I live in a country with no distinction between exempt and non-exempt jobs.

In my country you are always officially required to work the number of hours specified in your contract and you are forbidden by law to work more than 10 hours a day. In practice some companies are famous for making you work much longer. If you don't you lose your job.

I'm currently applying for a position and passed the initial stages. It's not one of the companies famous for making to work longer, the opposite is true actually.

During the initial stages I was asked about my salary expectation and phrased it as "at least x per year". I thought I was giving my salary expectation for working 8-9 h a day.

Now however, I have strong reasons to think that my would-be-boss may actually expect people to work 10-12 h a day. I would like to clarify it before accepting the position since, whereas I'm ok with working longer, I'm not ok with working it while being paid what I previously named as my minimum acceptable salary.

How to ask about the overtime without burning bridges? How should I phrase it?

  • Europe is a big place. Countries can be very different, with different laws and different customs. So please tell the country, because otherwise nobody cam give you proper advice.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 17, 2018 at 7:59
  • @gnasher729, this isn't a question about laws or regulations, for which my exact location would matter. And I explained the context at the beginning of the post.
    – user87133
    Jun 17, 2018 at 8:13
  • 1
    @european333 the working time directive also applies and regular 50 hour weeks would be illegal under that Jun 17, 2018 at 11:39
  • @Neuromancer true.. although the WTD is trivially overcome with a waiver clause built into the contract. They can't make you sign it but they can just decline to employ you if you don't.
    – motosubatsu
    Jun 18, 2018 at 7:49

3 Answers 3


There are two possibilities really: Either there is no overtime or paid overtime, or they expect you to work unpaid overtime. In the first case, asking doesn't burn any bridges. In the latter case, you burn a bridge that needs burning. Unless of course you enjoy being ripped off by your employer.

  • I think the burning bridges question is a bit more subtle. If it's just one bad manager inside an organisation which is generally good, you might not want to burn bridges with the organisation while still not taking the job. Jun 17, 2018 at 10:58

If you don't want to be direct about it, you can ask something like "What time do people typically arrive at and leave the office?". But frankly, you know what you're asking here, and so does any hiring manager with more than two brain cells.

So long as you continue to act professionally through the rest of the application process, this shouldn't burn any bridges. You haven't been offered the job yet, and even if you are you can always give the generic "not the right fit for me at this time" rain for declining.


You know you cannot be direct about it.

An underhanded way might be in the next interview you do not have time until a bit late in the night for the meeting. (sounds strange, but I had already interviews ending at 0930PM. I tend to shy way from places like that)

However, nowadays you find many informal enterprise evaluations in glassdoor.com. The site allows anonymous posts, so when interviewing, it is one of main points of evaluating a prospective employer.

Usually those kind of things can also be found through the grapevine. Ask round friends in the industry, and ask them to ask friends of friends, someone might know someone who works there.

  • There is no culture of staying late at the company and in the country generally - it's not Spain. But I have reasons to think that it's different in this business unit of the company and the unit is not big enough for me to learn it "through the grapevine".
    – user87133
    Jun 17, 2018 at 9:28
  • The industry is not that big and people usually network extensively...For instance, a supplier of trust might work with them. Usually also it varies in the field, finance and the big 5 on consulting tend to work insane hours. I would be more concerned on asking it there is a rotating on-call system and how much extra they pay for that, if that applies to your field of work. Jun 17, 2018 at 9:30

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