Discussion: February 2, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

A reader asks for advice:

After several years of being a single mother I am now looking for work. However, due to family obligations I do not wish to work full time; ideally 20-30 hours per week. I have successfully found work using your approach in the past and would definitely use it again. However, I’m not sure at what point in the discussions to bring up that I’m only looking for work part time. Should I mention this right off the bat? Or wait until a job offer is being discussed? I’d love to get reader feedback here. (My gut says to mention it earlier, rather than later.)

Can a job applicant interview for a job without disclosing she’s interested only in part-time work? The obvious answer might seem to be no. But put your thinking caps on: What would justify pitching a part-time solution to a full-time job?

Stretch your mind without stretching the truth or your integrity.


  1. I’ve always found that I can get “full-time” work done in part-time hours, which then leaves me open to take on additional projects. So if I was looking for part-time work, I’d sell it that way — that I’d still get all the responsibilities of the job covered, just in fewer hours than most people. And I’d point to my track record and recommendations from past colleagues to back me up. I’d also say that I was willing to commit to accomplishing all the objectives of the position — and if it turned out I couldn’t do it in part-time hours, I’d put more time in (because I know I wouldn’t need to, so it would be a safe promise).

    If an employer really wants you and you’re able to credibly make this claim, I think it would be persuasive.

    Of course, if you’re slow, all bets are off :)

  2. You must disclose UP-FRONT that you are looking for part-time work. Integrity/honesty is at the top of the list of required attributes for any job. In addition, you risk wasting the employer’s and your time by not disclosing it up-front.

    The downside of part-time work is that, for some illogical reason, employers think they should pay less per hour for part-time work, despite the same, and often more, qualifications, experience and dedication the part-time person brings to the job.

    I question whether you really know what you want. You say 20 to 30 hours a week. A full-time job is usually 35 hours a week.

    Some selling points for part-time work:

    Full time work accomplished in half to three quarters the time. No time wasted. Savings for the employer.

    Career and professional commitment to a part-time job, versus a student/extra-pocket money fill-in.

    If applicable, fewer benefits, therefore, less costly for the employer.

    No paid down time to take care of family and health matters.

    You need to research the company and its needs; then make a proposal based on how a part-time job will meet those needs.

  3. There are many employers that predominately offer part time positions. For example, I know the HR Director of our local YMCA system. Almost all of their public service jobs are part time. A bit of research should help you identify such employers.

    That being said, Neva is correct. If you are replying to a posted position that explicitly states it is full time, you should make your desire for part time work known right up front.

  4. Not to get overly bogged down in special cases, I think there are a few different ways to handle this:

    1. Temp agencies. I’d presume that there may be some places that would welcome placing someone into a temporary position in a part-time basis, where if needed 2 part-times could become a full-time. Now, if I’m wrong on such a place existing this could be an opportunity for some I’d think.

    2. Recruiting firms. If you are going through various places that would place you somewhere, then it would be worth disclosing upfront that you are after part-time work and if that is acceptable to them rather than try to slip by in an ethically questionable fashion.

    3. Directly applying. If you aren’t going through someone else, then I would likely suggest at a second interview or at some point where the finer details can be discussed that this is brought up. I wouldn’t start out with a, “I’d only work part-time,” in this situation. In the other case it is logical as you are likely to get boxed in some way so that they can know where you’d like to apply and try to match you up, rather than have you go straight to work. A point in waiting here is to see if a couple of things can be accomplished: 1) You actually do want this job. You know enough to know that you can and want to do it, and 2) That the employer has been shown that it would be a good idea to hire you. Thus it isn’t like this is coming up after an offer was made but rather just prior to that.

    That’s my take on that question which is really just something to bring up before saying, “Yes, when can I start?”

  5. Why not convert the “job” to some sort of retainer-like consulting position that focuses on outcomes, and not time spent in the office?

    If you really can do the work as efficiently as you say, you can get something of a boost in hourly pay, while the employer doesn’t need to pay you for time that isn’t productive, nor would she/he have to pay any health benefits if you aren’t full time.

    Check out Nick’s book recommendations. I prefer Alan Weiss’s approach. Of course, this stuff isn’t what we are taught in school. We are taught to sell our souls (ie. our time) for a wage. But this only encourages people to focus on the wrong outcomes (hours worked vs. bottom line results).