How to ask for flexibility when applying for full-time jobs

Ask for flex part 3Here at Timewise Jobs, we only advertise part-time jobs or jobs that are open to flexible working options. But if you’re looking elsewhere, you might find it harder to find jobs that are advertised as flexible up front – less than 1 in 10 jobs are.

So if you want to widen your search, you’ll need to apply for full-time jobs and then negotiate your flexibility at a later date. Is that even possible?

Why it’s worth a try

The good news is, just because a job advert doesn’t mention flexibility, it doesn’t mean the employer won’t consider it for the right candidate. In fact, a 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.

And once you’ve worked with an employer for six months, you have the right to ask for flexible working anyway. So it makes more sense to start as you mean to go on, rather than try and change it once you’re established in the role.

It’s a bold move, as you don’t have a track record – but if you keep these tips in mind, it might just pay off:

1.   Think carefully about what to apply for

A potential employer doesn’t have to agree to your request for flexible working, so you need to be prepared for them to say no. To increase your chances, be choosy about which full-time jobs you apply for – you’ll have a much better chance of negotiating flexibility if they really want you on board, so focus on jobs for which you’re a strong candidate.

It’s also worth trying to find out if the employer has a good flexible working record. Check out the careers 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 sound them out. 

2.   Be realistic about what to ask for

You also need to do a sense check on what you want versus the responsibilities of the job. Will you genuinely be able to fulfill the role you’re applying for within the arrangement you have in mind?

And remember, some asks are bigger than others. A day a week of home-working, flexible start and finish times, a compressed week, and even a four-day week, are all relatively easy for an employer to accommodate. But asking for a two- or three-day week means the employer would have to re-design the role, which may be a step too far – unless you have a potential partner in mind and could apply as a job-share team.

3.     Consider the best time to raise it

Given that the role hasn’t been advertised as being flexible, it’s probably best not to mention flexibility during the application and interview stages. Instead, we’d suggest you wait until the employer has decided they really want you, and offers you the job.

At this point, you should treat flexible working as a natural part of the negotiation phase, in the same way that you would negotiate salary or company benefits. An open question such as "Is there any scope for this role to be carried out on a flexible basis?" is a good way to start the conversation.

Be clear in your mind about what you are asking for and how far you’re able to compromise – flexibility always works best when it works both ways.

It’s always worth putting together a business case that sets out how you can fulfill the role flexibly and how it could benefit the employer – you can read more here about how to negotiate flexible working.

4.    Have a clear conscience

In an ideal world, more employers would advertise their willingness to consider flexible working, and it would be a normal part of every recruitment conversation. Things are changing, and Timewise is working hard to drive that change. But in the meantime, we think it's fair to take a more strategic approach.

So if you are keen to work flexibly, and you’re confident enough to ask for it, don’t fret about not mentioning it earlier on in the process – just give it a go when the time is right. What have you got to lose?

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