WIn job interviews, hiring managers often promise the world and then when you start working, they pull it back. This happened to a reader of mine. During the job interview, the hiring manager said:

"You should know that during busy periods, you will work more, and when things calm down, I will be generous/understanding with you and you can work from home or receive additional time off. You be understanding with us, and we'll be understanding with you." 

Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, it didn't turn out that way. The letter writer continues:

This has sadly not happened for two reasons: one, there never (ever) seems to be any downtime, and two, when I try to organize essentially time off/take off half a day for a family event/ attend a conference (even one where I am representing the company), my boss lets his extreme displeasure be known. He feels that I should be here, keeping an eye on the employees all the time, and ensuring smooth operations. 

After being overworked for quite some time, this work/home life imbalance has really gotten to me, and I am likely resigning in the next 3-4 months. I have tried discussing this issue with him to no avail whatsoever.

My question is the following: When the topic of why I am leaving my current position arises in job interviews, how can I discuss this imbalance without sounding lazy? It doesn't sound great to say, "I'm working far, far too much and have no balance in my life" at a job interview for upper management."

This is tough. We all want a work-life balance where we actually have time to have a life. Companies know this is important so they talk a big talk but then, as you found out, pull the rug out from under you once you're on board.

Here are some ideas on what to say in the interview:

Everybody did it. 

Talking about an overwhelming workload runs the risk of making you look like you can't manage your work. There are plenty of people who take 60 hours to do 20 hours worth of work, and you don't want anyone to think that you are that type of person. So, try saying, "It's standard in this company for managers to work 60-70 hours a week. While it's been great for building my knowledge, I'm looking for something with more regular hours."

This way, you're not whining, just stating a fact, and making it clear that it was the company, not just you.

Talk about the Micromanagement Aspect

Your problem isn't the insane hours, it's the difference in management styles. "I believe in hiring good people and giving them the support they need and then letting them do their own jobs. My current manager expects me to hover over my staff. Honestly, they perform better when they can use their own skills and creativity to get the job done. I'm looking for a job where I can use my proven management style." 

Honesty Works

"When I accepted my current job it was under the understanding that I would work crazy hours during the busy season, but would have a more flexible schedule during the rest of the year. That hasn't happened and isn't likely to happen in the future." 

Not every business has the same style and it's okay to say this one didn't work for you. Remember, you're interviewing the company at the same time they interview you. It's okay to talk about your own needs. You want a job that is a match, not just a job.

Things to Do Outside the Interview

Check reviews on Glassdoor and other sites. Ask other people who work there to describe a typical workweek. Drive by the office three or four times early in the morning and late in the evening and see how many cars are in the parking lot. If there are tons of cars there outside business hours, by all means, ask.

Remember, you're not being lazy if you want to do a good job and then go home. Don't project that image. Don't whine. Be straightforward. This is what I need. Then do your research to find out if it's the truth. 

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to