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5 reasons to ask for flexible working before accepting a job

Asking for flexible working at the interview stage may seem like taking a huge risk. You have invested time and effort into creating a perfect application and feel grateful for being invited to interview. You want to use the interview to really shine as a candidate, not make requests of the panel. But there are many reasons this is the best time to lay your cards on the table.

There is a view that if the employer really wanted flexible workers, then they would have noted it in the job advert. But our jobs market isn’t perfect and the managers hiring may not have communicated to the person putting the ad out that they are open to the idea of flexible working. In some instances, employers are simply waiting to be asked.

Don’t forget to be prepared with a good business case for your working flexibly (just incase a potential employer needs a bit more convincing).

Whether you ask at first interview or upon job offer, sometimes it is best to be guided by the process to establish the right opportunity, but hoping to ask once you’ve started a new role may be the wrong approach for you.

Here are our five reasons why the interview stage is the best time to ask.

1. Establish values

Flexible working is usually possible because it is part of the company culture. Even if flexibility isn’t mentioned in the job advert, you can grasp what the culture of the organisation and team is like by asking if flexible options are available or if any existing staff work flexibly.

Even if you’re eager to win the job, the culture of an organisation will affect how much you enjoy the work and whether they are going to get the best out of you. If their default approach is to turn down flexible working requests, you probably wouldn’t thrive in this particular space and better opportunities will be waiting for you.

2. Start on an equal footing

Hiring managers value integrity. They want someone in the position who is going to feel like they are part of the company. Asking at interview stage shows your potential employer that you are ready to negotiate for the position. Remember that an interview is as much for you to assess whether this is the right employer as it is for the company to see if you are the right fit.

Rather than biding your time for 26 weeks’, which is usually the length of time you need to be in a job before you can put in a flexible working request, your future employer knows where your boundaries are from the outset.

3. It avoids time wasting

If you’re applying for a job that isn’t advertised as flexible but you know you have commitments that mean you can’t work from the office at certain times, then it is better to let potential employers know upfront.

If your need for flexible working is a dealbreaker, then waiting until you’ve had a job offer or are in the post to ask about flexible working just to find it’s a no, means you have probably wasted your time, the company’s time and that of other applicants who might have been offered the position.

Let’s face it, when you have a family or other caring commitments then time is precious. Don’t waste it going through the interview stages for a job you cannot accept.

4. You can be clear about what you want

Flexible working means different things to different people and everyone will need or want it for different purposes. According to a study by CIPD, over 27% of the UK’s workforce is in some kind of flexible work. Yet, despite technology allowing home-based work to be more available, there has been very little increase above the 5% level over the past 10 years.

There are many different ways to apply flexible working to achieve the same outcome, for instance to attend school pick ups. You may want to work part-time hours spread over the week, or work full-time but amend your hours so you get into work a couple of hours earlier than your colleagues in order to leave at 3pm.

Being clear about what kind of work-life balance you want to achieve and for what purpose, and asking for this before accepting the job will mean that you remove any uncertainty for yourself about how you’ll cope when you start your new role. Being open to negotiate about what flexible working you need will be a better approach to winning over your employer, showing that while you are asking your employer to be flexible, you are willing to be too.

5. Discussions about benefits are your open window

During the interview process, you are probably going to be told about the many benefits of working with the organisation. These probably include some healthcare, holidays, and maybe discounted gym membership. Companies offer these because they understand that healthy staff means less absence and more productivity.

And this is the perfect time to ask about the benefit of flexible working. An organisation that embeds flexible working in their company culture will see this as a way to retain quality staff and will proudly talk about how agile or flexible their office is.

Perfect time to ask

While it would be great if all companies let you know that they are open to flexible working, it’s not always the case that they will. This means it is up to you to ask rather than wait to be offered. Whether you wait until you believe you’ve convinced them you’re a fantastic candidate when they offer you a role or you ask at the first interview, it will depend on your circumstance. But there are many benefits to you and your potential employer, to ask as soon as possible!

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Doyenne Flex Ltd, (Company No. 11582231 England & Wales)

59 Southerngate Way, London, SE14 6DW