While it’s relatively easy to negotiate your existing role down to part-time after parental leave, what if you want a new part-time role? If you only look for jobs that are advertised part-time you will be limiting your options significantly; sadly the majority of roles are advertised as full-time.

So, a much better option is to job hunt for your ideal role regardless of the time fraction, then attempt to negotiate it down to the time fraction you desire. I did this for my last four roles – I negotiated full-time roles down to 3.5 and 4 days a week. I’ve also had several clients and friends who have successfully used this method too.

So, how do you actually negotiate a part-time role?  How and when do you discuss this with the prospective employer?

Here are several options for you to consider – choose what works best for you!

1: Speak with the prospective employer in advance

Many organisations are open to considering flexible work arrangements, and some have policies around this – particularly public sector and large private sector organisations.

However, even in a flexible workplace, not all roles can be undertaken part-time. Therefore, I strongly recommend calling the job contact to ask. This is also an excellent opportunity to ask any other questions you have about the role (and put you on their radar).

Several years ago I found a job that I could do with my eyes closed at my dream organisation, so I called up to ask about the option of undertaking the role part-time. The response from the manager was abrupt and rude – she said there was no way the role could be done part-time and hung up on me! So of course, I didn’t apply and therefore saved myself a lot of time and effort, plus the potential long-term pain working in a team where the culture didn’t align with mine.

2: Mention your working hours preference in the cover letter

My preference when seeking a part-time role is to be upfront and put it in my cover letter. However, I am in the minority on this approach!

I use wording along the lines of: “Should I be the preferred applicant I would like to negotiate a part-time working arrangement.”

Most people don’t want to bias their application, so they don’t mention it in the cover letter. They prefer the next option, which allows them to meet and be impressed by you first.

3: Raise it at the interview

Most people choose to raise the issue of part-time or flexible work arrangements at the end of the job interview. This way you’ve shown the interview panel that you’re the best person for the job.

If you do choose to raise it at the end of the job interview, you can advise the panel that if you are the preferred candidate, you would like to work part-time, flexibly or in a job share.

You need to be clear in advance about your minimum/maximum time fraction and availability.

I also suggest combining this method with option 1 (calling up in advance to ask about flexible work arrangements).

You could then say something like “As I mentioned when I spoke to you on the phone if I’m a successful applicant I’d like to negotiate a part-time working arrangement. I would prefer to work 3 days a week and could do 4 days a week maximum. I’d also be open to job sharing.”

4: Raise it at the job offer

Raising the option of part-time or flexible work arrangements when you receive the job offer is not my preferred approach, as I think it’s best to be upfront and honest with a potential employer.

Asking this late in the job application process may put the potential employer off-side. However, lots of people do it this way!

5: Apply with as a job share

Another thing to consider is finding a job share partner that you would like to work with, then applying for jobs together. You submit separate applications but note in your cover letter that you are applying jointly. This could be somebody that you know and have previously worked with, or you could find someone via a job share matching website such as Puffling.

You are much more likely to find a fulfilling job that meets all your requirements by considering all jobs regardless of the time fraction.


About the author, Emma Maslen:

After many years in administrative roles in the university, government and not-for-profit sectors, Emma took her love for resume writing for friends and turned it into Rescue My Resume, a premium resume writing service for professional women, based in Melbourne.  Emma helps her clients with all aspects of the job application process, including a tailored resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile and interview coaching. www.rescuemyresume.com.au