Editor’s Note: This article is one of the top 10 most uncomfortable work situations of 2015. See the full list here.
Interviewing is stressful enough, but when your physical appearance gives away that your availability is about to change, it’s understandable to feel like you are under extra scrutiny.
Leadership coach Lolly Daskal helps guide this expectant job seeker to address what’s on everyone’s mind in the best way.
My former company folded, so I’ve found myself back on the job market for the first time in five years. My job hunt has been going OK so far–I have a lot of experience and a fair amount of industry connections.
There’s just one problem: I’m six months’ pregnant. It’s pretty hard to conceal, and I’d feel disingenuous by trying to keep it a secret even if I could. My question is, since it’s obvious that I’m going to need to take two months or more off from whatever position I get, should I address it up front? Wait until the second interview? Wait for them to bring it up? Putting off looking for a new position isn’t an option for me, and I still feel like I have a lot to offer a company, even if I will need to take leave a few months after starting.
Thanks in advance for your help.
First of all, congrats on being pregnant. It must be an exciting time and a nerve-wracking time. Of course as you already know, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the topic of being pregnant and interviewing.
Just to ease your mind, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer was appointed to her executive post when she was about six months pregnant. So while women today can look to Mayer and other high-level employees as successful examples of climbing the ladder while carrying a child, the question remains: When is the right time for you to reveal this information? Here are a few suggestions:
Understand your obligations and realities. You don’t have to tell the person you are interviewing right away–being pregnant is not relevant in determining whether or not you are the right person for the job. You only have to tell your new employer if the job you are interviewing for will be impacted, like standing on your feet all day or having to do some heavy lifting.
By law, a company can’t ask if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or deny you employment because you’re pregnant. (They can, however, ask if there are any reasons you might have a problem performing the assigned duties.) In short, you’re not legally required to let potential employers know that you’re expecting.
But there are good reasons to make it known from the start (see below). And of course if you interview in person and you’re showing, it’s a question of acknowledging what’s already visible.
It’s certainly possible that your pregnancy will be an issue, even if you’re the best at what you do and the most experienced candidate. The unfortunate truth is that some hiring managers may view your pregnancy and upcoming maternity leave as an inconvenience and won’t make you an offer.
Others may see it as a drawback, but that at least gives you something to work with.
Consider the honest approach. Personally I feel honesty is almost always best, and transparency can go a long way when you are developing relationships and building trust, especially with a new employer. Plus, if you’re already visibly pregnant, it’s already told–failing to acknowledge it is awkward all around and won’t help your prospects.
Actually, your pregnancy gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your resourcefulness and preparation. Be ready with a plan for minimizing the impact of your absence–through advance work, planning, or reallocation of duties, so your areas of responsibility stay covered while you’re gone. Research shows that the discrimination faced by pregnant women in the workplace is reduced significantly by emphasizing personal attributes like commitment and flexibility.
Highlight Your Strengths. When interviewing, try to keep the topic focused on your strengths, gifts, and expertise. Concentrate on your qualifications and your experience. After all, that is the reason you’re there.
Save the nuts and bolts for negotiations. The place for detailed discussion is during the negotiation phase of the interview process. This is also a good time to discuss the company’s leave policy, and whether you can take advantage of a more flexible schedule once your official leave is over. Since you’ll have been employed there less than a year, you won’t be eligible for Family & Medical Leave, so you may need to negotiate a plan individually. If you don’t already have child care lined up, that’s another area that you may want to address.
Keep it simple. How you talk about your pregnancy will largely govern how they will react to the pregnancy. If you keep it simple, then it’s simple. Pregnancy is a part of life for many early- and mid-career workers. But unlike illness or injury, it’s possible to plan for it well in advance.
Check in with yourself. To be fully prepared, make sure you also consider prospective jobs from your own perspective. Be honest with yourself about what you’re looking for and what’s realistic. What resources do you have for scheduling and child care? Would working from home be easier than commuting to a workplace? Will you be available from 9 to 5? These factors will have a direct effect on how happy you will be in your new position, so keep it in mind when you’re considering positions.
The best time to tell anyone about your pregnancy is when you feel it’s right for you. If you’re proactive in explaining how you’ll be successful in your position through your pregnancy and beyond, if you focus on your talent, experience and expertise, and commitment, you’ll be giving yourself the best possible odds. Best wishes!
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