When to raise flexible working at a job interview

I’ve applied for a fairly senior job and I’ve got an interview. In my current role I condense my hours into four days with Fridays off. Should I mention it at the interview? And if so should I just say I’d like to work flexibly or should I set out a more detailed plan of how I’d like to work and how it would fit with the new employers? Or should I wait until they’ve offered me the job to ask for some sort of flexible arrangement?

Recruitment

 

At workingdads.co.uk we want to help working dads like you.  Which is why we’ve brought together a team of experts to answer your questions and make your life that bit easier.

We call them….The Dadvengers.

This week, recruitment expert Roy Duncan joins the crew. With our survey finding many dads feel trapped in a flexible job because they don’t know if they’ll get the same level of flexibility elsewhere he’s got advice for a working dad looking to bag a new job on the same terms.

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Well, that is a long question! Let’s look at the options.

First of all, well done for getting through to the interview stage!  It appears from your question that your interview is for a full-time job. In that case, we can safely assume that it may not be usual policy for the employer to offer flexible working and difficult to tell how they might react.

So you may need to tread carefully, just as you would for a full-time role and carry out your research on the company to find out how established they are with flexible working.  This can be done on-line generally and in sites such as Glassdoor where you can find out how company’s flexible working policies compare and which companies are doing the most to facilitate it.

Although all companies in the UK are obliged by law to consider all requests for flexible working and they must deal with them in a flexible manner.  So what is the problem you may ask?

First of all, the right to request flexible working only applies if you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks and you have not made any requests in the past 12 months. Further information can be found here.

So prospective employers are not under any obligation to accept or even consider your proposal.  However the world is changing and if they want to recruit top staff, they need to offer flexible working wherever possible.

At what point should I raise the topic of flexible working?

No one likes surprises and as this is likely to be a key issue for both you and the employer.It is better to be up-front about your request. So unless you want to waste your own time and your prospective employer’s time I believe you should address it as early in the process as possible. .

If you have been put forward by an agency, you should make them fully aware of your interest in part-time work from the outset, leaving them to communicate your requests.

Another approach is to convey the information through your CV. This can be done in two ways:

On your CV Personal Overview you can add a sentence such as “… seeks a permanent full-time role over four days per week.” You can also add your success in condensing your days into four by way of adding it to the job, under achievements.  Do make sure that you provide copies of your CVs to the interviewer/s.

Should I mention it at the interview?

If you have not already done it through the agency, you could mention it at the interview. You can do this directly by bringing it up head-on which may surprise the interviewer/s and appear heavy-handed.

A more subtle approach may be to ask the following question at the end of the interview: “I understand that Prospective Employer Company Ltd has a great reputation for flexible working …”

You could then discuss that and outline your success in working over four days, and ask if this is something that could be considered in your new role.

And if so should I just say I’d like to work flexibly? Or should I set out a more detailed plan of how I’d like to work and how it would fit with the new employers?

It’s probably best to start from the offer made by the company. However, if you make a proposal you must be prepared to back it up with facts.

Like all negotiation the emphasis is on a win-win solution. I once had a situation in which the prospective head of accounts teamed up with the CEO to reduce her days at the office over quieter periods and increase them on busy periods. By working together they reached the optimum solution of getting the job done through cooperation and flexibility.

Avoid coming up with a wonderful solution without full knowledge of the prospective employer’s needs and goals.

Or should I wait until they’ve offered me the job to ask for some sort of flexible arrangement?

This is my least preferred option; however it is not without merit. Once an initial job offer is made the parties will then negotiate the contract terms.  Although not all terms are negotiable; it is quite usual to agree substantial changes.

It would seem reasonable that the working hours are part of the process and flexible working could be included.

And Finally

The key factor on all the options is first to research flexible working and the company.

  • Be open and clear from the beginning so you avoid surprises.
  • Be prepared to work together to find a solution that works for all
  • Be the best applicant whatever
  • Be careful to be clear that the day saved has been reallocated over the four days. After all you don’t want to end up doing the job for four fifths of the salary!

 

Roy Duncan is an entrepreneurial chartered certified accountant. He has over 30 years’ experience in business, accounting and recruitment. He is owner of RG Duncan an independent, boutique, specialist financial recruitment consultancy.





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