Parents, ask these essential interview questions to determine whether a prospective employer is truly family friendly.

What we desired in a job at the beginning of our careers may no longer hold true a decade — and a few adult milestones — later. As our lives change, so do our career plans.

As the mother of a toddler, I know all too well how quickly your priorities can change once you assume the title of “Mom” or “Dad.” Seemingly overnight, I found myself drawn to companies that valued work-life balance and boasted of a family-friendly workplace over those that operated with a “work-hard, play-hard” mentality.

If you're like me and your criteria for the “dream job” have shifted since becoming a parent, this list of job interview questions will help you evaluate whether a company is truly a family-friendly employer without drawing attention to your underlying intent.

1. How would you describe your company culture? What kinds of people are successful here?

These questions will help you learn more about the company's values and determine whether its work environment would be a good fit. This is also a good opportunity to see whether your interviewers typically associate the terms “work-life balance” and “family friendly” with their company culture. Ask at least one of these questions to everyone with whom you interview and compare their answers. There may be cause for concern if each person's response is wildly different.

If you're interviewing at the company, keep your eyes and ears open as you're being led to and from the interview room. What's the floor plan like? Do any of the employees have photos of children on their desks? How loud or quiet is it in the office? Is the break room stocked with energy drinks and beer? These details will provide additional clues about the company culture and help you determine if it's the family-friendly place you're looking for.

2. What's the greatest challenge your team has faced in the past 6–12 months? How did they handle it?

Ask this interview question to gauge the company's stability. For instance, did the company recently lose one of its biggest clients? Has a new competitor or technology entered the market, stirring things up? Has the team experienced a lot of turnover lately? The answers the hiring manager provides will help you assess whether the company is headed in the right direction or if it's on a downward spiral and should be crossed off your list of potential employers.

3. Is there a rhythm to the work around here?

This question is designed to help you assess how family friendly your work schedule will be throughout the year. Use this line of questioning to find out if there's a time of year where it's busiest and the team will be expected to pull all-nighters, or if the work is fairly consistent throughout the year. The same goes for the month — is the work evenly spread throughout the month or are there crunch days?

This is also a great opportunity to dig a little deeper into the manager's expectations for this role. For instance, will you be working out of the office most days? Does the position require you to attend many client dinners or other meetings outside of regular work hours? How often will the person who accepts this be expected to travel overnight for work?

4. What is the company's stance on flexible work arrangements?

Thanks to advances in technology and the rise in remote workers, interview questions like this are no longer considered taboo. Your interviewer's response will help you understand whether you will be judged by the work you produce or by the hours you keep. This is also your chance to find out if most people on the team keep a traditional nine-to-five work schedule or if something more flexible is possible.

That said, don't specifically request such accommodations until you've received a firm job offer. Use your interview time to build rapport with the hiring manager and demonstrate your value before you ask to work from home or for a flexible work arrangement. Save that discussion for negotiation time.

5. How would you describe your management style? How do you like to communicate with your team?

If you're speaking with the hiring manager, ask questions like the ones above to get a feel for their leadership style and determine if it would be a good fit. For example, if you prefer to work with a certain level of autonomy and your prospective boss admits to being a micromanager, you may want to reconsider whether the opportunity is right for you.

Find out what you can about the hiring manager's communication style, as it will help you gauge how they feel about face-time and flexible work schedules, as well as if dialing into in-person team meetings would be frowned upon.

6. What made you decide to work here? What keeps you coming back each day?

This is a great question to ask the hiring manager and other team members who are involved in the interview process. These discussions will provide insight into how people feel about the company and the benefits it offers.

If the people with whom you speak are quick to rattle off what they like about the company — and those benefits resonate with you — then the job opportunity is likely a good fit. If more than one person struggles to share something positive or talks about benefits that are not important to you or don't align with your priorities, then this job may not be ideal.

Also, think about your conversations. Did any employees with whom you met have photos of children on their desks or mention their families? Were they wearing wedding rings? While you shouldn't ask if they're working parents, do a little detective work while you're in the interview to see if you can figure it out. If every person with whom you spoke seemed to be a workaholic, that gives you an indication of how family friendly you can expect the company to be.

7. What is your timeline for making a decision?

Never leave an interview without determining the next steps in the process. In addition to asking about the timeline for a decision, be sure to ask the hiring manager if you can follow up with them directly. Assuming you get the green light, find out if they prefer you to email them or if it's alright to call. Also, don't forget to ask for a business card or jot down the person's name and contact information so you can send a thank-you note and follow up at the appropriate time.

Final thoughts

How you prepare for a job interview is just as important as what you say and do during the interview. Tap into your network and speak to those you know who currently work or previously worked at the organization, review the company's website thoroughly, and visit sites like Glassdoor and CareerBliss to find out if the company's culture and policies are as family friendly as you had hoped.

Arrive at your interview armed with your research and this list of questions and you'll be in a great position to determine if it is the family-friendly workplace you've been looking for. Looking for more questions to assess a company's family-friendly policies? Check out my article on Working Mother.

Returning to the job search after becoming a parent or caregiver? Refresh your interviewing skills with one of our TopInterview coaches today!

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