Should you bring up your need for flexibility at a job interview?

Imagine you’re interviewing for a new job. The conversation is going well; you have great rapport with your potential boss-to-be, jokes are slipping in between serious conversation and by the end of the 30 minutes, you feel like you could just go and grab a drink together.

But despite the camaraderie, a niggling thought continues to intrude: should you ask if flexibility is part of the package? The interviewer hasn’t specifically mentioned it, but you have two small kids and a thousand other life things to attend to that usually don’t fit neatly into the 9-5 timeslot. 

This is what our (real life) friend asked us recently. After years of working for the one company – where she’d earned her stripes and was able to take off here and there to take care of her small family – she was faced with a dilemma: do I stay and continue to work the same job, with all of its perks but no challenges, or do I venture into unchartered territory, looking for new ways to challenge myself? 

And what do you think we said? Absolutely do not ask after flexibility and here is why:

It should be a given that your employer will allow you to take time off to attend to life’s little surprises, much like it is a given that you will work out of standard hours to get things done. There is no such thing as a work-life balance, defined by this perfect 50/50 balance point where we magically work and live according to an arbitrarily appointed timeline. 

Instead, we all need to see our lives within the paradigm of “work-life blend”, a philosophy that will actually free you from trying to achieve this perfect balance that - spoiler alert! – simply does not exist. 

Women in particular, are prone to apologies and self-flagellation when it comes to trying to prove they are good employees, wives, mothers, sisters and daughters.  In contrast, the men who do childcare and school drop offs don’t ask for permission; neither do they apologise. They just leave when they need to, and finish their work when they have time later in the day.  

As professionals, we don't need to be told how to get the job done: what we do need is to be in a role that accommodates both work and home life. 

So next time you’re in an interview and you’re asked “do you have any more questions for me?”, just zip your lips and shake your head.

As a woman, you don’t need to apologise for having a life. Take the job and sort it out later.

Men certainly do. 


Ainsley Johnstone & Natalie Firth