How to approach an interview when you know you’ll need job flexibility

by Liz Benson

One of the few benefits that arose from COVID-19 is the rise in job flexibility across the board. The rapid shift to remote working in 2020 proved to many employers that their business could still operate with a remote workforce. Despite this cultural shift to flexible working, many businesses will return to the office as soon as the government directive indicates it’s safe to do so.

As hiring freezes ease and job interviews ramp up again, many prospects will be looking to incorporate flexible working into their new job agreements. However, with some traditional company policies remaining in place, approaching this conversation in job interviews may still be challenging. There are still plenty of stories of people requesting flexible work arrangements only to be denied.

Interviews can be daunting enough without adding in the additional risk of not being considered for a role because of your flexible work requirements. It’s important to remember that an interview is a two-way process. You are assessing the company’s suitability for you, just as much as they’re assessing your suitability for the role.

We have identified four ways to successfully raise job flexibility in an interview:

1. Know your audience

It is important to research the company before initiating a flexible work conversation. Despite the company regularly offering flexible work options, it doesn’t mean the management will be open to offering the same to you. Likewise, just because a company doesn’t have flexible work policies, it doesn’t mean managers won’t be open to exploring this option. Knowing what existing policies are in place will provide some insight into the company values and help you approach the conversation from the right angle.

2. Know your must-haves

A critical component of negotiating job flexibility is to identify whether it’s a must-have or a nice-to-have. If flexible working is non-negotiable for you, then raising this upfront with your potential employer will be critical. This will save wasting both yours and the company’s time if your values don’t align.

3. Understand the company’s interview process

On top of knowing current company policies surrounding remote work, you should also understand the interview process. Will the people in charge of hiring you require one interview or five? If flexible work is negotiable for you, it may be worth raising this in a later interview once you have sold your worth to the company. This provides enough time to show the decision-makers why they should hire you, while still early enough to not waste anybody’s time.

4. Highlight your past successes

Employee experience is a significant driver in many business initiatives, largely due to its association with higher productivity, profitability, and lower staff turnover.[1] Most managers want to help you succeed, and if flexible work options will make that happen, then show them how. If managers understand how it will help the business, they may be more likely to acquiesce.

Government-enforced isolation has meant that most Australians now have experience in remote and flexible working environments. Working from a different location or on a different schedule means that you’re not as visible to your employer or colleagues. You need to earn their trust through evidence-based success. Be specific on what you have accomplished and how flexible working contributed to those results. Ideally you will show them how you can accomplish the same for them.

Long-term success in any professional relationship comes from full transparency. Interviews are designed to find the right person for the job and the job that’s right for you. If flexible work options are a non-negotiable factor for you, then make this known early in the interview process. Despite remote working, staggered hours and split roles increasing, you still must show why the employer why they should trust you with a flexible work arrangement.