Job-Hunting While Pregnant?

05/21/2010 12:43 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Liz Ryan Speaker, writer, soprano and mom; founder, Human Workplace

Dear Liz,

I find myself in the situation of having two interviews for jobs that, so far, sound like the perfect fit for me. I am also 20 weeks pregnant. I am still able to 'cover it up' more or less, although I am not sure I really want to do that. In a perfect world, I would like to march in there, full belly showing proud and announce that, yes, I will need all of October off, but I am your gal! I know how all of this works once you get the job and THEN get pregnant. This part is a whole new world to me.

How much do I say or not say...if anything at all? Should I do my best to cover it up and then tell them once an offer has been made? That seems dishonest. Do I say anything about my plans for childcare once he is born ... because I do have a plan. Any advice or shared experience would be greatly appreciated!


Dear Janelle,

Congratulations on your wonderful baby news! Here are some thought on your situation:


It's happening all over: A woman is laid off while she's pregnant and finds herself job-hunting as her due date approaches. Another woman's organization tanks, and she finds herself out of work just as she realizes that that she's expecting. A third finds her consulting business too slow to sustain her financially, so she starts a job search during her second trimester.

The important thing to know about pursuing a job search during pregnancy is that it can be done. While your pregnancy is a factor in your job search -- and more of a factor if your due date is coming up quickly or if, for instance, you're expecting more than one baby -- being pregnant is no reason to put off a job search. You will need to incorporate your post-baby plans into your interview conversation, so that you're ready to answer questions about your return to work, your ability to manage your job with a newborn, and so on. But the fact that you're expecting shouldn't be the primary, or even a major, focus of your discussions during interviews.

If you're not "out" with your pregnancy -- if you haven't reached the point where you're generally letting people know about your condition -- it's not necessary or appropriate to say anything about it during an interview or when you're considering a job offer. Would you tell a relative stranger something you haven't told your best friends yet? Some women worry that if they keep quiet about their pregnancy, later they'll get sideways looks from the boss, who will never trust them again. Don't put that pressure on yourself. When the day comes to share your good news, after a month or two of productive employment at your new company, you'll say, "Sally, I wanted to let you know that Jack and I are expecting! The baby is due in February, and I feel great." That's the whole message; you don't need to get into who knew what when, and no one will be likely to be so tacky as to inquire. If anyone does ask, "Didn't you know this when you were interviewing here?" you can smile and say, "We're just official as of this week, and we're so excited."

If your pregnancy is well established, you should be prepared to discuss the logistics of your maternity leave and return to work during the job interview. Most of us in the business world are well trained (sometimes by unhappy experience) not to ask a woman if she's pregnant, so don't be self-conscious about your growing tummy. You should bring up the topic, well into the interview (don't even bother if you're completely uninterested in the job). You say to the interviewer, "Henry, may I ask you a few specific questions? Great. First, I'm curious about the relationship between the business development group and the sales organization here at XYZ Association. Oh, really? Terrific. Thanks. Secondly, I'm expecting a baby in September. I have some ideas about maternity leave and how I will manage things while away from the office, and I'd love to touch on that today. Excellent. The third is ...." This way, you get the information out and let the organization know that you're not planning to fake your way through this big life change, that you have a plan, and that you'll be extremely responsible when it comes to managing your job through the new-baby time.

Is there a danger that you'll be passed over as a candidate simply because of your condition? Frankly, yes. If the organization has two excellent candidates, and you are one, and the other one is not expecting, you could lose out. But if you are the right person for the job and seem well prepared for both the new job and your other life changes, many employers will take the correct long view -- what's three months of maternity leave out of a long and successful relationship?

In your confidence-inspiring remarks about your plans, you don't need to go into exhaustive detail. Your prospective employer doesn't need to know who will be watching the baby or whether or not you'll be nursing, for instance. But it might be helpful to throw in facts that will show you're not going to fall apart upon baby's arrival. For example, if this is your second child, you could mention that your past maternity leave went smoothly. One caution: Be sure to guard against the natural impulse to oversell your flexibility. Don't say, "I'll only take two weeks maternity leave!" It's more important to focus on your skills, your experience, and your enthusiasm for the job and the organization than to feel you have to apologize for or explain away your wonderful expectant state.

Do invest in a professional interviewing wardrobe. Remember what they say: Pregnancy makes you radiant. Let yourself shine with confidence and delight in your wonderful situation and remember that you're a terrific job candidate. The squirmer in your belly doesn't take anything away from that; if anything, he or she adds to it.