Answering the Interview Question About Your Work Hours

Time sheet due written on a sticky note stuck to a telephone

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Interview questions about how much you work can be tricky because employers ask this for a variety of reasons. Some employers may ask how many hours you work because they want to know that you manage your time effectively and complete your work efficiently.ā€‹  

Others want to know that you are willing to work long hours for the good of the company. At some companies, the norm is a 40-hour week and everyone goes home on time. But at some companies, everyone might toil for 50 or 60 hours per week without question.

Be careful how you answer these questions because every employer is looking for something slightly different in your response.

How to Answer Questions About Work Hours

Think carefully before you reply about how many hours per week you work. While you don't want to be construed as a slacker, neither you want to come across as a workaholic, or for that matter, someone who cannot finish tasks in a reasonable amount of time.

Plus, it can be hard to know if your interviewer is looking for an answer that demonstrates your efficiency or one that shows you're willing to work well over the standard 40-hour workweek. In fact, if you interview with several people in a company, each of them might have a different perspective on what they want to hear in response to this question. 

Your safest bet, therefore, is to avoid stating a specific number of hours unless the interviewer insists. 

Instead, speak more generally about the way you typically complete your work. This gives you some leeway in your answer and allows you to play up some of your strengths, like your efficiency, time management, or persistence.

Before your interview, learn something about the company culture. If the business clearly values people who work only the required number of hours, emphasize your organizational and time management skills that enable you to complete tasks on time.

If you know the company requires employees to work long hours, emphasize your flexibility and willingness to work extra hours to complete major projects. But unless you're absolutely sure about the company culture and expectations, the safest answer is to state that you work as much as necessary to get the job done.

Your response will demonstrate that you're willing to work hard without committing to an exact number of hours per week.

What to Avoid in Your ResponseĀ 

As seen above, you should try not to pin yourself down to a specific number of hours. But that's not all you want to avoid in your answer. 

Skip negative comments about working overtime, since long hours may be typical at the company. However, if you are unable or unwilling to work certain hours ā€” past sunset on Fridays for religious reasons, for instance ā€” now is a good time to make that clear.  

Avoid any response that could make it sound like you work inefficiently (e.g., "Since I'm slow to get started in the morning, I usually wind up having to stay late once everyone else has left the office."). Make sure your response doesn't make you seem lazy or imply that people who work short hours are lazy. 

Examples of the Best Answers

  • "I have always been able to create and maintain an efficient work schedule that allows me to work on the same number of hours per week. Of course, when I am working on a particularly important or difficult project, I am happy to occasionally increase those hours to produce my best work."
  • "While I know this job requires me to work a set number of hours every week, I am always willing to come in early or stay late to help complete a task. While I work efficiently, I will go above and beyond when my colleagues need me."
  • "I'm committed to working with the team, so I'm willing to pitch in extra hours when my group is under the gun."
  • "Work-life balance is important to me, so I work extremely hard on weekdays so that I can complete my duties and focus on my family on the weekends. I will certainly come in on occasional weekends whenever needed, but I think my time management skills will make that the exception rather than the rule."