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When to ask the flexibility question


Take a deep breath and ask for it…at the right time of course

Less than 10% of jobs are advertised as being part-time or flexible. What do you do with a great-looking job that isn’t one of the 10%? Is it worth applying for? Can you ask for flexibility? If so, at what point during the interview do you ask for it?

With all these questions, it’s unsurprising that this is an area where candidates feel most pressure. How can it be done without jeopardising your chances of getting the job? Our useful pointers will help give you the confidence to discuss flexible working options with the employer.

Is it worth applying for a full time job that doesn’t advertise flexibility?

Just because it’s not advertised, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. However, don’t go into your interview with a ‘fingers-crossed’ approach. Do some research on the company beforehand, to find out if they are open to flexibility. If it looks like they have a positive approach, and if you are well qualified for the job, send your cover letter and CV and take it from there. 

What sort of flexibility is it reasonable to hope for?

Before you make the request, take a good look at the job ad. Check if the flexibility you want is achievable within the job description. Asking for flexible start and finish times is reasonable, but if you want to work from home, make sure there are parts of the role that are suitable for working in this way. If you’ve been in a more senior role and you’re now down-shifting, then it may be possible to request reduced hours.

When do I raise the question of flexibility during the interview?

Quite simply, try not to ask during the interview, but after you have been given a job offer. However, there is nothing wrong with going by gut instinct. If things are going well and the subject comes up, then you may as well go for it. If you’re in the final round of a stage-based interview process, it may enter into discussions at this point. For example, you could begin to scope out the possibilities by asking questions about the company culture. Be confident. 

When do I ask for flexibility for a job that’s advertised as ‘Open to Flexibility’?

We’d still recommend you wait until the job offer stage. The employer has made it clear they like you and you are the right person for the job, so it is standard to expect some form of negotiation. You do this with salary, notice period or company benefits package, so why not for your working hours?

I’m really worried about the employer’s reaction

Our research has highlighted that 91% of UK-based managers say they are open to discussing flexible working, so don’t be worried. No matter what the outcome, the employer will take your request seriously. They may agree to some flexibility, but not as much as you have requested. Expect compromise on both sides in order to reach a consensus. You have the right to ask, but they also have the right to refuse your request and you do need to be aware of this possibility.

A staggering 14.1 million people want flexibility, and the Hire Me My Way campaign is persuading more and more businesses to advertise their jobs as open to flexibility at the point of hire. An experienced employee working flexibly can save a business money, and flexible working has the potential to contribute £90bn to the UK economy.

What does this mean for you? It means: go for that job with confidence and deal with the flexibility question as and when you get the job offer. You might be surprised by the response.

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