Asking Questions about Money and Working Hours During A Job Interview
September 5, 2012 6:12 PM   Subscribe

I have a job interview coming up on Wednesday next week. I want to ask some questions regarding working hours and money. Should I, and if so, how should I frame the questions?

I have a job interview on Wednesday for a job I would both enjoy (its my kind of work) and need (money is tight after unemployment set in a few months ago).

The only downside is it's a 1.5 hour drive from where I live. So if I get the job I'm looking at significant fuel costs and increased wear and tear on my car.

The pay scale is AU$80-$85k per year, and I imagine if I get the job they'd probably start me at $80k. It's decent money, but the fuel costs alone would probably eat up a significant chunk of my fortnightly take home pay.

If I get the job I'm also looking at a situation where I will probably be getting home at a time after my 10 month old son has gone to bed, meaning I probably won't see him very much except on weekends.

So during the interview I want to ask two questions, which are basically this;

1. I would like at least $83k to make up for fuel costs as well as wear and tear on my car.

2. What hours will I be working and is there any flexibility to allow for me to get home in time to say good night to my son and maybe have some play time with him?

Are these questions I should ask in the interview? If so, how can I best frame them so I don't come off looking like a guy who's just in it for the money and wants to go home early?
posted by Effigy2000 to Work & Money (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Under no circumstances should you address these things in the interview. Wait until you have an offer, and then you can negotiate these things.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:14 PM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]

No, don't ask these questions at the interview. These are questions for after an offer has been extended and before it has been accepted, and then you can negotiate.
posted by brainmouse at 6:15 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think those questions are appropriate to ask after you've gotten an offer; OR, for the 2nd/3rd interview, not the first.

If they want you, then they will have an incentive to work with you.

Otherwise, your questions could be misinterpreted and paint you as not having the right intentions.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 6:16 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Rock Steady has it. Safe it for a conversation after you have an offer. Good luck to you!
posted by semacd at 6:17 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing to wait until at least the 2nd interview/when you have an offer. If you bring up the costs involved in the commute, you are also revealing that you have such a long commute, which may make you a less ideal candidate than a local in some employer's eyes.
posted by shortyJBot at 6:32 PM on September 5, 2012

I hate to beat a dead horse, but wait until you have a job offer! And unless the interviewer brings it up at a 2nd interview, I wouldn't bring it up then, either.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 6:33 PM on September 5, 2012

Nthing everyone else - these are things to negotiate after you've been offered the job. In my experience hiring for various positions, I'll be in charge of conducting the interviews but frequently have little to no say about the salary and wouldn't even be able to carry on the conversation if someone brought it up with me.

When it comes time to negotiate, figure out which is more important to you (the higher salary or the flexible hours) and ask for both, but be prepared to give up one. Keep in mind that they'll sympathize with your long commute, but they probably won't consider that justification for giving you higher pay unless you're really, really, really highly qualified for a position that is hard to fill. When you get to the point of needing to negotiate for higher salary or different hours, focus on why you're highly qualified for the position, not why your life situation requires special accommodations. They'll be much more likely to negotiate that way.
posted by jessypie at 6:36 PM on September 5, 2012

As all say above, wait until the offer. And then, don't use your commute as the reason you're asking for more money. They don't care where you live or how long it takes you to get there. Ask for more money because you're worth more money.

Asking for a flexible schedule based on family concerns is a different kettle of fish and likely more acceptable. If they grumble about it, offer to make it explicitly temporary (say, ninety days, in writing, with your direct supervisor getting the final call at the end of that time whether to continue it), to see whether it works for you and them.
posted by Etrigan at 6:42 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing everyone, wait until the offer. They are psychologically committed at that point to hiring you, and more inclined to negotiate. Additionally, remember it's a negotiation; don't ask for what you would accept, ask for the best case scenario.

also: 1. I would like at least $83k to make up for fuel costs as well as wear and tear on my car.

This is not a line I would be going with. They are not paying people salaries on the basis of their cars. You ask for money because it's what you're worth. Because you will bring a certain type of value to the organisation, and that value deserves so much compensation.

Also, for the love of god, don't tell them what your past salaries are. Tell them the salary that you want is the last one you had - or at least, close to it without being ridiculous. Ideally, this will be in the mid-to-upper range of what they're offering.

If you blow their socks off, they will be happy to offer it. If they still want you but don't want to pay that much, they will knock the offer lower. If you ask for the upper range of what they're offering (the way I phrase it as, "I'm currently on XXX (figure, close to what I want/what they're offering), as this job has more/less/equal responsibilities I would be expecting something in line/slightly above that". They may try to weasle it out of you in the first interview; be as vague as you can whilst reassuring them that if they want you, they can afford you. Something like, "The advertised range is broadly aligned to my expectations for this kind of role."

Be prepared to give up pay in exchange or working hours etc. Asking about work from home options may be appropriate in the first interview depending on the job and culture of the org, in my opinion.

Good luck dude!
posted by smoke at 7:00 PM on September 5, 2012

1. Absolutely don't ask these questions until you have an offer.

2. As far as the advice to ask for the "best case" scenario and not just what you'd be ok with: sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. My company hates this sort of thing and routinely retracts offers when a candidate starts asking for the moon. The idea that "it doesn't hurt to ask" is simply not always true. Take into account the culture of the company - if it is an extremely selective hiring process, with tons of applicants for them to take their pick of, and if they're big on candidates showing "passion" for the job, then I wouldn't advise approaching it like a negotiation in a flea market; I'd say ask for what you'd be satisfied with, and no more. But YMMV.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:09 PM on September 5, 2012

By the way, you can and should negotiate the salary first. Ask for $85K, and if they say "we can do no better than $80K," then you can say, "OK, if you can't be flexible on the salary, perhaps we can agree on a flexible schedule so I can spend more quality time with my family?"
posted by Rock Steady at 7:26 PM on September 5, 2012

Just another answer along the same lines. It drives me crazy when employees don't list or mention salaries (why run the risk of wasting both our time?), but I think I may have messed up my chances for a job last year (or contributed to it) by asking too early, after a phone and initial in-person interview. I was a finalist and they still wouldn't tell me!
posted by trillian at 7:56 PM on September 5, 2012

Counterpoint! I do think you can ask a general question in the areas of "office culture" and "work/life balance". It's a highly relevant interview question that will almost certainly get you some insight into whether they offer flex time or are generally ... flexible.
posted by Kololo at 8:34 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

The interviewer does not really care about the wear and tear on your car... in fact they might ask if it is too far for you to commute. You may need to restrain yourself from expressing your real opinion unless you sense they are already warm toward you.

You can sort of approach the second question by asking the interviewer (if they are in a similar position to the one you want) what their normal working day looks like. I have been asked this quite often and I know that it is the candidate trying to find out if they are going into an eternal "crunch mode" company, but it is a valid question that shows interest.
posted by meowzilla at 8:36 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OK thanks everyone. I suspected I shouldn't raise these questions during the interview but I guess I just wanted someone to confirm my suspicions. It's been about six years since I've had to go through the interview process so I'm a little bit rusty. This has all been very helpful. Thanks so much!
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:15 PM on September 5, 2012

I imagine if I get the job they'd probably start me at $80k. I would like at least $83k to make up for fuel costs as well as wear and tear on my car.

You're talking about less than a 5% pay differential to account for an issue - your commute - that in every possible way is not their problem. You're unemployed and need this job. I would figure out which "I'm a potentially awkward hire" question to ask - petrol or flextime - is your priority, and ask only that one if you are offered the job.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:35 PM on September 5, 2012

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