A procurement job seekers guide to approaching flexible working

Some questions are hard to answer. My four-year old son recently asked me why a toothbrush isn’t called a teeth-brush? I think I would have preferred it if he had asked me where babies came from.

Another challenging and often perplexing question concerns the right to flexible working. Since June 2014, employees in the UK have had the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of service, and whilst many companies are looking at the change positively, there are also plenty who are concerned with the effects it could have upon the business, the impact it might have on their teams and how it can be effectively managed. As a result, it can be tricky to know how best to tackle it if you’re a job seeker.

With this in mind, we have put together some tips and advice for anyone looking to broach the subject of flexible working whilst job hunting in 2016 with a particular focus on your preparation and your timing:

Preparation – there are three actions that we recommend procurement job seekers should undertake before approaching potential employers with a flexible working request, all of which can help pave the way for a positive response:

  1. Actively seek out and apply for roles with organisations that embrace flexible working within their culture. You can do this through company websites, reviews on Glassdoor and even information on social media channels where employees often reveal glimpses of their employers’ attitude towards different working patterns. If you channel your search activities this way, then you’re far more likely to achieve your desired outcome.  If you’re working with a recruiter, then make sure you communicate your desires around flexibility clearly, at the start of the process. You can then agree on the right organisations to engage with and the best time to broach the subject at interview.
  2. Be clear in your own mind what you want to request and why. If you’re looking at condensing a five day working week into four days so that you can spend some time with a young child, pursue some ongoing professional development or care for a relative then put it into context for the hiring managers involved in the recruitment process. It will help them to make an informed decision regarding your request. Just make sure you raise your request at the right time (see section on timing)
  3. Be clear about how you will make your request work for you and the employer. Perhaps you want to work within school hours so that you can pick up your children or you want to work from home for a small percentage of the week to counteract a lengthy commute?  In respect of the former, gather together some examples of your time management skills, particularly around coping with an increased workload or meeting tough deadlines. You could also highlight where you can offer some flexibility back – i.e. picking up work in the evenings or at the weekend. When it comes to the latter, there are many plus points to being home-based rather than stuck in tail backs on the M25, just make sure you’re primed to communicate this with confidence. You’ll be calmer, have more energy, more time and ultimately, you’ll be more productive – what’s not to like?

Timing there is real merit in knowing the right time to make a flexible working request and you can help your cause by taking the following into consideration:

  1. Have you communicated the value you can bring to the role effectively? Time and again, we hear of people going into first interviews and jumping straight in with a list of demands.  Imagine yourself in the hiring managers position. Would you want to bend over backwards to accommodate someone you barely knew, with little more than a CV to go on? You need to take some time to show future employers that you could be a valuable commodity. Tell them about your achievements and how they relate to the current needs of the business.  Explain why you want to work for them and where you can see yourself adding value from a personal as well as a professional perspective.
  2. Have you built the necessary rapport? It’s great that you’ve showcased your abilities, but an employer will only want to go the extra mile for you if they feel you have begun to form a genuine relationship.  This means liking and trusting you as well as admiring your abilities so invest some effort into creating a dialogue that will help you really get to know each other and find some common ground.
  3. Have the interview panel given you an opening for your own feedback/questions? This will often occur after the second stage of an interview process where the focus has moved from competency to deeper engagement but can be better defined as the moment where both parties are feeling happy and confident that there is potential for an offer to be made. It’s at this point you should be ready to communicate your desire to work flexibly. The key is to approach it in a positive way, highlighting all the benefits to everyone involved and demonstrating how you can and will make it work. Again, never issue it as an ultimatum or convey it as a demand – you will only damage the credibility and rapport you have worked so hard to build. Let the panel digest your request and wait for them to deliver your feedback after due consideration.

There will be some instances where an organisaton cannot accommodate flexible working requests, despite the job seeker preparing and timing their approach in line with this advice. The good news is that an increasing number are recognizing the benefits rather than seeing the obstacles, particularly when it comes to attracting a wider pool of candidates. It has even been used as a powerful counter offer tool, with employers offering shorter hours and fewer days for the same or increased remuneration when it comes to retaining their top talent.

As procurement recruiters we have seen many trends come and go in terms of what procurement professionals want, but flexible working is set to stay high on the agenda. As a result, it will be the businesses who promote it at the start of their recruitment process and incorporate it into their working practice who find the best talent knocking on their door in 2016.



About the Author

Helen Harling

Office and Marketing Manager for both Procurement Heads and sister brand HR Heads. Graduating with a marketing degree, Helen has continued her passion by leading our marketing function forward. You will see her blogging, tweeting, posting, videoing about Procurement Heads. You can see this on our LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram page.

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