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How to ask for flexible working at an interview

In January 2019, we ran a webinar with 93 candidates. 60% of those candidates were concerned about discussing flexibility at an interview. With that in mind, we thought we’d try and tackle this tricky subject in a blog post.

When it comes to asking for flexible working, knowing when to ask is the tricky part. Should you ask during an interview? Is it better to wait until you’ve been offered the job? Or, should you wait until you’re in the job and have built rapport with your employer?

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule. As a candidate, you’ll have to assess each employer and opportunity individually. To help you make an informed decision about requesting flexible working, let’s take a closer look at each scenario.


Asking at the interview stage

In the past, asking for flexible working at an interview was rare. It was a risky endeavour and often frowned upon. However, attitudes to flexible working are changing and employers are becoming more open to flexible working.

A recent Timewise research project found that as many as 9 in 10 managers would be open to discussing flexible working options with new recruits – they just don’t say so upfront.

So, if employers are becoming more open to flexible working, should you ask for it an interview?

The first thing you have to consider is how important working flexibly is to you. If flexibility is a must, then being open and honest about your need to work flexibly at an interview could be essential. Otherwise, you could go through several rounds of applying for the job only to find out the company won’t consider a flexible working arrangement. Can you afford to waste that time?

To help you decide whether to ask at the interview stage, you’ll need to research the company in question and find out about their culture. Do they already have lots of flexible workers? Do they promote flexible ways of working on their website? If so, they may be more willing to discuss flexible working at the interview stage.

If you’re unsure whether to discuss it at the initial interview, you could bide your time and discuss it at the second interview. At a second interview, the employer has already shown that they’re interested in you. Second interviews often feel like a natural place to ask questions to the employer, so this could be the perfect opportunity to ask about flexible working.

Admittedly, asking about flexible working at an interview can and will put some employers off. However, if you need to work flexibly, what have you got to lose? If an employer isn’t interested in considering flexible working options, they aren’t the employer for you.

If not at the interview, when is the right time to ask? 

If you do decide that asking at the interview stage isn’t right for you, another option is to wait until you’ve been offered the job. By doing so, you’ll be able to treat your flexible working request as a natural part of the negotiation process.

At this point, you already have their interest. They want to hire you and as such may be more willing to grant your request. Make your business case and explain how it could be beneficial to both parties. If you’ve worked flexibly before, explain how it worked and show that you have experience of it working successfully. If the employer has reservations, get them to discuss them openly so you can have a chance to alleviate any of their concerns.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel comfortable asking at an interview or once you’ve been offered the job, you could wait until your in-post. Any employee with 26 weeks of service has the right to make a request for flexible working. For more information about your right to request flexible working, here’s some great information from ACAS.

At Capability Jane we know how important working flexibly is to so many people. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to help candidates find flexible working opportunities. 90% of our jobs come with flexibility built in and those that don’t will be with employers that are open to the discussion. Head over to our blog page by clicking here for more articles and webinar recordings, or for help finiding a flexible role, get in touch today.