Before you begin the interview process with a potential employer you should have your flexible working requirements already mapped out. Ask yourself:
- What are your deal-breakers, the things you cannot progress without?
- What steps can you take to mitigate business impact?
- How can you prove that this will make you a more efficient and productive employee?
- What previous experience do you have with flex and what lessons have you learned?
- What do you need in terms of salary?
On this last point: although there will obviously be a pro-rata interaction on salary if you chose to work part-time, we don’t recommend using your pay as a negotiating tool to secure flexible working. You aren’t going to be working any less (in fact your time- and people-management responsibilities will probably increase) so your salary shouldn’t decrease. Flexibility is not a perk, and you’ll be more valuable to a business with it.
It’s also worth screening the business you’re interviewing with to try and discover how good/prepared they are. In our experience there are a couple of things that are a good indicator that a company is ready and prepared to work out flexible solutions:
- Women in leadership. We’ve found this to be an accurate indicator of a company’s flex-preparedness.
- Evolved company culture. It’s a good sign if a business seems to authentically care about their internal culture. “Authentic” is tough to pin down, but watch out for corporate-speak, a lack of demonstrable evidence and anything that’s just a sneaky paraphrasing of “people have to stay late.” All are red flags.
Very few businesses lead with their openness to flexibility. Perhaps this is something we’ll see in the future but for now, even the flex-happy tend to wait until further down the interview track. Don’t take this as a sign that the business is unwilling, but it does leave you with a key question: when to make your request?
Doing it at the very beginning shows candour and confidence, which a business may respond well to. Waiting till the end allows you to present yourself fully as a candidate, but your interviewer may be left wishing you’d brought it up sooner.
We can’t make this decision for you, but a pragmatic compromise might be waiting until after the first screener call or meeting. Get the business excited in the prospect of hiring you - this is obviously another skill in itself, but not one we’ve got time to get into here - and then be upfront and straightforward after.
Whenever you decide to raise the topic, our main advice is: be confident. Confidence breeds confidence. If you can demonstrate that you are solution-driven, and that flexible working will make you a better hire for the business, it needn’t be something you’re apprehensive about bringing up.