The one thing you should ask about in a job interview, but probably don’t

We have talked a lot about ways to feel out a station when job interviewing.  We have discussed not judging a place by its market size.  Now let’s talk about the one thing you should ask about in a job interview, but probably don’t.  It is: How does your boss juggle work and family life (and what does he/she do to promote family life for employees)?

Stations continue cutting back on resources and many are chronically short staffed because of budget cuts and the constant threat of layoffs.  So, this may seem like a crazy question to ask in a job interview.  It’s not though.  The reason:  You have to be able to balance your life wherever you end up.  If you have a workaholic, eat three meals a day at the office desk, sleep on a cot when necessary kind of boss, then you can pretty much kiss quality family time goodbye.  If the boss doesn’t get it, you don’t get it either.

Of course all of us understand that TV news is far from a 9 to 5, punch in and out, kind of job.  (If you don’t you are going to be very frustrated!)  Still, some managers take gross advantage of salaried status and work us to death.  Often it isn’t even because of short staffing.  It is simply poor organization.  If you read through our section “Picking a Shop” you will see this is a big theme.  Poor organization, means poor management, means premature greying and a possible heart attack or bleeding ulcer for you.

Sitting in a job interview and asking a potential mentor how he/she manages to juggle work and family is a fair question.  You are getting advice.  You are also getting great insight into how this manager ticks.  Is this a person who will be reasonable when a life crisis happens?  Is this a person who will consider a crews safety during dangerous stories, like natural disasters?  The simple, “How do you juggle family/work?” question helps you naturally delve into these types of scenarios.  You will get great intel on your potential future boss.

If family is very important to you, it is best to be upfront about that from the get go.  If this is a run and gun, take no prisoners, work until you drop type station then you are going to be miserable.  It is possible to balance family life and be a successful highly productive journalist.  It requires organization.  And not just from you either.  Team effort is crucial.  You are not being selfish wanting to protect your family life.  You are maintaining a balance, so you can excel while at your job, because you know your family is fine at home.  A lot of managers get this, but even more need to be reminded.  Small rewards, like occasionally letting you head home early when your work is done, lead to big gains.  When the breaker happens on your day off, you are going to be more apt to call in and offer to help.  Managers, who respect you, get respect and extra effort in return.  It’s only natural.   So, go ahead, ask the question.  Your personal success is at stake.