Joyce Lain Kennedy
Career Q & A
July 27, 2012
DEAR JOYCE: I formerly worked as a paralegal but have stayed home for the last seven years with kids. Now I'm hoping to go back to work on a part-time basis, perhaps 15 to 25 hours a week. I applied to two companies but was not given a warm welcome. Before I try again, what typical questions might trip me up because I'm only looking for short-week professional-level work? -- E.K.
DEAR E.K. -- Consider these classic objections to hiring you on a part-time basis and suggested talking points to counter them.
ALL OR NOTHING. "Why would I hire you when I can find plenty of candidates for full-time schedules?"
-- You can stretch your human resource budget to hire part-time workers who, when they're carried on spousal policies, will not require health insurance benefits.
-- By having more people on your rolls, you have a better chance of calling in a substitute when another staffer is away from the job.
-- You can hire people with a wider assortment of competencies and skills.
-- Fewer yet fully productive hours means less payroll costs.
OUT OF TOUCH. "Haven't you been out of the picture a little too long for today's business?"
-- I haven't allowed myself to become out of touch with contemporary practices. I have taken steps to keep up by ... (volunteering in business-equivalent activities, taking an advanced course, reading important trade websites, attending professional meetings).
NO COMMITMENT. "How can you be serious about your job but only want to work part time?"
-- My determination to do a superlative job handling both professional and personal responsibilities is the reason that I prefer part-time work.
-- I am committed. I'm committed to a work-life balance, and when I'm here on your payroll, I'm here 100 percent!
-- I won't need to take time off on your dime for dental appointments and other family matters.
SKIPPING OUT. "The part-time professionals I've hired left as soon as full-time positions became available. Why should I think you will be any different?"
-- I value my family and personal time as well as my professional life. If I wanted full-time work, I'd be applying for it. I am looking for the best of both worlds. I hope I have found that here.
"What happens when you're not here and someone needs your input?"
-- Full-timers don't sit at their desks eight hours a day, five days a week. Messages are taken for them.
-- I will set up appointments in advance and be present for important meetings.
-- When necessary, I can be reached by mobile phone or email during off-duty hours.
KILLER QUESTION. My favorite question to ask employers who are showing attitude about hiring part-time professional women relates to the woman whose discovery of radium led to a new era for medical knowledge and the treatment of diseases:
"If Madam Curie were alive and only able to work from 9:30 to 3:15, would you hire her?"
DEAR JOYCE: Your column about personality tests did not mention protections for those who are forced to take tests if we want to be hired. Do we have rights? -- A.T.
DEAR A.T. -- Yes, indeed you do. You should not be confronted with privacy-invading assessments or testing that violates the Americans with Disability Act or tests that have been judged discriminatory to a protected class of people, such as certain racial or ethnic groups. Quick tip: Search online for "personality test civil rights."
If you think you're in over your head, consult an employment lawyer with a specialty in preemployment testing.
(E-mail career questions for possible use in this column to Joyce Lain Kennedy at email@example.com; use "Reader Question" for subject line. Or mail her at Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.)
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