Let’s face it: It happens. Women can become pregnant at the same time as when they need a new job. But what’s the etiquette here? Do you fess up early, or will it ruin your chances of landing your dream job?
This topic is not widely discussed — and for good reason. After all, what employer would openly admit to saying no to a qualified pregnant candidate, knowing she will disappear on maternity leave shortly after her start date? And what pregnant woman wants to be honest about her condition when she fears it might affect her chances?
How much to reveal?
Nevertheless, pregnant women need jobs too. Ella Lee Miller, a pregnant job-hunting journalist from Vancouver, sums it up perfectly. “The only time I’ve seen women be upfront about their pregnancies in the workplace is when they are already employed. Then it’s less stressful to walk around the office and have everyone looking at you like, ‘oh yeah, she’ll be taking time off.’ I’ve had many friends tell me they hid their pregnancies during the interview process. It seems like, unfortunately, it’s the only way to get to the next level, with the job market being so competitive now. Think about it this way. If someone came to work for you — let’s say as a nanny — would you want to hire her if she were pregnant? It’s a tough question to answer, but usually the response is no. Even though a pregnant woman is technically protected, it doesn’t always work like that in reality.”
So what does Ella do? “Personally, although it’s great fun to see Jessica Simpson on Twitter with her bumpin’ and proud tweets, I prefer to cover up — at least in the second trimester, when it’s still easy to do so. Especially for the first interview, I think the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is best. You want the employer interested in your resume, not your belly!”
Makes sense, right? But what’s the official company line? Kristin, an HR manager at a global branding company, agrees with Ella. “‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ protects both parties — that’s why we cannot legally ask. If we turned away a candidate because her skillset was not right, but if she thought it was about her pregnancy, we could face discrimination issues. No one wants that.”
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” may seem pretty straightforward, but we’re giving you a few additional words of wisdom for your job search.
Consult your network
Talk to people: friends and family members who are working mothers, friends who employ loads of women and anyone in HR. They can give you helpful anecdotal advice. Always have your resume ready to go if they ask for a copy to pass along.
Consult the blogosphere. There are so many moms writing so many words of wisdom. Do some research, and get their thoughts.
Here are 10 mom bloggers we love >>
Tell when the time is right
There are no hard and fast rules here, and much of it comes down to your comfort and your dynamic with the people interviewing you. Here are some general parameters:
- In zero to four months: Proceed like Ella, and search and interview just like anyone else. Upon receiving an offer, strongly consider telling people as soon as you feel comfortable. Just remember that giving as much notice as possible is the most fair.
- From five to seven months: We suspect you’re showing by now, so be forthcoming, or you might look plain dishonest. That said, if possible, focus on short-term or contract work, and be open with employers to help them bridge short-term solutions.
- The home stretch: We’re assuming at eight months you don’t have the time to look! But if you have any time at all, polish up your resume and use social media like Twitter and LinkedIn to keep your profile fresh.