How to ask for flexibility - part 1

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Part time handed on a plateWhen the job advert clearly states the type of part time/flexible working available, is it wise to talk about flexibility in your application or at interview?

So, let’s say you’re applying for a job that’s advertised as part time: 3 days a week are offered to you on a plate.

You’re ecstatic – it’s just the opportunity you’ve been waiting months for. You can’t wait to tell the employer that you’re the perfect candidate because, by happy coincidence, 3 days a week is precisely what you’re looking for. It means you can balance work with writing your first chick-flick novel and caring for your granny.

WRONG!

Employers want the best person for the job - the one with the right skills and experience, the commitment to deliver on targets, the drive to help grow the business.

And everyone else who applies wants to work part time too - for a whole host of reasons that are of no interest whatsoever to the employer. Your needs are not going to make you stand out from the crowd.

Sell your skills, not your neediness

Applying for a part time job is no different from applying for a full time job. (The same goes for a job that offers home-working or flexible start and finish times - throughout this article we’re just using part time as an example.)

Your CV and cover letter need to sell your skills and show why you will excel in the role. You should put a lot of effort into your application, tailoring it to suit the requirements mentioned in the job advert. For more advice on how to do this, read our article Tell Employers what they Want to Hear

OK, maybe the flexibility issue is worth one sentence
At the end of an excellent cover letter about your skills, you could include a very brief statement that the part time arrangement suits you, just to show that you’re happy on that score.

But just to be absolutely clear – wanting a part time job has no place at all in a CV.

What about at interview? Can you ask then?
It should be the last thing you come to, unless the employer asks you (see below).

As with your cover letter, your aim at interview is to focus on selling your skills and creating a good impression.

When it comes to the ‘any questions’ bit at the end of the interview (and best to do this at the second or final interview), it’s fine at this point to ask any queries you have, for example (for a part time job) which days of the week are involved.

What if the employer asks why you want to work part time?

This is completely different, and of course you must answer honestly and clearly – though there’s no need to tell your life story.

The employer probably wants to check that you genuinely want a part time arrangement, and that you’re not just applying as a stop-gap, intending to move on as soon as you can. So answer with the truth, and sound keen about the part time arrangement.

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