How to ask for flexibility - part 3

Blind gambleWhat do you do when you see an advert for your dream job, but it’s full-time and there’s no mention of flexible working being possible?

This won’t happen on Timewise Jobs, of course - we only advertise part time jobs or jobs that are open to flexible working options. But you can’t limit your job search to our website, so here’s some advice on when and how to apply for a full-time job and try your luck asking for flexibility.

Reasons to be hopeful

Firstly, you won’t be the first person to try this approach. While it’s a brave move, it does pay off from time to time.

Just because flexibility isn’t mentioned in the job advert, that doesn’t necessarily mean the employer wouldn’t consider it for the right candidate. Some research Timewise did a couple of years ago found that as many as 9 in 10 managers would be open to discussing flexible working options for new recruits – it just doesn’t occur to them to say so upfront.

And once you’ve worked with an employer for six months, you’d have the right to ask for flexible working anyway. In our view, the six month delay doesn’t actually make a lot of sense – much smarter to start off on the right foot, with an agreed working pattern, than to go through hoops to change the arrangement once the person is established in the role.

Hold onto all these thoughts when you apply for full-time jobs. Remember, you’re not being stupid!

Reasons to be cautious

There is, of course, no reason why an employer has to accommodate your request for flexibility (and that’s true even for people who’ve worked at a business for years). So you need to be prepared for rejection.

We’d recommend that you’re very choosy about which full-time jobs to apply for – stick to ones where you’ll be a particularly strong candidate. If you get a job offer, you need them to want you so much they’ll be prepared to negotiate.

Do some digging

Before applying, try to find out if the employer has a good record for flexible working. Check out what they say on the career pages of their website – if they talk about wanting to build a diverse and motivated workforce, that’s a good sign. Or you could try to get in touch with people who already work at the company, maybe on LinkedIn, and make some discreet enquiries. 

Are your flexibility needs realistic?

You also need to do a sense check on what you want versus the responsibilities of the job. Will you be able to achieve the demands of the role within the arrangement you have in mind?

And how big an ask are you intending to make? A day a week of home-working, flexible start and finish times, a compressed week, perhaps a four-day week…. these are all requests that an employer may be able to accommodate. But asking for 3 days a week or less would require the employer to re-design the role, and is almost certain to be a step too far.

At what point should you ask for flexibility?

If you decide to go ahead and apply for a full-time role, you may be best not mentioning flexibility during the application and interview stages.

Wait until the employer has decided they want you, and you get offered the job. You negotiate with salary, notice period and company benefits package, so why not your working pattern? Treat flexible working as if it’s a natural part of the negotiation phase, and expect compromise on both sides in order to reach an agreement. It will help if you can make a ‘business case’ for what you propose – as outlined in this article: How to present flexibility as a solution, not a problem.

A clear conscience?
It might not seem completely honest to apply for full-time jobs and ask for flexibility once you get an offer, but what else can you do when so few jobs are advertised with flexible working options? Research shows that many hiring managers would be willing to consider requests, but they rarely advertise that. Things are slowly changing, and employers are beginning to realise the need to be more transparent about their flexible working policy, from the point of recruitment.

In the meantime… ‘fortune favours the brave!’ 

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