Congratulations on your pregnancy! So many things will change over the next few months and you may be looking to find a job that fits the changes in your life. Companies are becoming more supportive of their female employees, offering leadership programs to promote gender diversity, fertility benefits, pregnancy care, new parent benefits and some form of a maternity leave policy to promote a family-friendly workplace. But what happens when you’re in the middle of those stages and haven’t been hired yet? Applying for jobs while pregnant can be tough.
But don’t underestimate your value. There is a 2010 Ted Talk by Sheryl Sandberg on “Why we have too few women leaders.” And while the talk is geared toward leadership positions, there are a couple of key points for all women in the workforce including women who are more likely to “…underestimate their abilities” and who are less likely to reach for opportunities. When you see an opportunity for a job at a new company or at your current company, you should reach for it. Pregnancy can add a level of complexity, but if take some time to consider your options and the right questions to ask, it's doable. This may be the perfect time for you to apply for and take a new opportunity.
Questions to Ask
Take some time to consider all the factors that you need now and after the birth of your baby. Before you start applying for jobs take into consideration why you’re looking, as well. There are many reasons to start looking for a job, but the most important consideration is whether the job and company will fit with your new family. Make sure to do extra homework on each. Much of the information isn’t going to be in a job description or part of the initial interview. Make a list of must-haves and must avoid. If you’re currently working, questions to consider may include, are you looking for a better maternity leave policy? Different benefits? A more family-friendly environment? Is there childcare onsite or in your area? Will this new job allow you to have a shorter commute? Are there flexible hours or work-from-home options?
Also, consider the time commitment to look for a new job. Will you have enough time to interview, attend doctors’ appointments and other obligations? Depending on how far along you are, will you have time to complete training, get up to speed before going on maternity leave, or could you accept a job prior to giving birth and start after your maternity leave? Having a checklist is beneficial whenever you begin a job search but especially important now. It will help determine what is most important to you. Ruling out companies early that don’t fit your criteria will save you time in your search.
How can you find out when these things are not widely publicized?
Fortunately, there are online resources that compare companies based on their benefits, family-friendly environment and overall company reviews. Take time to read the feedback. Company blogs highlighting employees with families reflect their underlying values. Social media can be great doing research, giving you an inside look at how their employees interact. Don’t forget to ask friends and family for insight, too, as they may know someone who can share what it’s really like internally. And, of course, be sure to check out Fairygodboss' maternity leave database and work-life balance guide.
Conscious and Unconscious Bias
Once you’ve narrowed down your list and you’ve found a company and job that meets your needs, it’s time to start the application and interview process.
As someone who has interviewed hundreds of people, I would love to say that we’re now at a point where conscious and unconscious bias has been eliminated. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Extensive research has shown that bias in the hiring process is very common. While companies have begun to standardize interview processes, blind resumes and implement training to reduce bias it is still problematic. There are laws at the federal and state level to protect people from being discriminated against, still hiring managers don’t always disclose their true reasons for not choosing to move forward with a candidate. The best way to mitigate an individual’s bias in the hiring process is to remove the element (until we’re at a point where it’s no longer a consideration). Remember there’s a good reason why the company initially selected your resume, focus on your skills and qualifications during the interviews.
A company needs to go through their process to determine if you’re the best candidate. Once they do, being pregnant doesn’t make anyone less qualified.
When to Share the News
In the early stage of your pregnancy: If you are in your first trimester, there is no reason to share that you’re pregnant during the interview process. It’s still the phase where you may not have even shared the news with family or close friends. Sadly, 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies result in miscarriages in the first trimester. The risk of disclosing early may be something you’re not comfortable with and an understandable decision. You can choose to let your manager or HR know when you receive the offer or wait until after you start. Taking the added step to let them why you made your decision can help in building the relationship.
In the later stage of your pregnancy: If you’re further along, I recommend waiting to share your pregnancy until after you receive the offer but before your first day. It’s important to establish trust with your manager and waiting too long after you start can erode that relationship. How you position the news also matters. Will you be taking six months or a year off? It may be difficult for an employer to accommodate that request. If instead, you convey your excitement for the job and dedication for the new team you will be better positioned for a positive response.
Talking about it early allows time for your manager create a strategy that meets both of your needs, which will ultimately create a less stressful environment for you and help set you up for success. Ultimately making the return to work a much better experience.
Overlooked Area in an Age of Family-Friendly Workplaces
In the past, I’ve hired people who didn’t disclose their pregnancy during the hiring process. One shared the news a month into the new role. Another told us when she received the offer and that she would be going on maternity leave in four months. Both scenarios were positive for the company and we were excited about the new hire and for the milestone in their life.
Being pregnant doesn’t make someone less qualified or less capable of performing a job. It does mean that a manager will need to adjust training or set up a contingency plan for when the new hire is on maternity leave but that would need to be done for a long-time employee as well. Viewing it as an investment in a great new hire is a better way to begin what will hopefully be a long-term relationship. HR teams can help by working with both the manager and new employee to create a plan that meets everyone’s needs. Having a plan can set expectations for returning to work or any other special accommodations that may be necessary.
As companies hone their family-friendly benefits and determine whether they are meeting the needs of the market, hiring during pregnancy is an important area to evaluate. Are there missed opportunities because someone wasn’t hired or because they didn’t apply during this time? Do internal teams need additional training around bias or available resources to support their group during maternity leave? Building trust with candidates aka prospective employees is an important part of the conversation. As a senior leader, I would hate to miss out on an exceptional candidate because they weren’t comfortable applying while pregnant.