Ask Wendy

Child-bearer of Bad News?

Q: When is it appropriate to tell a potential employer you’re pregnant when applying for a job? And to whom: the recruiter, the hiring manager… or just to HR after you start?

A: Before jumping into an ideal disclosure strategy, remember you’re not obligated to say anything. I don’t advocate this approach and recommend considering the interview process as the start of a new professional relationship. The question is when to establish a deeper level trust with your potential manager and new organization.

I’m glad you brought up the recruiter! Building a strong rapport with your recruiter is key to understanding where you are in the hiring process, the culture of the organization and the needs of the hiring manager. A good recruiter will let you know when you’re a finalist.

Tell the hiring manager once you know you’re a finalist, following up with your recruiter. If you’re far enough along and had an in-person interview, it may be an unspoken observation and now is the time to put all your cards on the table. In both cases, let the manager know if you’ve planned for past maternity leaves and how you set your peers up to be successful during your absence. If this is your first (congrats!), ask what the manager’s expectations would be, so you can be sure to work to surpass expectations from day one.

Three additional considerations:
1.) Throughout the interview process, the less information not related to the actual job a hiring manager has, the more likely it is that the hiring decision will be made on qualifications and experience. I’ve worked with managers in the past who didn’t want to know details, worried that a decision not to move forward with a particular candidate could expose them to perceptions of discrimination.

2.) If a company wouldn’t hire you because you’re expecting, why work there? Does the organization support working parents, what kind of advancement would be available, and would it be an ongoing struggle to find the elusive work/life balance?

3) And, once you’re in the job, planning for your leave, I strongly recommend also planning for your return back to work. Most working moms I’ve talked to were disappointed in their team’s planning, and getting their work back. Take matters into your hands and build out a counter-plan for your transition back to work, too.


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