local gov’t positions-usually requires passing rigorous and very detailed background checks for clearance approvals (and rightly so-but often prospective employees are offended by the breadth and depth of the investigation requirements, or they will fail to meet the criteria & must be terminated at that point-which may be a few months into the job); additonally you might be on the lookout for jobs where normally employees do NOT have access to the workplace after normal business hours (& business hours are limited to 8 hrs/day; ie. you have to be authorized to “carry keys” to enter or leave the building after normal business hours).
    In other words do as much detailed research about the company as possible before applying.

    Generally I would suggest that you NOT consider a position in healthcare, retail, hotel & hospitality, or call center support or other such buisnesses that operate around the clock,or with regularly extended hours, or that have a tendency to have large seasonal peaks in their business operations (such that they may regulary experience short periods of manpower shortages although repetitive they are short enough to not be worthy of hiring additonal staff, or where the work is too detailed or has unique job specific requirements that make hiring temps from an agency to absorb the additional work unrealistic).

    If any of these is where your past work experience lies, you might consider obtaining qualifications for another field, because by ‘the nature of the beast’ these areas are the MOST likely to need OT work, although in most cases, in my experience, companies strive for OT paid work to be done on a voluntary basis, although I have heard of companies that will REQUIRE hourly employess to work OT when additional work is called for, generally that type of “mandantory” environment is indicated up front.
    And, in my experience,unless you are in management (where often an over 8 hr. work day is more likely “expected” or more likely to be needed with some regularity), most businesses really strive to maintain an 8 hr work day for their employees.

    If you are in management, or healthcare, and want to keep to an 8 hr. day rigorously, (then, in my opinion, likely gov’t is your best industry potential)surely you must realize, in this work climate even more than before, (I think) your search will be very narrow and take a very long time, and hopefully you always work at peak efficiency, and have some specialized experience, training, or capabilites that gives you an edge. But regardless, the approaches suggested by JT & Dale are an excellent means to tactfully assess the expectations for the position you are interviewing for, if it was not indicated by your interviewer, or the job description.

  2. Matthew Says:

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