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Easy Way to Say “8 Hours is My Limit”

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‘J.T. & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the US and can be found at JTandDale.com.

Dear J.T. & Dale: How do I tell a company that eight hours is my max? I have a life outside of work, and I want to live it. Is there a way, in an interview, to tactfully share that I will not work more than eight hours a day? — Katie

Dale: You don’t want to be tossing out your personal work rules till after you’ve won over the hiring manager and gotten the job offer. At that point, you can consider “the culture.” To get an honest answer, I’d try throwing out a bit of overstatement, something like, “What’s the culture like around here — do you guys come in on Saturdays and work till 9 or 10 every night?” That way, you give the hiring manager plenty of room to be candid without giving away your personal attitude.

J.T.: Holding back your opinions is wise, because you might come across a terrific job and the only downside is that your prospective boss answers Dale’s culture question with, “Well, we usually get out of here at five, but once a quarter we have extra record-keeping, and we end up working late a night or two.” If, early in the interview, you had blurted out, “Before we go any further, I have to tell you I will NOT work for more than eight hours on any given day,” you’d never learn the real situation and wouldn’t get the chance to decide if the occasional long day is worth the job.

Dale: Get the offer, then the information; then make the decision. But I should warn you, Katie, that you probably won’t find too many employers agreeing to strict limits on work hours, unless you’re paid by the hour and they hate paying overtime. It’s a buyer’s market.

J.T.: And it’s always good to remember that we get back what we put in. Limiting your time commitment also could limit your advancement and earning potential.

Dale: Which is another way of saying make sure you know what you’re saying no to.


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Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success” (John Wiley & Sons).

Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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