Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time wrote in an article for Fortune:
So, as modern work habits blur personal and professional lives, it’s not surprising to think that this trend would extend to the job search. And it does: According to Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel nearly half of job searchers “say that flexibility is the most important aspect” when searching for a new position.
But how do you find the balance? How do you ascertain whether a role will work with your particular situation, without getting too personal? The secret is varying your answers by a degree so that they’re appropriate for each stage of the job search process. Here’s how:
Your resume and cover letter are your first impression. Sure, you have considerations outside the workplace, but you also have a lot of qualifications that would make a company lucky to have you — so keep the focus there. This is the time to discuss relevant professional experience and interest in the position.
Even nodding to potential deal-breakers with a cover letter line like, “I’m particularly drawn to your flexible workplace culture” can make a hiring manager pause. (Because even an accommodating interviewer doesn’t want to hire someone who’s first order of business is clocking out.)
Now, it’s never too early to mention things that clear up questions about your candidacy — but only give as much information as necessary. For example, if you currently live and work on the west coast and you’re moving east in three weeks, you should absolutely mention your move in your cover letter (just skip the “…for my significant other’s job”).
Getting called in for an interview is the intermediate step: There’s mutual interest, however, you don’t have the job. As such, you can be a bit more open, but you must remember you’re an applicant.
One of the quickest ways to turn an interviewer off is to get too personal. Much like when you’re negotiating a raise, you want to focus on why you deserve it — your contributions and opportunities for growth, market research, etc. — rather than how much it would help you out.
So, while you don’t have to be a closed book (it’s okay to mention that your spouse works at a local company or how you’re excited to relocate to your hometown), keep your comments professional. When it’s your turn to ask questions, dig into company culture and flexibility. For example, Executive Coach Mikaela Kiner suggests asking, “What kind of flexible work arrangements do people have?”
Remember, it’s all about balance. You want to learn more and make sure the role is a good fit — but you don’t want to tip your hand and negatively affect your chances. By sharing some details and asking about flexibility, it won’t be a shock if you bring up flex work arrangements during negotiations. Just avoid getting too specific too early on (or hiring managers may weigh your additional needs when ranking candidates).
LinkedIn Influencer Whitney Johnson pulled together expert opinions for her insightful post “You’re Interviewing, and Pregnant.” The advice varies from not mentioning a pregnancy (particularly if it’s early on) to mentioning it (especially if it’s small company). This post nails the fact that there’s no singular “right answer,” “right time,” or “right way” to broach certain personal topics: The best course of action will vary based on the specifics of a given situation.
From watching friends and colleagues successfully nab jobs during myriad personal situations (including at seven months pregnant), I think the best time to bring up specific personal needs is after an offer has been extended and before you accept it. If you’d like a certain number of weeks maternity leave, you’ll want to negotiate that in your contract. If you’d like to come in early and leave early two days a week (or come in late and stay late) or work from home every other Monday, this is the time to bring it up.
During negotiations, the balance of power has shifted. Before, your unique needs might have counted against you (intentionally or not). But now, you’re the hiring manager’s top choice and she’s more likely to see if there’s an arrangement that will make you both happy.
Caveat: Waiting until an offer is extended will not work if you’re asking for flexibility the company does not provide. If everyone works from HQ, if hours are set in stone, and so forth, asking for a high degree of flexibility will seem out of left field.
Do your due diligence before you even begin the application process — from reading reviews on Glassdoor to having informational interviews — so you’ll know whether the company will entertain these sorts of requests. If the answer is no, odds are being the top candidate won’t change it. But if the answer is yes, bide your time and wait until they really want you to see what the company can offer.
When your goal is to find a workplace that will accommodate your situation, it’s tempting to lay your life story out on the table. But focusing on your role as a candidate first can help you get to the final stages where the company is more willing to negotiate. When in doubt, remember, you can always reveal more about yourself, but you can’t take back something you’ve said.