How to ask for flexible working hours during an interview

By Robert Half on 20 April 2023
Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes

Why flexible hours are important

Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a rise in hybrid working arrangements across the globe. This is with good reason – hybrid working hours allow for increased flexibility, promoting better work-life balance, and eliminating daily commutes altogether.

According to a report published in March 2023, 74% of executive employees in Hong Kong rated flexible working hours in their top five most important benefits – yet, only 49% of employers offer such benefits.

Flexible working allows you to work on your schedule, divvying up your time as you see fit to best suit your productivity. (This is not to be confused with remote work, which allows you to work remotely, at an alternative location.) If you’re wondering whether flexible working is something your future employer can offer you, or how to actually ask for flexible working hours during an interview, this guide is for you.

Do your homework before the interview

With only 49% of Hong Kong employers offering flexible working hours, it is best to do some research before stepping into the interview. Apart from reading up on the organisation online, if you have any connection to the organisation you’re interviewing with, including friends or family who work there, reach out and ask them if flexible working hours are on offer.

Our 2023 Salary Guide offers valuable insights into hybrid working and the jobs listed on our website outline which roles are remote (and as an added bonus – we also have a remote job filter for job seekers).

Is flexible working a dealbreaker for you?

Before you delve into how to ask for flexible working hours during an interview, think about why flexible working is important for you, and what your ideal flexible working requirements look like. You don’t have to share these during the interview, but it’s important to have your answers mapped out in your mind beforehand, so you know where you’re willing to compromise (if needed).

Related: How to have work life balance in internal audit

How to ask an employer for flexible working hours during the interview

Wait for the question to come up organically

Often, the interviewer will volunteer information about the company and its work culture, which might lead to an organic introduction into flexible working. For example, if the interviewer asks you what you’re looking for going forward in this role, you can include flexible working in your answer. Emphasising how this arrangement might help you meet the requirements of the role is the best way to make your case here.

Related: 5 hard interview questions to master

Approach the question from a place of curiosity

Naturally, it’s important to address flexible working options in the early stages of the interview process. However, you don’t want your future employer to get the impression you’re making demands this early on in your professional relationship. One way to avoid this is my approaching the conversation from a place of genuine curiosity using the following prompts:

“Can you tell me a bit about the company culture?”

“How are your teams structured and how frequently do they meet?”

“Work-life balance is something I’m seeing in my career going forward, can you tell me a bit about how this company approaches that?”

Related: 10 ways to impress a potential employer in less than five minutes

Be honest and share any specific requirements you have

If you have specific circumstances that require flexible working hours, you can spell those out here. Being upfront with your employer at this stage, about family commitments for instance, will give you an understanding of what your relationship with your employer will look like down the line, too.

If, at any point, your employer and you aren’t seeing eye to eye on your flexible arrangement and compromising is not an option, be honest and communicate this during the interview process.

How not to ask for flexible working hours during an interview

Remember, the goal of this conversation is to find a flexible working schedule that is amenable to both you and your future employer. For this reason, it’s important you understand your employer’s point of view, too, and avoid making any hard and fast demands.

Tips for negotiating flexible working hours

Negotiate before you get an offer. If you’ve established that the company offers flexible working, it is best to set your expectations before the employer extends an offer, says Robert Half recruiter Kelvin Wong. “That way there are no surprises.”

When it comes to asking for flexible working hours, know where (and when) you’re willing to compromise. If set flexible working hours are a must-have for you, make your case. “Why would it benefit the company to provide me with flexible working hours? Do I have a proven track record of delivering consistently impressive results under a flexible work schedule? – these are all important points to bring up, in my experience,” explains Wong.

Ask for your flexible work schedule to be included in a revised offer. Once you and your employer are on the same page, be sure to get your revised offer in writing. This sets the tone for your requirements and your employer’s expectations clearly as you move forward.

At the end of the day, how you ask for flexible working hours during an interview comes down to what you’re looking for with an upcoming role, your work-life balance ideals, and how you present yourself in your interactions with the interviewer. Approaching this conversation during the interview can save both you and a potential employer from any incompatibility in the future.

Ready to take your career further? Robert Half can help. Send us your CV  or search jobs 

More From the Blog...

How to say no to your boss

Does the thought of saying no to your superior fill you with dread? Here are 5 ways you can confidently say no to your boss without feeling like you’re...

Read More