It’s no longer about CVs, cover and motivation letters: it’s a job interview that can make it or break it.
This is why it has become everyone’s obsession to uncover a magic phrase, the equivalent of “open sesame“ that will open up all the doors in their job search.
One of these magic phrases is: “I’m flexible“. It is commonly understood that employers just love those candidates who are always available, at any time of the day or night, who are adaptable to all circumstances.
However, what some job candidates, overly eager to please their interviewer, seem to forget is that they need to draw the line somewhere.
Immanuel Kant said: “If you make yourself a worm, do not complain when you are trodden on“.
Here are some examples of the possible answers to: “How flexible you are?“ question and their results in perspective:
Shifts (irregular hours)
One of the questions that is sure to come up during every job interview is the candidate’s readiness to work nights and weekends and change up shifts.
While many people would be quick to respond with: “Sure, I’m available whenever you need me!“, it is better to hold on for a minute and think about the possible consequences of giving such an answer.
Even those who are single, have troubles balancing work and family when they work nights and weekends. So the best kind of answer is the one that leaves some room for maneuver and takes all the circumstances into account.
For example, one that makes a trade-off: “I’m generally not available during nights and weekends because I have small children, but I would definitely be available if it’s urgent or during peak workloads“.
Every candidate wants to come across as a team player during a job interview. Because that is what every employer is looking for- someone who fits in well with the rest of the team. But what about being asked to do someone else’s work?
Here, it’s important to draw a red line. It’s totally fine to take on someone else’s responsibility if the team is working on a project and that person is struggling, but not to become a punching bag everyone can turn to and push some work on.
While it is recommendable to come across as someone who can handle unforeseen circumstances, it is equally important to make it clear that one is not a Superman, being able to handle every job and be in charge of everything without agreement.
It often happens that an employee feels compelled to take the blame for someone else’s mistakes, especially if it is a joint project and there are multiple factors involved.
However, while it is nice to be collegial, it is wrong to take the blame all the time for something one did not do. It’s fine to absorb some of the responsibility, but also to point to all the facts, without pointing the finger at anyone.
One of the main characteristics of flexible employees is their readiness to do some extra work, without getting paid for it. These too-eager-to-please job candidates, usually end up working much more than anyone else, but getting paid much less.
To avoid this, it’s important to express readiness to take on some extra work if necessary, but also demand compensation depending on the scope of work.
When someone is new on the job, it’s a common courtesy to bring a cup of coffee for one’s coworkers, especially if they are in the need of that hot cup of energy.
However, it’s important to make it clear (politely) that one can not make a coffee run all the time and with getting paid for a coffee.
Who would not want to be a reliable guy, everyone turns to when needed and who is always 100% ready to help. But when they start calling outside the work hours, even at 1:00 am- it stops being so amusing.
These “reliable guys“ become the ones who find it impossible to balance their work and life. To avoid this, all job candidates should try to be as direct as possible and explain that there are situations and periods of day and night when they are simply not available for work.
Everyone wants to come across as the best candidate during a job interview: someone who can move heaven and earth.
But this strategy of claiming to be flexible, can backfire once a candidate has been hired. It’s not uncommon for these job candidates to become a “punching bag“ of their colleagues and bosses and find themselves unable to put up with all their responsibilities.
That is why it is important to draw a red line right away, during a job interview. One should try to be as flexible as possible, but not without taking all the circumstances into account.