Survey highlights dangers of ‘open to flex’ job adverts

A new survey shows that candidates may steer clear of jobs that say they are ‘open to flex’ without specifying what type of flexibility they offer.

Job Application being filled out


Using the catch-all phrase ‘open to flexible working’ in recruitment advertising is actually putting flexibility-seeking candidates off from applying – because it’s too generic to be meaningful, according to a survey by Timewise Jobs.

Timewise Jobs says its survey of over 1,000 flexible jobseeking candidates shows they need the type of flexible working offered to be specified. It says people tend not to search for ‘flexible jobs’, but search using terms such as part-time job, homeworking, open to job sharing, staggered start and finish times and so forth.

The report: ‘Gaining an edge in the fight for talent’ shows that putting ‘open to flex’ on job adverts puts nearly half of flexibility-seeking candidates off: 45% of respondents said they would either not apply for a job that described itself as full-time but ‘open to flexible working’ or feel cautious about the vacancy and would conduct research before making an application to ascertain what type of flexible working was possible.

The report also found that many candidates thought ‘flexible working’ did not include ‘part-time’ (53%) or homeworking (23%). 51% of candidates said they did not want to waste their time applying as the messaging did not make it clear which forms of flexibility would be possible. More than a third (37%) think employers are ‘paying lip service’ when they see the phrase.

Timewise says candidates have a high awareness of ‘flex washing’ – whereby an employer advertises a role as flexible, when they haven’t actually undertaken the due diligence to ensure the role can successfully work in that way. Around 1 in 3 (35%) even fear they could be discriminated against if they request a particular work pattern.

The report also highlights the missed opportunity for employers who don’t encourage flexible working from day one given many candidates conduct sophisticated searches for roles which offer the flexibility they want. It says that four fifths of UK job ads still make no mention of flexible working opportunities at all, whether generic or not.

Head of Timewise Jobs Jenny Vadevalloo said: “Post Brexit and still in a pandemic, recruitment and employer brand professionals are facing a real challenge in terms of talent attraction right now. With so many people searching for flexible working, being explicit about the specific forms of flexibility in their recruitment adverts (whether how much, where or when) gives you the competitive edge, every time.”

“Being too general leaves too much ‘unknown’ for the candidate, and sometimes even breeds mistrust. Candidates want to see that employers have really thought about this and planned flexibility carefully into the role. Plus they look to see themselves reflected – the would-be part-time worker, job sharer or remote worker.”

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