How to Apply for a Part-Time Job

This article is the continuation of the A Complete List of Part-Time Jobs for Moms and All Women article. If you have already read that article, you can read the current one to learn how to apply for a part-time job.

 Prepare Carefully

It bears repeating again that you must be prepared before you answer an ad (which may result in an immediate interview) and before you make the rounds of prospective employers or seek the help of agencies or services.

Your qualifications must be ready. If your skills are obsolescent, a re fresher course is a must, as I’ve said before. There’s no point in presenting yourself to a newspaper columnist who wants a secretary three mornings a week when you can barely remember the simple outlines of shorthand and you cannot type a paragraph without error.

If you want office work, it may be necessary to learn typing with ten fingers. You can probably bone tip on shorthand with books borrowed from the public library and a cooperative friend or husband or child who will dictate to you. When you can take down most of the words of a speaker on radio or television, you need have no qualms about your facility.

Generally speaking, an accurate typing speed of 50 words per minute and shorthand at 80 words per minute are a minimum requirement. Higher speeds enhance your chances.

If you are timid about retraining yourself, by all means take a crash course at the nearest school, If it’s new training you need, or instruction on any of the modern business machines, you will need more time.

Renew your friendship with both grammar and dictionary. Your employer will be depending on you for correct sentence structure and spelling.

Refresher preparation is desirable no matter what skills and qualifications you unearth—unless you have been keeping up.

Your public library probably will have the most recent literature in the field where you think you can find employment, on techniques, methods, and new developments.

An insurance agent will give you a plus mark if you know where the home office is located. So will an car agency if you remark that its make of car was among the first to install some unique feature.

The job may be routine but the wider the intelligence you can give it the more likely you will be selected for it.

Put yourself in the employer’s shoes. What would you expect from an applicant who wants you to give her the job? Even if you select a person with minimum qualifications, you will want to feel assured that her proficiency and interest will grow.

Don’t forget: when you’re looking for work, you’re asking people to buy what you can deliver—and you have competition.

Preparing yourself is the first practical step to take. It starts before you begin your search and continues until you finally are doing the work you can do best. Depending on the opportunities in your community, that will probably be the work you best like to do. Until that happy day arrives, you may hold down several part-time jobs, each of which will add to your fund of experience and know-how.

Work Out a Résumé

Your next step in preparation is a résumé. What is a résumé? It’s a statement of your experience and qualifications. It tells what you have already done and what you can do for the prospective employer. It conveys all the pertinent information that will help him evaluate you.

Give your résumé your most intelligent thought. Give full details without excess verbiage. Type out, or have typed out, many copies, preferably originals. You will need one for each of the prospective employers who will interview you.

Even if you haven’t had previous experience, you still have qualifications. Some of your writing may have been published, your art or craftwork exhibited, your needlework awarded a prize. Your education, your voluntary help in the community through school, church, or clubs may prove of immense value. You may have organized a neighborhood blood bank, or solicited funds for charitable drives. You may have operated a school kitchen as a PTA member. You may have been a nurse’s aide at the Veterans’ Hospital, or a Red Cross Gray Lady. A cafeteria may be looking for you behind the counter, as a hostess, or a cashier. A hospital may have a registry of women who are needed to watch over people who are not sick enough for a nurse but nevertheless need the kind of attention your volunteer work qualifies you to give.

A mental hospital uses part-timers, preferably women with some social service training or interest, to take patients soon to be released to museums, concerts, movies, theaters, and lectures.

A bookkeeper who worked in a church office two days a week got an additional job as a gospel singer with the choir at ten dollars a week for a two-hour rehearsal plus one service, and extra pay for additional services. She had listed music as a hobby on her résumé. She used the unexpected bonus for voice lessons and now is on steady call for all sorts of social affairs.

A simple résumé might take the following form:

The résumé may or may not accompany a letter of application. It depends on whether an interview has been arranged through a friend, a social contact, or the ad you are answering. If you should mail the résumé and are called for an interview, be prepared to leave another copy. The person who interviews you may not be the person who received your letter.

How to Write a Letter of Application

The letter of application, if you write one, will be shorter than the résumé. In it you will state that you are answering the ad for a particular job, or that you are inquiring to find out whether the firm has an opening for you as a part-time employee.

If you are merely making an inquiry, always mention the kind of work you consider yourself qualified to undertake. Try to find out, in advance, the name of the official who evaluates applications. You will save much time by telephoning first to ask whether there are openings and to arrange a definite appointment for an interview.

The do’s and don’t’s of writing a letter of application can be seen in my own experience in advertising for a part-time secretary. Here is the text of the advertisement placed, and to which I received thirty-two replies:

SECRETARY — Part time, assist author with correspondence and re search, type manuscripts. Chevy Chase. Hours can be flexible. Both steno and tape transcription. State experience and availability. Dept. DL, P.O. Box 5968, Bethesda, Md.

Seven of the replies were handwritten—slightly more than one out of five. This might be forgiven in an applicant for a part-time secretarial position if she did not have a computer in her home, but even this is not an excuse. It should have been obvious to the applicants that the appearance of the letter would be one of the screening tests. Accordingly, it would have been better judgement to have arranged somehow to use a computer. Two of the applicants stated that they were available to do typing at home, yet they wrote their letters in longhand.

Now, the ad itself was quite explicit, calling for experience in both short hand and tape transcription, yet a few of the applicants said that they could not take shorthand. Two women said that their typewriting skills were quite rusty, but they did not express any unwillingness to bring their skills up to par at my expense!

Two of the applicants indicated either their interest in part-time job or in full-time work. Their applications were not considered seriously because of the likelihood that they would leave the job as soon as something better came along.

On the appearance side, the letters varied considerably. Although the handwritten letters automatically carried two strikes against themselves, they were studied carefully in case any of the applicants had some out standing attributes. As with the printed letters, they differed in their presentations. Some were barely legible and a couple of applicants seemed not to have ever heard about margins.

Appearance is emphasized because even before one can read the letter, a visual impression is created that may be favorable or unfavorable. An unfavorable impression was made by the letters that were typed with worn- out ribbons so that the letters were difficult to read. They compared poorly with those typed with clean keyboard keys through a well-inked ribbon that produced crisp, black characters on the paper.

Misspellings were a little disconcerting, as was the insertion of a word that had been omitted in the first typing of one letter.

On the positive side, here are a few rules to observe:

1. Use A4 (8.3 in × 11.7 in) plain bond paper, preferably. If you use personal stationery, printed or blank, avoid fancy tints or novelty designs.

2. Respond to the specific requirements of the advertiser if you are writing a reply letter.

3. Describe your qualifications fully, with particular reference to what the employer desires or what you have to offer.

4. State the time you have available for work.

5. Follow a regular business format. If necessary, consult a secretarial style manual.

6. Your letter should be perfect—no obvious, smeary erasures, no strikeovers, no hand-inked corrections.

As the responses to the ad came in over a period of several days, I talked to a few of the applicants over the telephone. While most were gracious and willing to give and take in their discussion, one put me very much on the defensive. She was a Wellesley graduate, cum laude, who claimed to be very good at research and writing, but whose typing skills were barely acceptable. She seemed to be quite passive about the matter, apparently expecting me to sell her on the advantages of taking the job. If you should have a preliminary telephone interview, remember that the potential employer will use this as another screening test, judging you on your ability to present yourself over the telephone. If you are genuinely interested, you are expected to show this without being over-demonstrative. On the other hand, the employer does not want you to seem to be too independent nor to put him on the defensive.

This was the letter written by the applicant who was selected for the job. Note the letter’s complete response to the requirements stated in the advertisement. The applicant did not give her full employment history, but gave enough experience to enable herself to be put into the “worth while” category of replies.

June 10, 2012 Dept. DL
P. 0.Box 5968
Bethesda, Md.

Dear Sir:

I am interested in applying for the position advertised in “The Sunday Star”.

The following is a list of my qualifications:

1. College Education :

  • Two years——Stanford University——English major
  • Two years——College of William and Mary——English major
  • B. A. in English, Language minor

2. Foreign Languages :

French, Latin, Spanish

3. Skills :

75—85 words per minute in typing (regular and electric) 140 words per minute in shorthand

4. Experience :

  • Doubleday & Company, Inc., two years (secretary)
  • Embassy of Venezuela, one year (bilingual secretary)
  • Chase Manhattan Bank, one year (secretary)

5. Remarks :

I am married and have two children. Because of the children’s summer vacation, I have had to resign my present position with the Chase Manhattan Bank. Therefore, the job you are offering would fit very well into my schedule.

                                                                                                                                Alberta Montgomery

1678—85th Street
Washington, D. C.
Tel: Es 5—5089

Your Appearance Is Important

Still, you’re not ready to make the rounds or even answer the ad with a request for an interview. What do you look like? Have you gained weight? Do you slump? What about your hands, your hair, your clothes? Your résumé may make an impression, but what about your appearance? Of course, what follows is not equally applicable to all jobs, but by and large the principles hold true.

If you can’t give yourself a manicure or set your hair, an investment in a beauty parlor service will be worth while. (Of course you have listed your correct age. It would be silly to claim 35 and in the course of the interview let slip that you have a grandchild of six!)

If for any reason you can’t exercise to tone your muscles, try walking every day outdoors. Start with a mile and work it up to two or three. It will add a bounce to your step and you’ll feel tall and proud. Try it and see.

If you’re plump, start cutting down. Even a five-pound loss will give you a trimmer appearance when you enter the interviewer’s office with a slightly accelerated heartbeat.

And when you make your personal appearance, dress conservatively and be well groomed.

All this may sound picayune but no detail can be overlooked if you are going to make an impression of suitability.

If you are granted an interview—Be On Time. You may be kept waiting, but don’t, under any circumstances, allow your prospective employer to wait for you. Promptness is a must. It will contribute to any judgement made as to your dependability. And when you sense that the person who is passing on your qualifications has received sufficient information, make the first move to end the interview.

The Follow-Through

The follow-through is important. If you have been given any encouragement or have been advised that the employer will get in touch with you, it is entirely proper to make a supplementary inquiry if after a few weeks you have heard nothing. It could be that no opening has developed. It could also be that they had forgotten about you and were genuinely glad to have the reminder.

If the interview was arranged through an agency or a friend, report to them. They may follow through for you, while you go on to the next lead.


Be persistent. Unless you can afford to wait for it, it would be wiser to take what is available and keep looking while you are gaining another experience to add to your qualifications. The very office where you accept work may later have another job more to your liking. In fact, this is the path to the more interesting job opportunities.

Special Approaches

Being on the scene has landed many a satisfying job.

Mrs. Carl Sloper drew from her experience as voluntary chairman of the Child Guidance Clinic to qualify for a four-day-a-week paid job when the work of the Clinic expanded to a regular social agency supported by community funds. A Smith graduate, whose interest in the Clinic was prompted by her own three children and their companions as well as her concern for social problems, she expanded upon her earlier college training. She combined her studies with the added advantage of practical experience. She was alert to the professional opportunity when the Clinic was established.

Comparably, Mrs. Ralph Marshall filled the first twenty years of her marriage with the usual occupations of a mother-wife in a pleasant Boston suburb. Her volunteer work at a hospital and a social agency made her feel she could perform usefully on a professional level. When her children went away to school, she went back to the classroom and acquired a Master’s degree in social service. This led promptly to profitable employment on a schedule which leaves her ample time for her role at home.

Mrs. Leland Bennet was a member of a volunteer group which raised money for cancer research. The chief source of income came from rummage sales. Mrs. Bennet enjoyed selling at the store, and her sympathetic interest in the customers was noted by her colleagues as contributing highly to the success of the operation. When the store’s business reached the point where a paid manager was indicated, Mrs. Bennet was appointed at $50 a week, plus a bonus.

An adored sport proved lucrative for Lilian Caplan, once a teacher of commercial subjects in a private school. “To get the cobwebs out of her head,” Lilian spent an hour or two each week in a Community Center swimming pool. The swimming instructor noticed that she would interrupt her exercise to instruct other swimmers, help them perfect their form, teach them new strokes, correct their breathing. In time she became his assistant for a string of classes that ranged from preschoolers to grandparents and the coaching of swimming teams, some of which regularly entered state and regional competitions.

Among the pupils tutored by Carolyn Roberts for College Board exams was the son of a historian who was behind in his work. The historian learned of Carolyn and asked her to spend two days a week at a university library 40 miles away to supplement his research efforts. Carolyn’s assistance shortened his writing time by four months.

Carolyn Roberts was 66!

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