As a parent, re-entering the job force may seem daunting, especially if you don’t have experience balancing a family and career at the same time. Before you begin your job search, you may want to think about what requirements you want your job to possess. For example, you might decide whether working full time or part time works better with your schedule. Additionally, you may consider whether you would like your workplace to be near a daycare or preschool. Once you have applied to jobs fitting these criteria, the next step is typically coming into the office for a job interview.
The job interview is your opportunity to highlight specific qualifications, skills, or professional experiences that make you stand out as a strong candidate for the position you are applying for. Although interviews can be nerve-wracking, with the right amount of preparation, you can pass the interview with flying colors. Your preparation may include:
- Bringing a few copies of your résumé/CV
- Dressing business-casual (e.g. slacks, a blazer, a nice top, a button down, a dress, etc.)
- Practicing common interview questions with a friend
- Arriving 15 minutes early
You may want to spend some time researching the company or position you are applying for beforehand. Oftentimes, companies that accommodate working parents will advertise this on their websites or in job descriptions. Likewise, if you have any friends in the industry, consider asking them to elaborate on their experiences with companies’ attitudes toward accommodating working moms and dads. At the end of the interview, the hiring manager will most likely ask if you have any additional questions. While this question may seem insignificant, it will often demonstrate to the hiring manager whether you are truly interested in the company. By researching the company beforehand, you will be able to ask questions specifically pertaining to the job—and show that you’re truly enthusiastic about working for them.
Should You Mention That You Are a Parent?
As a parent, your children may be a large part of your life. In fact, you may find it natural to start talking about them during an interview, as you would any normal conversation. However, you may have been advised by a friend or family member not to mention your children in an interview. Why is this? Unfortunately, although it is illegal for an employer to discriminate toward employees and prospective employees based on personal factors (e.g. race, age, religion, sex, pregnancy, having children), this may nonetheless play a role in their decision.
There is no right answer regarding whether you should mention you are a parent in an interview. You may decide to get a feel for the company culture during the interview, and only bring up your children if you deem it appropriate. In contrast, if you decide not to mention your children (for fear of negatively impacting your application), know that you do not legally have to answer any questions about whether you have children, want a family, or are pregnant. If the employer does ask, you can answer the question vaguely (instead stressing your dedication, regardless of family life) or ask why the question is important. If you do feel you have been discriminated against in an application process based on having a family, you have the option of filing a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
What If You’ve Been a Mom for Too Long to Come Back to Work?
You may have decided to be a stay-at-home-mom when your children were younger but would now like to return to work. However, you may feel worried that you’ve been away from the industry too long to return. Do not let this dissuade you from applying! Moms go back to work all the time, so this will not be a new concept to your employer. Address your “employment gap” (time since you left the workforce) directly, but do not act apologetic. Instead, you might emphasize how your skills and experiences in the workforce will allow you to thrive in the position, regardless of taking time off. Additionally, you may want to do a bit of research to familiarize yourself with any new technologies or practices in the industry that you are not aware of, so you are fully prepared for the position.
Above all, treat a job interview as your opportunity to put your best foot forward and show the company that you are the right person for the job. Ask appropriate questions, maintain eye contact, come prepared, and appear enthusiastic for the position you are applying for, and you will do well. Finally, it is good practice to send a thank-you note to the hiring manager after the interview, thanking him or her for his or her time and remarking when you will follow up regarding the position.