Fake Flex: The Underlying Risks of Misleading Job Postings and Recruiting

By being upfront, prioritizing culture and assessing their existing policies, organizations can manage expectations around flexible work arrangements.
People searching for a new job. Job search concept on blue background.

Flexible work arrangements remain very important to job candidates, so it is no surprise many job posts emphasize remote or hybrid work arrangements. Almost a third of hybrid employees, and almost two thirds of remote employees, expressed they would be extremely likely to look for another job if their employer decided not to offer remote work opportunities, as measured by Gallup in May 2023.

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However, not every role advertising flexible work arrangements lives up to that promise. In a continually competitive labor market, some organizations are selling themselves to candidates for their flex schedules, only for new hires to discover the job is not as flexible as advertised.

Flexible schedules and remote work options give employees greater autonomy over when and where they work. Many organizations have reasonable guidelines about when and how often employees need to work in the office. That being said, some rules are more restrictive than others, and not all recruiters are upfront about these rules in job interviews.

Even if recruiters do not see themselves as deceptive for withholding specifics on flexible work policies, candidates may feel differently. It is critical to be honest in job descriptions and throughout the recruitment process in order to find the best fit. Employers should be transparent, focus on culture and consider their policies carefully.

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Be transparent

Candidates want flexible work opportunities, but most understand there may be limits on how flexible they can be. A McKinsey survey in June 2022 found 58 percent of Americans work remotely at least one day a week and 35 percent can work remotely five days a week. With policies that vary widely, savvy job candidates know their next employer may allow more, or fewer, remote workdays than their current employer.

Employers may have concerns that being too explicit about their remote or hybrid work policy could drive away candidates if they offer less flexibility than competitors. However, that ultimately wastes time and resources because candidates who highly value flexibility are unlikely to accept an offer and could even feel misled by recruiters.

The best choice is to clearly state attendance policies in a job description, reiterate them during the interview and allow candidates to ask questions. While excessive detail is not needed, job posts can simply state the number of days employees are required to be in office. Exceptions or addendums to the policy can be shared during a phone or face-to-face interview. If there is a waiting period for remote work benefits, candidates should be informed before they sign their offer so they can make appropriate arrangements for travel, childcare or other personal obligations.

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Focus on culture

Candidates can possess the skills and experience necessary for a role but may struggle without a good culture fit. When businesses are not transparent with candidates about the nature of their flexible work policies, they undermine the trust needed to build a strong culture. Businesses also misrepresent their culture, which is shaped in part by how and when employees work.

It is true that being open about flexible work policies may lead some candidates to self-select out of an applicant pool, out of the desire for more flexibility. However, the converse is also true that some candidates will prefer to spend more time with colleagues in the office and may not apply to a job that seems too focused on remote work.

If businesses do not clearly state their policies during recruitment, they risk driving away candidates who might have thrived with more face-to-face workdays. Recruiters should communicate not only flexible work policies, but also how these policies shape organizational culture, to find candidates with a strong culture fit.

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Evaluate flexible work policies

Businesses are unlikely to withhold information about their flexible work policies for no reason. In many cases, recruiters may feel as though their employer’s policies make it more difficult to attract high quality candidates, especially if highly flexible work policies are an industry standard. However, misrepresenting flexible work rules is not an answer. Rather, employers may need to reevaluate their standards.

Every business has differing needs, some of which may require more in-office time than others. For instance, teams which collaborate frequently may benefit from face-to-face brainstorming more than teams working more independently. However, if research reveals competing organizations do offer greater flexibility, organizations need to ensure they can explain why.

The most important part of reevaluating a flexible work policy is understanding why the policies are in place and communicating those reasons with new hires and existing employees. Candidates are much more likely to accept limitations on flexible work when they feel their potential employer has a sound explanation.

Misleading job candidates is never acceptable. By being upfront, prioritizing culture and assessing their existing policies, organizations can manage expectations around flexible work arrangements and find the top talent for their needs.


Niki JorgensenNiki Jorgensen is a Managing Director of Client Implementation with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources offering the most comprehensive suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace. For more information about Insperity, call 800-465-3800 or visit www.insperity.com.

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