So what questions would give me answers to discovering a stay late culture. What should I look for with responses that give it away.

I'm a single dad, with 2 girls aged 7 & 10 and my wife died of stage 3C BC.

My last two employers were very snarky about me finishing on the dot at 5:30 pm contractual daily finish to pick up kids from after school club. The contractual hours were 9-5:30 with 30 min lunch and two 10 min breaks.

I cannot and will not pay for additional childcare. I want to spend quality time with my daughters before they go to bed.

  • Ask about work/life balance. Ask if they have a family friendly policy and ask to look at it
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 22:16
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    @Ourjamie - Do you live in Europe? Or Us? Or somewhere else. That may matter in the response
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 22:27
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    Ask about beers. If they have beers, the chances are that the culture is skewed toward millenials with no children or spouses. Or just ask about after-hours socializing. Sometimes even if you don't mention things like do they give enough notice for a person with obligations to plan, they'll proudly tell you they decide on the spur of the moment to have an after work gathering. These things are symptomatic. Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 23:38
  • My condolences. It is a very tough thing to go through. It helps if you can find a support group of people in similar circumstances that you can talk to. You might also ask about working remotely after hours, so you can pick up the kids, spend time with them and then work after they go to bed if that logistically works for you.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 19:33
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    I have answered this on other related threads, but my go to question is 'Tell me about a typical day?'. I ask this of an interviewer that is not a manager when they get to the inevitable 'do you have any other questions?' Good luck, as a Dad I look for places that are flexible or have a culture that generally fits my lifestyle. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 22:29

4 Answers 4


I think being Frank is the best bet. If your employer cannot understand that you have other commitments (that are far more important than the job) they are not worth working for.

A good employer would recognize a good employee that is able to be good at organizing. If the employer cannot organize the work in such a way that extra hours are not required then they have poor organizational/resourcing skills. Many good employers realise that having a health work/life balance is key to having productive employees.

I wish you all the best in finding a good job that is a good fit. If the company has a family friendly policy and they are snarky then I would try to ignore those that are snarky. It is unfair if you turn up early in the morning and leave early when they turn up late and leave late.


How should I phase questions to discover if a job has a stay late culture

Tactfully. You want to avoid giving the interviewer the impression that you're against all forms of overtime, as occasional overtime ("crunch time") is typical in IT. Because of that, Alison Green recommends not bringing this up until the offer stage:

I would wait until you’re offered the job before you ask about this directly.

Yes, ideally you could talk about this as part of a discussion of workplace culture in the interview itself, but I would really rather you not give them any reason to misinterpret that question that stage. (The risk is that they’ll think you’re asking because you’re going to be a pain in the ass about working anything over 40 hours, ever.) So it’s safer to wait until they’ve already decided that they want you.

Once you get an offer, when you’re asking whatever other questions you need answered, ask about typical hours too. Say something like this: “What are typical hours in your culture? I.T. needs can pop up around the clock, of course, but I’ve worked places where 70-hour weeks were standard and places that were much closer to 40. Where did the person previously in this job tend to land on that scale?”

You could also come out and be really straightforward about it, if you wanted to: “I’ve worked plenty of 70-hour weeks in the past, but now I’m at a stage in my career where I’m seeking more balance in my life. The nature of I.T. work is that there will always be some after-hours and weekend work, sometimes with no notice, and I’m fine with that — but I’m looking for something where that’s more of the exception than the rule. Is that something that sounds like a fit with your culture or would I be setting us both up for problems by having that mindset?

Source: how can I avoid jobs that expect 70-hour work weeks?, Alison Green, Ask a Manager, 2011-02-02

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    I don't have issues with overtime, but I have to plan it well in advance. Knee-jerk overtime is unacceptable as if you don't pick kids up one of several things may happen. Large increase in charge. Frequent out of hours pick-ups can lead to either a notification to social services or an ASBO Actually the nature of IT work is that it can be 24/7 if managed and planed and co-located well. You appear to have missed the fact that there are two young children involved in this.
    – Ourjamie
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 22:32
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    @Ourjamie I didn't realise you were from the UK, this answer is written largely from a US perspective where such overtime is very common in IT jobs. The tone of my answer still largely applies, just change up the "with no notice" and customise the script to fit your situation.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 22:35
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    @JoeStrazzere Then like I said to the OP in my previous comment: change up the script to specify that. Realistically, many IT jobs will be non-starters with that limitation so you could bring that up in earlier interviews to avoid wasting time. It's going to make job searching much harder either way.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 13:13

Actually I've realised the only way to deal with this is be blunt. State my circumstances, two young children with dead mother, if I have to explain further then, there is more serious issues with the job than worrying about having to stay late

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    If you actually say "dead mother", people are going to think you're looking for sympathy. A simple "I'm a single parent, and I'm looking for an employer that is understanding and accepting of my parental obligations" should drive home the same point.
    – alroc
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 0:20
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    I used that phrase as an illustration and out of a sense of gallows humour. Maybe here I was unconsciously for sympathy and I think I must have been. I haven't had an opportunity to get counselling of any sort yet. I offer my apologies.
    – Ourjamie
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 0:27
  • being upfront about your commitments is the best option.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 6:02
  • In addition to discussing in a frank easy, try not to think if it as a potential problem when you do. If you don't think it's a problem that will affect your performance, then there's a great chance they won't either. Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 12:07
  • I'm not familiar with UK culture in this respect, but here in California it's pretty common to ask during an interview what the average/expected hours worked per week by team is and also whether it's common to put in much overtime during releases. Most jobs I've worked at, this was a fairly important part of the culture and not hidden. When I interviewed someone and team culture was 50 or 60 hours per week, I wanted them to know b4 they took the job so they weren't surprised. At current job, the 40 hour family friendly culture is a selling point that I also like to mention. Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 12:13

I think it's great to be blunt, but there's a strategic way to communicate that to avoid the perception that you're going to be a strict 9-5 employee.

Here's what I think you should do

  1. Find a company where the people you're going to be working with are in a similar situation (have family). If you care at all about growing with this company, getting along with your coworkers and getting raises it's only in your best interest to be on a level playing field.
  2. When you do find a company with people in your situation and/or age bracket casually mention that you have kids and you're a single dad. I don't think you need to mention that your wife passed right now, it could be seen that your mind is definitely not going to be at work, you need to decide if you can handle the job, not everyone else.

Some additional thoughts:

  • Some employers will flat out tell you that they expect you to occasionally work extra hours which is great because you know this job might not be a great fit.
  • I think your first 3-6 months is the time to build that first impression and prove yourself. If you can't stay late at all I suggest trying to come in 30 min early occasionally. Showing the company that you care about it goes a long way. Everyones situation differs so anyway you can pull that off will be a good thing (maybe spend 30 min. on the weekend researching something that was discussed on Friday)

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