How to negotiate for flexible hours at the interview?
February 18, 2009 11:52 PM   Subscribe

How to negotiate for flexible hours at the interview?

I have a job interview tomorrow for a company that I'd absolutely love to work for. The only problem is that it's a full-time position and I'm currently enrolled in an intensive university language course (four hours a day in the morning until noon). What is the best way for me to broach this with the employer?
posted by so much modern time to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The standard response is to negotiate once they've offered you the job. If this intensive course will end in the next month or two, you can discuss it when you start discussing a start date, after they offer the job to you.

If the job is longer term, though, I might personally give them more heads up. My approach -- and this might just be me -- is to disclose it early, very matter of factly, not in a "now I am asking you for something" way, but in a "let me tell you something about me and my life" way.

Them: Why do you want this job?
You: This job will really fit with my love of learning. For example, right now even though I'm not enrolled in a university, I'm taking an intensive language class in the mornings 4 days/week..
posted by salvia at 12:06 AM on February 19, 2009

When they make you an offer, negotiate for flex time instead of salary. In other words, make flex time your only request, because what you're asking for is unusual for most companies, where your job benefit is going to be obvious to your co-workers who probably do not have the same thing.

And that said, absent unusual circumstances, you will not get 5 days a week of "I'll be in after noon."
posted by zippy at 12:08 AM on February 19, 2009

Best answer: I've had this kind of thing pop up in interviews, and I'd recommend you keep this in mind: your potential employer has asked for full time hours. That means that they want full time hours out of you. If you're willing and able to shift your hours from noon to eight for a few months, and if the job itself would allow it, and you're a stellar candidate with amazing references, then yes, they'd do that for you.

They might also offer you the job, to start with normal, full time hours, once your course has ended. Or, they might have you work in another department or in a slightly different sort of job until your course has ended, then move you to your "proper" job. There are lots of ways to make this happen, if the company and employee are flexible.

I'd tell them at some point in the interview. Towards the end, once the ice has been broken and the conversational flow goes towards the work culture and discussions about personal interests. It gives you a chance to have them like you enough to be willing to consider flexing your hours a bit. Particularly if it's a short term thing, like a month or two of a course. If this course is more than a long term sort of thing, then you need to look at finding jobs that are part time/flexible to begin with.

Do not, whatever you do, leave disclosing this info about the course to the offer stage, particularly if this interview has come to you through a recruiter or a personal relationship. Not only would you piss me off, as a potential employer, and piss off HR at my company for having declined other candidates to have you come out with something like this, but I'd make my displeasure known to all and sundry if your name came up. If I am looking for someone, it's because I need them. If they're honest with me in the interview, even about things that might make me possibly not want to hire them (fired from last job/potential bad reference/had nervous breakdown/whatever) I am likely to think they'll be honest with me as an employee. If they aren't honest, it's usually a really bad sign about them as an employee to me.
posted by Grrlscout at 12:28 AM on February 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so far for the answers so far. My course ends in June or July (it's at a Chinese university so they haven't figured out the schedule yet), and I'm definitely going to ask if they are willing to let me work starting in the afternoon instead. It's worth a shot.
posted by so much modern time at 12:50 AM on February 19, 2009

You totally should have mentioned that a) this job also, logically, is in China then, no? and b) you seem to be a non-Chinese, and, probably, learning Chinese? It leaves you a lot more wiggle room in negotiation!
1) You are *much* more useful to this company if you can communicate better in the local language, even if their employees are all fluent English speakers (your clients and suppliers will not be).
2) I don't know about China, but in Vietnam, it's seen as pretty cool to have foreigners working for you. Not just as random status symbol, but because the education is perceived as better and the cultural attitude as more.. worldly? If the others applying for the job are different from you, it could be a little perk.
3) Again, I don't know about China, but how common are flex hours *at all* there?? Will this be a totally foreign concept? Will you have to sell the whole idea, or just its application for you at this company? The situation could be good (hey, neat multi-cultural new concept to try!) or bad (WTF is she smoking).

Things to keep in mind when you're trying to sell this idea, from someone who has to sell ideas to bosses in a different foreign country (Japan).
posted by whatzit at 3:35 AM on February 19, 2009

Response by poster: To follow up on this post, it turned out that the job was actually extremely flexible without a need for full-time (despite what it said on the ad) anyway, so that my potential boss was fine with my studying. All that worrying for nothing!

whatzit, the reason that I didn't mention that this was in China is because the company is expat-run without a need to use Chinese, so that the people that I'd be competing against were mostly other expatriates. I think if I were to suggest flexible hours to a Chinese company, they'd definitely wonder what I was smoking!

Thanks again!
posted by so much modern time at 7:47 AM on February 20, 2009

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