As soon as I got pregnant, we got orders. No big deal, I thought.
I had been very lucky during past PCSes so I thought that I’d be fine job hunting while pregnant. I could begin a job just as my bump started to show. Then I could have the “fun” maternity leave talk with my new boss.
I did not post anything about my pregnancy on my social media pages or personal blog. While pregnancy discrimination is illegal, I didn’t want to risk it and my work is in online communications, so potential employers would likely look at my online presence.
I did everything “right” as far as job hunting during a PCS. I started looking for jobs as soon as we got word of where we were going and scouting out the job market.
I went to networking events.
I applied to jobs like crazy. I had a couple job interviews but those fizzled out.
Then I had a great phone interview and in-person interview for a job when I was 6 months pregnant. I thought I got the job. I didn’t bring up my bump – I figured that could wait until offer negotiations.
Then I got the rejection letter.
I was heartbroken. A few weeks later I had another great phone interview for another job. They followed up within an hour with the recruiter I was working to schedule an in-person interview for 2 days later. The in-person interview went well.
Again, I didn’t mention my giant belly (at this point I was nearly 8 months pregnant). Within an hour I got a message that they didn’t want to move forward with me as a candidate.
In both of these instances I followed up asking for feedback. I received none.
I called my dad, an employment attorney, for advice. His words crushed me.
While I was overqualified for at least one of the jobs, he said that I likely did face pregnancy discrimination and that despite the varied advice I had gotten about addressing my pregnancy, I should have brought up the belly to alleviate any of their unspoken concerns.
This broke my heart. I thought I’d done everything right. But alas, no job at our new duty station before the baby was expected to arrive.
If I find myself job hunting while pregnant in the future, I will tackle this situation differently. Way differently.
Here are my 4 tips for job hunting while pregnant.
Apply like any other job. There is no need to bring up your pregnancy in any cover letter. Fill out the job application, write a kick-ass cover letter, submit your amazing resume and let the waiting begin.
Don’t bring up the pregnancy in a screening or phone interview. The first interview is typically over the phone or Skype, so it is easy to hide the bump – no matter how big it is.
Prep for the interview like any other and save any questions about maternity leave to an in-person interview. If you’re curious if the employer is family friendly, ask about work-life balance and the company’s culture.
When you get that in-person interview, address the bump. You will reach a point in the pregnancy when you can’t hide it. When you land that in-person job interview and you’ve got that bump – bring it up. Address the elephant in the room.
Near the end of the interview, when they ask you what questions you have for them, say
“I’m obviously pregnant and due soon. I intend to return to work after taking maternity leave. What is your maternity leave policy?”
Ask for feedback. If you don’t get the job, ask them for advice. You should ask for this advice even if you aren’t pregnant. You may get good pointers for your next job interview and this feedback may help you land the next job you’ve applied for.
This may also give you some insight if you were indeed discriminated against in the hiring process due to pregnancy or that maybe you just weren’t qualified for the position.
Can employers discriminate against pregnant women while hiring?
No. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids employers from discriminating against a pregnant woman for any and all aspects of a job – that includes in the hiring process, but also applies to job assignments, promotions, benefits and layoffs.
If a woman is able to perform the primary job functions then an employer cannot refuse to hire her, if she is the best qualified for the position.
Employers are not allowed to ask questions about if you have children, your child care plans and any future plans regarding children. If asked one of these questions, you can ask the relevance to the job, answer quickly to move onto a new topic or say
“If you are asking if I am able to meet the demands of the job, yes I am.”
If you think you did face pregnancy discrimination, e.g. they asked you an illegal question, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The National Advocates for Pregnant Women has a great guide that discusses the PDA and offers helpful tips.