What does ‘flexible working’ mean in job adverts?

In job adverts there’s a growing trend for employers to dangle a juicy carrot in the wording: flexibility. But often there’s no more detail than that: there’s plenty of information about the role and its requirements – but not how the role is flexible. Read on to find out what you can do to discover what they really mean by ‘flexible’.

Flexible working home office


What can flexible mean?

Flexibility can take many forms at work. It could mean part-time hours; flexitime or variable hours; remote or home working, or just that the employer will consider an application for flexible working. Generally, though, it’s a good sign. Companies don’t have to state that they offer flexibility, so those that do tend to be more family-friendly and forward thinking.

Read the job description

The most important thing in applying for a role is not how flexible it is, but how well it matches up with your skills and experience. A thorough read of the advertisement will give you a sense of the flexibility that is involved.

If it’s a heavily office-based role, for example, it’s unlikely that remote working will be viable. Equally, a retail-based business will need people on site during usual opening hours, so shorter working days may not be an option.

How to explore the flexibility

Start by thinking about your own flexibility. Is there a certain element of flexible working that you cannot live without? Is it a nice-to-have or something that’s totally essential? If you would only take a role that delivers completely on your requirements, it’s worth finding out more before you apply.

If the job is right, wait until interview

In some situations it’s worth waiting until the interview – or possibly later. If the job seems perfect and really appeals to you, or it’s taken you a while to find the right kind of role, it’s best to apply without knowing the extent of the flexibility. There’s no point risking your chances until you’ve got an interview.

Once in your interview, find a natural time to raise it – or ask about it at one of your questions at the end. Something along the lines of “I noticed in the job advertisement that you mentioned flexible working: I’m interested to know what kind of flexibility you have in mind?” would work well.

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