A reader writes:
I have recently re-entered the job market, after being in my previous position for nearly ten years. One of the reasons that I stayed in that role for so long was that it offered enormous flexibility of schedule. I have a special needs child, and I really need the ability to work from home as needed to accommodate things like doctors’ appointments, therapy sessions, and meetings with school. Should I be up front with interviewers about my personal situation, and my need for flexibility?
Thanks for writing. The issue you describe is a fairly common one—people become accustomed to the perks of a certain position, and those non-monetary perks become perceived as non-negotiable for their next role. However, it is important to keep in mind that the interview is really not the time to talk about yourself. That’s right. You might think that you’re there to discuss your achievements and accomplishments, but you’re really not. You’re there to talk about a specific business problem and how you might be able to solve it.
I don’t think that you should bring up your home situation with an interviewer. Right or wrong, that is going to send the message that you are someone who has excessive commitments in your personal life, and that you may not be fully dedicated to your job. The interview needs to focus on what you can do for the employer, and how you can help with the current business need.
What I do think you should do is to wait until the offer stage, and then negotiate a flexible work arrangement, like two days from home. You have a decade-long tenure at your previous company, and your references should be able to speak to the quality of your work, thus reassuring your prospective manager that you can get your work done regardless of your location. You needn’t mention your child at all. Many, many white collar employees and employers see telecommuting as a reasonable, inexpensive employee benefit.
All my best,