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Want a flexible job? Here are four tips to negotiate your dream role

The demand for flexible working is increasing but only 15 percent of jobs advertised are for part-time or flexible roles, according to research by Timewise, a flexible working consultancy. But is there a way to make a dream job work on your terms?

BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour spoke to Karen Mattison, joint CEO and co-founder of Timewise. Here are her four tips for landing a flexible role, even if the option isn’t mentioned in the job advert.

1. Apply for a dream job even if it’s not advertised as flexible

“The easiest way to describe flexible working is if you have flexibility on where, when, or how much you work,” says Karen Mattison, joint CEO and co-founder of Timewise. “What I would advise is to find the job you want to apply for, and even if there’s no mention of flexibility, apply anyway… assume that it’s something that you can negotiate later.”

“Ideally, it would be good to do some research on the organisation because if they don’t do flexible working for their current staff, it’s unlikely they’ll offer it to a new person. But if they’ve got a culture of flexible working and part-time working is quite normal, which many businesses have now, it’s more likely that they will be open to that as a negotiation point. My personal feeling is if they are not asking you [in the job interview] about flexible working options, don’t mention it too early in the [job application] process.”

2. Don’t be afraid of negotiating

“I think the focus of the interview and the hiring process should be on whether you are the right person for the job and do they want you,” says Karen Mattison. “Once they want you, then you’re in a position to negotiate flexibility. You may not get everything you want, but your currency is much higher because you’re the preferred candidate.”

“The challenge is that it’s like poker - when do you show your hand? If you do it too soon, and the employer hasn’t fallen in love with you yet, you just become that annoying person who just says what they can and can’t do before you’ve actually got the job. Once the employer wants you, then you’re in a negotiation situation and we now know that nine out of 10 employers are open to discussing some form of flexibility for the right candidate. Once you know you’re the right candidate, that’s a different kind of conversation.”

3. Be flexible about the flexibility you want

“Have a conversation, but be flexible about the flexibility you might want,” advises Karen Mattison. “Give some thought to how it could work, and even better, find examples of people in your industry doing similar roles. Your dream for flexibility may be a three day week, you may need to negotiate on flexibility and it may need to be a four day week. Your dream may be to work at home two days a week, you might need to start with one day a week.”

“Be flexible about it and think about how it could work for the business and what the advantages might be for them. I don’t think you want to get into a situation where it’s a polarised discussion. It’s about how can we work together to make this job work well.”

4. Have ideas, make suggestions - don’t just sit back

“One of the things we do wrong is we push the problem onto the employer and the other side of the table and say, ‘right I want three days, what are you going to do about it?’ I would do it differently,” says Karen Mattison. “I would say, ‘I’ve worked this way in this role, I know how it can be done, the job could be designed more creatively and with that 20 percent salary saving, you could do this’. So in a sense, you’re bringing some ideas and some solutions, not just the request for flexible working.”

Listen to the full Woman’s Hour discussion about flexible working here.

Woman's Hour is on BBC Radio 4 on weekdays at 10am and at 4pm on Saturdays. You can catch up with all episodes via BBC Sounds.