When is the best time to ask for flexible working?

InterviewFlexible working is increasingly welcomed by employers, so you shouldn’t be shy about mentioning it. But it’s worth timing your request carefully, to help you get the answer you’re looking for.

The shift in attitudes towards flexible working, and the increasing number of employers who are offering hybrid arrangements, has made asking for flexibility feel like much less of a hurdle. And even when an advert doesn’t specify part-time or flexible working, it’s certainly worth exploring the options.

But as with so much in life, timing is everything; and picking the right moment to open the conversation will help you get the answer you’re looking for. So when is the best time to ask for flexible working?

Don’t mention it in your initial application

Even if the role you’re applying for is advertised as flexible, there’s no point highlighting your preferences in your initial application. So don’t include it in your cover letter, and never mention it on your CV. Instead, you should be using this as a chance to showcase your skills and experience, and stand out from other candidates.

Approach it carefully at interview

It’s tempting to think that you should be upfront about wanting to work flexibly when you meet a potential employer. But again, we’d advise focusing your interview on selling yourself to the employer, and persuading them that you’ll do a fantastic job. After all, they’re more likely to consider your request if they really want to hire you.

Whether or not you raise it at all partly depends on whether the role is advertised as flexible. If it is, and you feel the interview has gone well, a good way to open the conversation is to ask how flexible working is approached within the organisation.

It also depends on the employer’s attitude towards flexible working, and the parameters of the role. If your research has indicated that they’re supportive, and you feel that the job could be achieved within the pattern you’re seeking, then you could start a conversation by asking whether they would be open to exploring flexible options.

Or wait until you have had an offer

However, if the role is not advertised as flexible, you may be wiser to wait until you have received a firm offer. And again, the best way to start the conversation is with an open question, such as asking whether there is any scope to carry out the role on a flexible basis. Make sure you’ve thought through how you would make it work, and considered how it will benefit the business, before you make your case.

If you’re asked, give a straight answer

One final thing to consider; if you’re asked an outright question at any point in the process about whether you would prefer to work flexibly, it’s best to answer honestly. There’s no point saying you’re not interested and then springing a request on them when they offer you the job.

But don’t go into endless details about why a flexible arrangement would suit you; it’s not the right time to share your life story. Instead, you could simply reply that it is something you’d be keen to explore. And if they seem willing to discuss it further, explain a little about how you feel you could make it work for the role, and the business.

In the end, if you need to work flexibly, and the employer isn’t willing to consider it, it isn’t the right role for you. But by timing your request with care, you’ll certainly increase your chances of a successful outcome.

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