When interviewing for a new job, how can I phrase a question to determine how hard I would be expected to work? For example, how can I find out about things such as unofficial small breaks? I really hate being in the same building all day (or same room all day) and highly value the chance to get outside once in a while. I don't smoke, but notice people who do tend to get extra breaks to go outside.

Where I work now everyone is uptight and polices each other. How can I avoid getting into this type of job in the future?

Perhaps a related question, how can you learn about how flexible the started and end time of being at the work is? Where I work someone got written up for being 5 minutes late even though it didn't affect him doing his job and he made up the time elsewhere. I would prefer to work in a place that has no issue with +/-5 minutes each day unless there's a reason like a meeting.

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    Could ask them if a work ethic is important
    – Kilisi
    Sep 4, 2020 at 13:58
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    I'd be wary about asking this sort of question, as it may give a bad impression. Even if you ask about only ±5 minutes, they may assume it's much worse…
    – gidds
    Sep 5, 2020 at 0:03
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    I feel this question should get a location. Both what is considered common/ normal as well as what kind of questions are expected varies wildly between countries (and field of work).
    – quarague
    Sep 5, 2020 at 10:40
  • Rent a car with tinted windows, park across the street from the prospective employer from 8am to 2pm, and make note of how often people come and go.
    – sam
    Sep 9, 2020 at 23:07

2 Answers 2


First, take into account that sometimes recruiters are not totally transparent answering this type of questions. Having work in consultancy, I wasn't told how many extra hours I was supposed to stay in advance, and they were many in the end.

Despite that, in most occasions you can get some ideas about the situation you will face. If recruiters are smart enough, they will look for someone up to deal with the workload ahead. Some workarounds that don't show you as lazy could be:

  • Ask about the official time schedule. If people work more than expected, they will let you know by saying "officially our schedule is from 8am to 5pm, but people usually are very involved with their work and tend to stay longer if there is anything pending"
  • Related with the previous, ask about work flexibility (arriving late, working from home, having longer lunch breaks...)
  • Ask about the work culture and how is it a regular day in the office. They can disclose aspects as "usually we go out at 11am to discuss things while walking around the area/smoking/going for a coffee"
  • Ask if it is possible to have the contact of a future colleague. Usually they are more transparent and direct, and less prone to judgement.
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    I would reword arriving late and longer lunch breaks to "flex time as long as work hours are put in."
    – paulj
    Sep 4, 2020 at 12:44
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    "sometimes recruiters are not totally transparent" - sometimes?? Sep 5, 2020 at 7:15
  • The problem is you'll never know if they're lying. I had my recruiter tell me that the "official" schedule is between 9:30 am and 5:30pm, but that there's no official schedule, really, as long as my work is done. But now if you arrive after 9 am your coworkers will give you passive aggressive comments about it. And since all of them leave after 6:30 pm for some reason, they expect you to be there as well, and still give you tasks at 6pm.
    – Doliprane
    Sep 6, 2020 at 7:27
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    Another question is asking for the way clock in/out is handled. Do you clock in at the entrance or at your desk? Do you have to clock out for cigarette/coffee break?
    – jwsc
    Sep 7, 2020 at 13:35
  • Even in this job the manager lied to me in the interview. He said people get along well and hangout outside of work, and their are fun team building events. This can't possibly be true but is subjective enough it could be said. Nov 16, 2020 at 10:02

When interviewing for a new job, how can I phrase a question to determine how hard I would be expected to work?

When interviewing, you ask to chat with your future peers. Then you talk with them about what it's really like to work there.

Be open and honest. If you specifically value the chance to get outside once in a while, then ask how often they take a break and get outside. If you highly value flexibility in the start time, then ask what time folks start their work and what happens if they arrive a bit later.

Interviewing is a two-way street. You want to find a company that meets your needs as much as you meet theirs. If it comes across as lazy and you aren't hired, then you wouldn't have wanted to work there anyway.

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    like the 2way street part to this answer, as much as you want to impress the company, they must also want to impress me/you to join them
    – PeterH
    Sep 4, 2020 at 20:43

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