October is National Work and Family Month. October 15 is National Flex Day, which started in 2013 by flexible jobs career site FlexJobs to call attention to the need for flexible work. If you’re interested in working flexibly, you don’t necessarily have to leave your job to get more flexibility in your career.
However, if your current job doesn’t lend itself to flexible work and you feel you need a change, recognize that looking for a flexible job is different than a traditional 9-to-5. Of course, you will have to do your research to find flexible jobs and companies. In addition, during the interview process, you need to demonstrate that you can work flexibly. Here are five ways you can tailor your interview technique to flexible jobs and ace the job interview:
1 – Know when to bring up flexibility
FlexJobs is hosting a virtual job fair on October 24. Given that FlexJobs is the organizer, the employers at that job fair will openly be hiring for flexible jobs. However, it’s not always that obvious whether an employer is open to a flexible work arrangement. The default might be a traditional work schedule or location, and you may need to negotiate for flexibility.
You will be most effective negotiating for flexibility only after the employer is interested in you. Therefore, you don’t want to bring up flexibility prematurely. When you know the employer is serious about hiring you – e.g., they start selling you on the job or talk about the logistics of getting started – then you can broach the topic of flexibility. Prior to that, your focus should be on demonstrating your overall qualifications, knowing you can discuss flexibility at a later time. If you want to confirm that the employer is open to flexibility before you interview, ask people who used to work there or still work there but are not involved in your hiring process. Focus 100% on proving yourself to be the best candidate first, and save the due diligence for after the employer already wants you.
2 – Highlight results
Employers hire to solve a specific problem. The job description often includes a laundry list of responsibilities and qualifications, but employers ultimately hire for results. The most effective way to win employers over is to focus the job interview on results you can achieve for this prospective employer based on results you have already achieved in the past.
With flexible jobs, highlighting results is even more important because you won’t be as visible as your colleagues. You’re on a different schedule or in a different place, so your employer has to trust you to get those results without seeing the work behind it. If you’re already inside a company, they have seen your track record. Before you’re hired, however, what you say during the job interview is your track record. Be specific on what you accomplished for others and what you can accomplish for this prospective employer. Ideally, you can show how working flexibly contributed to getting those results.
3 – Outline how you would approach the work
In addition to the results you could accomplish, outline how you would get these results. With flexible jobs, the employer can’t see you work. A clear outline about how you would your approach the work will build trust with the employer since results aren’t going to materialize instantly. A clear strategy for your work also shows the prospective employer that you are self-starting and reliable – key traits for getting things done flexibly.
Outlining your work approach is also a chance to verify your understanding of the job description. When you and the employer discuss, not just the end result, but the process and the day-to-day activity, you get a much clearer picture of what the job really entails. Job postings can be wrong, and with flexible jobs where you may have less hands-on management to help you course-correct, you need to know from the outset what the relevant goals are.
4 – Confirm the logistics
If you’re working a different schedule or from a different location, you’ll have different equipment, resources, potentially even log-in access. It’s easy to take for granted all the logistics supporting the workplace when you’re onsite and everything is provided for you. Once you’re working flexibly, you need to ensure you have the support you need.
During the interview, as you confirm what needs to be done and how you would approach it (points 2 and 3 above), listen for what the employer already offers or what infrastructure you might need to set up. If other people are already working flexibly, you probably will have all or most of what you need. But if you’ll be the pioneer, you should expect to invest additional time with IT, security, facilities and your colleagues. If you have done this in the past, these specific stories would be relevant examples to share during the interview – assuring the prospective employer that you can hit the ground running.
5 – Make flexibility a non-issue or even a competitive advantage
If you check off points 1-4 above, you can convince an employer that you are right for the job. However, you also want to convince them that you are better than other candidates, including the ones who are willing to work the typical hours, schedule and/or location. One way to do this is to be the better qualified candidate overall, so that even if the employer feels like flexibility has a cost, they are more than willing to pay it in order to land you.
Another way to overcome the flexibility objection is to show how flexibility conveys an advantage. Pepper your interview with examples of how flexible work has increased your productivity, creativity or other tangible results. Have outside research on the benefits of flexible work readily available to bolster your case.
Use the interview process to bank in-person rapport for later
The interview process, whether for flexible or traditional jobs, is a great opportunity to build rapport with the people you will be working with. If your flexible work arrangement means you won’t see these people as much once you’re working, take advantage of the interview process to get the in-person interaction you won’t have later. Focusing on rapport will also increase your likability during the interview process – a critical and too often overlooked factor in hiring decisions.