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In the "Work for us" section of the website of the company I'm applying to, there is a mention about "Demonstrating willingness to meet challenging deadlines". This made me think that I should show them I can work hard by telling how I pulled all-nighters to finish some projects during my previous job.

However, shortly after it also made me think that they could interpret it as a possible liability, considering laws about work-hours and such.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland May 18 '17 at 14:59
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In my experience, "pulling all nighters" isn't perceived as someone dedicated as one would hope. It's typically perceived as someone who has poor planning skills.

I wouldn't mention all-nighters except in context of there being an unforeseen emergency that needed to be dealt with. Otherwise you'll likely have your ability to manage your time questioned. Basically, you want to tell them that you'll do whatever it takes but find a way to imply that it's always been because something that you couldn't predict happened to screw things up and by working all night in those rare cases it was necessary, you were the team-player everybody loves and saved the day.

It's a fine line actually. You did it, but you did it because of someone else's mistake and you were a hero to clean up after it.

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    Wow, that makes perfect sense. I'm going to leave it out of my resume because it would take too much space to explain every unforeseen circumstance, but I'll probably tell about it if I get an interview. – Dryr May 16 '17 at 4:14
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    Yes, unless you're a main troubleshooter this is totally correct. – Kilisi May 16 '17 at 5:23
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    I have very little faith in all-nighters as an effective problem solving strategy. There have been too many occasions when I have gone to sleep thinking about a problem, and woken up with a new insight into it. Sleep is an important part of the human brain's information processing. – Patricia Shanahan May 16 '17 at 10:38
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    @PatriciaShanahan Of course you realize there is more to it than the way you're putting it. Let's say you're a lawyer and you're top client gets arrested at 4:30pm with a bail hearing at 8:00am, that night's sleep doesn't help you if the solution is due too early. Let's say you're running the IT dept and the network goes down because some series of hardware fails. It doesn't help to sleep when every hour of downtime costs $1000s or more. Obviously if your problem is such that a solution at 8:00am is not worth more than a solution at 5:00pm then it is better to sleep, for example. – Dean MacGregor May 16 '17 at 20:59
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    @DeanMacGregor at least in the UK, what you describe isn't "pulling an all-nighter." It's "being available 24-hour callout", it is part of your official job, and most likely your employment contract will state how much leave you get from "normal working hours" to compensate for it if it happens. Source: personal experience. Of course, putting that on your CV is perfectly OK, since it also shows that your employer trusts you to work competently without supervision. – alephzero May 16 '17 at 22:56
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No, I wouldn't mention it, as it's nothing to be proud of.

You may as well put a post-it on your back that reads, "Kick Me!", like kids on a playground. Given the wrong supervision, you're going to get run into the ground. As the other responses have mentioned, it's a symptom of a lot of poor planning. But it's also a symptom of poor boundaries on your part. There is no shortage of posts here from people who deeply regret, after ten or fifteen years, doing exactly what you're doing, for not much more than lousy health, empty promises, and a deplorable work-life balance.

People need sleep. But they also require time to get a good meal and digest it while not under stress. There's also time with friends and family, or time to do nothing whatsoever. You may be in a situation where you don't have anyone else to take care of, so all-nighters don't have much discernible impact on your health. But over time, this behavior will take its toll. You have to allow your body to de-stress, or the longer you go at this, the more pronounced the effects will be.

Love yourself. Work doesn't love you back.

  • "All nighter" might actually be part of the job though. Database administrators, for example, might have to stay awake all night fixing problems that they had no fault in creating. – mkingsbu May 16 '17 at 17:26
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    @mkingsbu In those jobs, the hope is that all-nighters are the exception instead of the rule, and you get paid more specifically for being willing to be on-call. – Kevin May 16 '17 at 17:47
  • OP didn't indicate he wasn't applying for one of those jobs. If I was hiring someone for an on-call position I would not think it a negative that they pulled all nighters. – mkingsbu May 16 '17 at 17:50
  • @mkingsbu A good system administrators will have automated tasks to maintain and diagnose the health of the system in order to see and plan for issue in advance. However, I agree that hacker attack are harder to foresee, but they are very infrequent and the administrators should be on the lookout for vulnerabilities in his system anyway. So I would say it come down to bad planning too. Unless work is scheduled at night. – AXMIM May 16 '17 at 19:54
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    This is the answer I came here to give. You teach people how to treat you. If you tell them that you'll work all-nighters, that's what they'll expect. Its setting a really bad precedent. – user5621 May 17 '17 at 7:40
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I would not mention it without context. Responding for this position demonstrates willingness already, as you have read it and still responded to it.

Sure, it might make them think "Wow, this person will be there when we need him!", but they might also think "Nice, someone who we can give the extra work too, he'll do it." or "Wow, social life much?"

Yes, it might be pesimistic and the other end of the spectrum, but without context it can easily give off the 'pushover' vibe, instead of the intended dedication.
If you get into an interview (or got the job and your boss/manager asks you about it), you can say that though you don't prefer it to be a habit, you are willing to pull it some extra hours when the need is high.

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I would not mention pulling all nighters. I would probably also avoid this company altogether.

Firstly, it needs convincing context in that is was outside your range of influence to prevent that the situation even occurred. First of all, this requires it to be actually the case. At the same time, I would avoid mentioning poor planning by other people in your company or among your partners, to not talk poorly about them (which in itself would be a bad sign).

Secondly, it puts your ability to differentiate between work and personal time in danger. It may appear as if you have trouble keeping a healthy balance. In other words, you seem to not know your limits and may burn out soon - thus, makes you appear a risky candidate.

Thirdly, is working for a company like this even a goal? You probably would not want to work in an environment where overtime before deadlines were so frequent that they were even referred to in the job description. (It was not mentioned explicitly, this is a stretch remark interpreting their advertisement.)

In the above, I've focused on some negative aspects, because I consider them more weighty in this case. There are definitely good ones, too, and it is a judgement call you have to make.

  • @JoeStrazzere Personally, I know at least some examples where the negative interpretation was the right one. But it's surely not definitive. This answer is meant as complementary. – mafu May 16 '17 at 15:12
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In my experience, in start up culture, all nighters or staying late happens. Things come up and they need to be dealt with. It is nothing special. That's why I wouldn't put it on my resume; it is nothing special.

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This made me think that I should show them I can work hard by telling how I pulled all-nighters to finish some projects during my previous job.

I would be very hesitant to set this precedent before you even interview for the job. I don't know about you, but I do not want to go into a job with the expectation that I can be relied on to pull an all-nighter to cover someone else's mistake, be it a co-worker's or the client's. If it so happens that, yes, the sky is falling and someone absolutely has to stay at work until the issue is fixed, I want it understood that I am making a personal sacrifice of my time to do so, not that this is my typical modus operandi.

So, no, I would not mention it on the application. If it comes up during an interview, spin it to the effect that you pulled the all-nighter to cover a mistake made by someone else or to support some business-critical application that saved the client $XXX,XXX. I would also mention that I would hope that this sort of thing is not commonplace at the company you're interviewing at (I would not want to work at a company that abuses employee overtime in this manner). I might even ask if something like this were to happen, would I be able to take off the next day (with pay) as compensation.

I'm assuming you're applying for a salaried position, which many people here will argue means that you don't necessarily have a set amount of hours per day/week but that you have a job to do in a certain timeframe. Most salaried people do not get overtime pay. As far as I'm concerned, a salary is based on a 40-hour workweek*. If I was expected to pull an all-nighter, I would make it known that those hours would count against my next day's work, and I would shorten my next day commensurately.


*I know I'm going to get some downvotes for this one, but a company has to base your pay on some sort of metric. The 40-hour workweek is pretty standard (at least in the US). Any hours you work over the 40 are basically free for the company and reduce your effective hourly rate. There are plenty of studies that show that working more than 40 hours in a week does not make you more productive.

  • Exempt employees (or employees which are exempt from overtime benefits) do not get to commute their time if they're required to work over their allotted period in the US. You saying that you'll commute your time for every hour you work over is often a non-starter for some, although lenient managers do exist. – Makoto May 16 '17 at 19:02

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