In this week’s Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter tries to deal with a roadblock that hasn’t even materialized. This is a roadblock that should not be tackled until a job offer is extended.

I have a potental roadblock in a job search. I have eldercare responsibilities that limit my workday to standard work hours (not more than 8 hours, weekdays and daytime only) and cannot travel. Do I disclose any of this to a potential employer, or do I wait until after I get the offer in hand and invoke FMLA and the Small Necessities Leave Act?

I think the best way to say it is not to say it — yet. Wait until after an offer is made. But don’t threaten. (If you want to invoke the law, go for it, but be ready to go to court.) “Thanks for your offer. I’m eager to come to work. I know I’m not required to do this, but I feel it’s proper to disclose that I care for my [mother, father, whoever] when I’m not at work. I am ready to work hard during a regular 40-hour work week, but after an 8-hour day I must attend to my eldercare responsibilities. I wanted to discuss this prior to accepting your offer. I will organize my work day to ensure I get the job done in 40 hours. Is that acceptable?”

How and when would you say it? I think an employer has a right to know you can’t work overtime. But I would wait until after the employer has made a commitment, so you can both try to work it out. Bring it up too soon, and you jeopardize an offer — and you’ll never know whether you were rejected because of this issue. Once the offer is made, the employer has more motivation to work it out with you.

What’s your take on this?


  1. I’d probably say it once I’ve gotten an offer that this is one of those little details to mention then as before may be wasting some time.

    Just as one negotiates how much money an employer will pay, there should be similar time exchanges worked out as well. Could one work say 5-1 instead of 7-3 or 9-5? Some places would be fine with this and others not so much.

    I would be careful about disclosing too much about the situation though. I’m not sure one should say what relation the one in care is as that can bring in potential baggage.

  2. This could become a more common issue as the population ages, and more of us have elderly parents to look after. I’m with Nick, don’t bring it up until after an offer is made.

    Something that could help a job hunter in a situation like this would be to take advantage of services that care for the elderly in their own homes. I’m currently working a consulting gig for just such a company (Home Instead Senior Care – no, this is not a plug, but it really is a great service). Using a service like this might even let you work a bit of overtime here and there so you’re not so limited. Just something to think about.

  3. Absolutely, wait to say anything until after the offer is formally made. Don’t feel like you’re hiding anything, because you’re making a reasonable assumption that a job description that does not mention travel and overtime does not require travel and overtime.

  4. Wait . . . UNLESS something is asked during the interview. If asked in an interview “are you able to work extra hours, including weekends” you need to answer honestly. I often hire people who agree during the interview to work the required extra hours and weekends, then try excuse their way out of it once hired. Be honest upfront. If the interviewer doesn’t ask, then it probably will not be required of you anway, but if you are asked you need to explain then.

  5. Yep, that’s what I meant. If working outside normal times and places is not mentioned in the ad or interview then the applicant can properly assume that it is not required. It’s a different thing entirely if it does come up in ad or interview.

  6. Good points. This is similar to an issue I covered in the newsletter a while ago: pregnancy. Should a woman 3 months pregnant divulge it in an interview? My answer is no. Until an offer has been made, that’s private and irrelevant, assuming the woman is planning to do the job and return to work after the baby comes. There’s nothing to divulge until there’s an offer on the table, because it’s illegal to discriminate against a pregnant woman. Nonetheless, I think there’s an integrity issue here that requires any employee (or candidate holding an offer) to divulge and discuss any issues that will affect a work schedule. Assume the best and be responsible. If the best turns out to be bad, then deal with it.

  7. Much depends on the business environment where the job will be performed, and how your needs fit into that climate.

    I was in a similar situation when I was ready to re-enter the job market after a five-year hiatus with my second child. In the New York metro area, I knew that there were virtually no full-time positions that are 9-to-5, so I pursued part-time positions (which in NY is about 8 hours/day). I was hired into the best job I have ever had, with a sales force that employed moms, college students and retirees.

    I have been working in the South for several years now, and have noticed that even new mothers successfully hold full-time positions, because the definition here is much different, i.e. out-the-door by 5:30 is the norm. As I said, much depends on knowing what is expected.