Adaptability and flexibility

Being flexible and adaptable both require the ability to change plans, priorities and ideas to suit changing circumstances. This requires understanding the balance between task urgency and importance. Adaptability often implies anticipating and planning ahead to allow for contingencies, while flexibility can be more immediate and situational, often with a need to accommodate others.

Both approaches are of immense value to employers as they allow for a more agile form of working while coping well with transition. They also allow you to fit into a new working environment quickly and easily, particularly if this involves remote or hybrid working.

Activities where you could develop adaptability/flexibility

Flexibility is a core skill when studying full time, as you are required to anticipate and work around your assignment deadlines, extracurricular activities and social life. In particular, the ability to adapt your working style can be put to the test if you have had to adopt remote learning during your course, or undertake a placement year or study abroad. Bear these in mind when constructing your CV.

  • Stellify Test your flexibility by taking on new responsibilities throughout your studies.
  • PASS Leader and Peer mentoring Voluntary roles facilitating groups of lower year students on specific study related topics and strategies. Working alongside other peer mentors will test your adaptability as the requirements of your mentees develop and change.
  • University hall Residence Association The challenges and rewards of helping to run a hall of residence will put your adaptability to the test.
  • Student representation or
  • Student ambassador Fielding questions from your fellow/prospective students and the responses of your academic staff requires flexibility in approach.

How are adaptability/flexibility tested in recruitment?

Written applications may require a candidate to provide examples of their skills, and how they demonstrate adaptability. Interview questions give your assessor the opportunity to test this skill on the spot, by introducing follow-up questions and/or adjusting a scenario-based question to see how you react:

  • Why is an ability to be flexible important at work?
  • Tell me about a time when you have had to change your plans due to unforeseen circumstances. [Follow-up:] Now imagine you had more time – what would you do differently?
  • What challenges did you face when adapting to remote learning?

If you are unsure how to structure an answer for either application or interview questions, visit the application and interviews section of our website and find out about the CAR (context, action, result) and STAR (situation, task, action, result) models. Our recommendations are based on feedback from employers.

At assessment centres, business case studies can often be constructed to test your powers of adaptability. You may be asked to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, and the boundaries of a task may change during the activity, necessitating that you change your approach. This could also apply to a verbal role-play or a group discussion. Whatever the scenario, your assessors will be looking for evidence of how you accommodated the change in your final delivery