3 Steps to getting a flexible job: 2 working with your recruitment consultant

This is the second in a series of three linked blogs covering the key steps to getting a flexible job. In the first I offered advice on how to craft a winning CV; and this second considers how to create a successful working relationship with your recruitment consultant.

As you search for your perfect flexible job it’s likely you will end up working with one or more recruitment consultancies. I offer you three pieces of advice for making the most of those opportunities.

1. Keep in mind the consultant is acting as a broker between you and a potential employer. Her primary role is to match the ideal candidate with the ideal role.

What this means is that she will have your interests at heart; and will work with you to find the best opportunity for you. You can use her in-depth knowledge of her marketplace and employer clients to check how your skills compare with other candidates. She will understand the culture of the interviewing organisation and can offer you insights into the realities of working there. If you’re returning to work rather than switching jobs she can also provide a steer on realistic salary expectations.

However, the recruitment consultant is not a careers counsellor. She’s not the person to guide you through identifying your key skills and strengths; and the type of role for which you should apply. If you’re unclear about any of this then find a coach to work with you in shaping a clear and compelling CV supported by a practical career strategy.

2. Establishing a professional and open working relationship will pay dividends.

If you’re registering with Trapeze HR Jane and Harriet will assume you are looking for flexibility and balance in your working arrangement as that’s the whole premise of the business. In the HR space there are very few other consultancies working in this way; so you may register with one or two others whose focus is primarily on jobs with more traditional arrangements. While it’s good to keep your options open – and Trapeze HR doesn’t have the monopoly on flexible roles – you should also be honest about the type of working pattern you need.

If your CV is strong and you’ve had a discussion with your consultant about the type of flexibility you’re seeking she can act as an advocate on your behalf. Waiting until you get a job offer and then asking for a flexible arrangement can occasionally succeed but it starts your new employment relationship on a negative footing built on a lack of trust. Better to be open from the outset.

Similarly, if you have doubts or concerns about a job you should discuss these with the consultant so the two of you can decide whether it’s the right opportunity for you. And it goes without saying that if at any point your circumstances change or you cannot attend an interview you must notify the consultancy as soon as possible. That’s simply a professional courtesy. Keep in mind that your behaviour will be seen as a reflection of how professional or unprofessional you’re likely to be in your new role.

3. Aim to be focussed but flexible

Combining work and childcare can have its tricky moments. You may have a very firm idea of the arrangement you need, but what if the ideal opportunity shows up differently? For example: you may have decided that working three days a week is best for you and your consultant offers you a job-share opportunity instead. Or you may have given yourself six months to find the right job once your little one starts at nursery and your consultant has the perfect job - but it needs an immediate start.

Rather than dismiss the opportunity out of hand, take some time to discuss with your consultant whether there’s a way to resolve the dilemma. For example: negotiating a slightly higher salary could help cover the childcare you’ve already put in place and perhaps even give you a couple of hours to yourself.

In the complex journey of finding the perfect flexible job cultivating a flexible mind-set can pay dividends. As the first law of cybernetics - a favourite maxim of mine – says: “the unit within the system with the most behavioural responses available to it controls the system” which simply means: the more flexible you can be the more likely you are to come out on top!

In the third and final blog in this series I will look at how to be your best when you get to that all important first interview.

Anna Meller is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and one of the UK’s leading experts in re-balancing work. https://www.linkedin.com/in/annameller/