Career Management, Career Transition, Job Search

Interviewing While Pregnant: Answering the Most Common Questions

By Lindsay Guthrie-
interviewing-while-pregnant-answering-the-most-common-questions

One of the most common coaching conversations we have in Darden’s Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services centers on how to plan and raise a family while also trying to balance career trajectory and working. We can all rattle off the many books written on this topic, and we could honestly write a 20-page blog about the pluses and minuses on every side of the equation. For this post, though, we’ve focused on a narrower topic: interviewing while pregnant.

For many alumnae, there is no more terrifying thought than finding the perfect job while also worrying about when to (or when not to) disclose a pregnancy. The Family & Medical Leave Act that so many women depend upon to guarantee at least some unpaid leave after delivery is only mandated by law to cover employees who have been with an employer (with more than 50 employees) for 12 months, further complicating the timing on getting pregnant and searching for a new role.

The most common questions we receive are about when and how to disclose the pregnancy; insurance coverage, FMLA and maternity leave; how to ensure a smooth on-boarding; and whether or not it’s worth it to interview while pregnant?

When and How to Disclose

There isn’t a crystal ball about how or when to notify a potential employer that you are pregnant. In the early stages of pregnancy, most clients haven’t even told their friends, let alone an employer, so we usually advise riding out the process at least for a few weeks to see how the pregnancy and the job interviews are progressing. If you are farther along in your pregnancy and it might be noticeable, then often it needs to be acknowledged when an in-person interview is imminent.

Most clients are very nervous about disclosing this information, so we often find a phone call to the human resources recruiter coordinating your candidacy prior to your in-person interview is the easiest way to provide this information. And, if you reach the offer stage without having disclosed, it is time to disclose since you will have many questions to ask about benefits and maternity leave policies.

Insurance Coverage/FMLA/Maternity Leave

Federal law mandates 12 weeks of unpaid leave for any employee who has worked full time for the previous 12 months at any employer larger than 50 full-time employees. Thus, if you are already pregnant, you are not going to legally qualify for FMLA. That said, many employers have their own maternity leave policies regarding what is paid and unpaid and how long you need to be employed to qualify for coverage.

In addition, you will need to understand how soon you can have insurance coverage and what the insurance covers for maternity benefits (as well as whether or not your current doctors and hospital will still be in network with new insurance). For many clients, this is a specific enough question that they need to speak with someone in HR or perhaps even at the health insurance provider.

We recently spoke with Abi Suarez (EMBA ’17) about her experience asking about benefits while pregnant and interviewing. She said, “I had to be more creative asking about benefits including maternity leave. I discovered that maternity leave policies weren’t always documented in the benefits handbooks, so I had to think of ways to discreetly ask without disclosing too early in the process that I was pregnant.  While speaking with the company, I also worked closely with my coach in Alumni Career Services to think through the nuances of the situation and any other issues I should address or consider.”

How to Ensure a Smooth On-boarding

It’s not easy to be a new employee who is visibly pregnant, as the elephant in the room is quite visible! We have found that being open and honest about your plans for maternity leave with your new team is generally met with appreciation and opens a door for them to ask you any questions that they may have. Also, we recommend being prepared to share the amount of leave you plan to take after the baby is born with your new manager and HR team. In fact, most candidates will have addressed this prior to accepting the offer.

Should You Pursue a New Job While Pregnant?

The vast majority of Darden alumnae who ask us about interviewing while pregnant make the decision to wait until after the baby is born to pursue a new role. When faced with potentially a shorter maternity leave with a new employer, different health benefits and a new baby, it often seems easier to wait until the baby has arrived and maternity leave has been taken to contemplate a potential move.

However, Abi explained why she chose to keep interviewing while pregnant. “I tried to put family planning out of my mind while job searching because you just never know how that process will go. Instead, I took an attitude that I will deal with things as they come. I didn’t want to make a decision about pursuing or not pursuing a job before I even had an offer because I might be pregnant or might have a baby. If you don’t have all of the facts to make a decision, just keep moving forward with the information you do have. In my instance, I had been job searching prior to being pregnant and continued with the same process after I became pregnant. The only thing that really shifted for me after getting pregnant was that I then started considering benefits, leave policies, FMLA, commute and daycare opportunities near my work while considering the job role or opportunity. In addition to dealing with things as they came, I also strategized several times with my Alumni Career Services coach to ensure that I was thinking through the options and approach I was taking.”

Another Darden alumnae who declined to interview at a new company due to her pregnancy explained her alternate view. “I had spent so many years at my current employer that I felt the team was really happy for me and eager to support me during pregnancy and right after my maternity leave. I was nervous that at a new employer, I’d be in the new job stage of needing to prove myself and that would be a challenge while trying to go to doctor appointments, etc. I also qualified for four months of paid leave and two more months of unpaid leave at my current employer, and I felt that any new employer would consider six months of maternity leave only a few months after starting a new job to be a lot to ask. I decided to wait until maternity leave to think about new positions.”

The coaches in Alumni Career Services (alumnicareerservices@darden.virginia.edu) are always willing to discuss the life planning topics that emerge while trying to balance your career.