It's not uncommon for employers to inquire about your work hours. Interviewers may be interested in learning about your work ethic, and how much time you dedicate to your job. For instance, an employer may ask:
- How many hours do you typically work in a week?
- Do you often work late nights?
- Do you bring work home to do over the weekend?
Find out why employers are interested in exploring your work hours—and get tips for how to give a strong response.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
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.
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 Your Work
Think carefully before you reply to questions about how many hours per week you work. While you don't want to be construed as a slacker, neither do you want to come across as a workaholic, or for that matter, someone who cannot finish tasks in a reasonable amount of time.
Your safest bet, therefore, is to avoid stating a specific number of hours unless the interviewer insists.
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.
Learn About Company Culture
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.
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.
Discuss How You Complete Your Work
Speak 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.
Examples of the Best Answers
Example Answer #1
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.
Why It Works: In this response, the candidate emphasizes their efficiency and flexibility, two skills that are valued by employers.
Example Answer #2
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.
Why It Works: In this response, the candidate makes it clear that they're committed to getting work done, even if it means working longer hours.
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.
Why It Works: This answer showcases that the employee has important boundaries and also strong time management. However, the candidate is careful not to show a willingness to relax boundaries around weekend work for crunch times.
Tips for Giving the Best Answer
- Do your research. Certain industries and companies are known for having long hours, and employees that prioritize putting in the hours. For instance, if you're applying for a role at a company that offers perks like free dry cleaning for employees or offers free meals on the company campus, that's a good signal that, in return, managers will expect employees to work long hours. At other companies, the culture may skew toward strict nine-to-five hours, with late nights seen as a reflection that an employee has poor time management. You'll be able to give a stronger response if you research the company and industry beforehand.
- Talk about your work style, not time. While the question is about hours, it's best to avoid giving numbers in your response. Instead, focus on how you do your work—you can talk about how you stay on schedule.
- Emphasize your commitment to completing projects and tasks on time. Even a company that's eager to provide employees with a good work-life balance will often want to know that you're willing to put in the time when it counts. It can be helpful to note that you're willing to work extended hours to help colleagues in need or to launch important projects.
What Not to Say
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—here are more things to stay away from as you frame your response:
- Skip negative comments about working overtime. After all, it's possible long hours may be typical at the company. However, if you are unable or unwilling to work certain hours—past sunset on Fridays for religious reasons, for instance—now is a good time to make that clear.
- Don't imply laziness—for yourself, or others. You don't want to give an answer 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"). It's also important to avoid implying that people who work short hours are lazy.
- Reflect the industry. Remember, in some industries, working lots of hours is seen as a badge of honor, while, in others, it's viewed as a sign of inefficiency. Orient your response accordingly.
Possible Follow-Up Questions
- Describe your work ethic. - Best Answers
- What type of work environment do you prefer? Best Answers
- How would you handle it if there was a problem with a member of your team not doing their fair share of work? Best Answers
- Get to know the company—and industry—culture before your interview to frame your answer appropriately.
- Even with research, it's tricky to know what employers want to hear, so focus more on your work style than how many hours you'll work.
- Don't make any negative comments about overtime (since it may be required) or imply that people who don't work long hours are lazy.