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Job searching on maternity leave: when to disclose?
January 16, 2014 7:51 PM   Subscribe

I had a baby ten days ago. Whee! It's awesome. I have fourteen weeks off from work and planned to use this time not only to bond with baby but also apply for new jobs since my current job, though wonderful in the benefits department, is diverging in its business from what I was originally hired to do. At the very least I'd figured that it wouldn't hurt to look and now there's one company calling me back already. For this case and hopefully others to come, when in the recruitment process, and to whom, do I tell that I just had a baby and am on leave?

While in many ways I would like to treat this info as I might a pregnancy (don't tell until I have the job) there are a few timing things I am concerned about:

- I'd like to not schedule the inevitable four hour interviews in the next few weeks as I'm breastfeeding. Or do I just suck this up and deal with the havoc and bottles at home?
- I want to make it clear that over time I am willing to travel, but not in the next few months just yet while baby is tiny
- Any potential start date would need to be after I've maxed out my current leave, so that means not immediately - though I'm well aware that at this level, the process can take many months, plus I believe (but have to confirm) my current company will make me pay back my very generous leave benefits if I don't return to work first, albeit briefly

I definitely don't plan to discuss this with the recruiter during our first phone screen. What about the next step, phone call w the hiring manager? Or in the interview panel to follow? Or after, at the offer stage? This is for a director level management job. I want to be forthright about my capabilities considering they will start out limited but increase over time and want to work somewhere that gets that and is savvy / sympathetic to that, but don't want to screw myself either by jumping the gun, either. Thanks for your advice.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
If it comes up, you can keep it simple, and say "due to current family duties, my schedule is not as flexible as it will be in [timeframe]." You can then lay out whatever restrictions will make the interview process work for you, then close by saying "I appreciate your understanding and your willingness to work with my current family priorities."

There might be a better way to say this, and emphasize that this is a temporary inconvenience, not something that will be a reoccuring pattern, should you get hired by the company. Some companies and people can be jerks about putting family first, but if any are at this stage, it might be best for you to find that out now, instead of some time when your little one suddenly takes ill and your supervisor(s) demand that you attend some meeting, babies be damned.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:11 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


do I tell that I just had a baby and am on leave?

Saying you're "on leave" is a bit odd because once you quit your current job, you're not "on leave", you're unemployed. More accurate would be that you don't want to start a new job for a while (in particular, ~14 weeks from now). From the potential employer's perspective, this has nothing to do with the baby (since they are not obligated in the US to recognize your former employer's maternity leave) and instead is just a preference on when to start the new job.

- I'd like to not schedule the inevitable four hour interviews in the next few weeks as I'm breastfeeding. Or do I just suck this up and deal with the havoc and bottles at home?

I'd be surprised if any employer is willing to delay interviewing you for several weeks and not interview anyone in the interim. You can ask that, and they'll probably accept your request and then hire someone before they interview you.

- I want to make it clear that over time I am willing to travel, but not in the next few months just yet while baby is tiny

Again, that's a request you can make, but the new company is not required to fulfill that request. It's something to negotiate like any other request you make.

- Any potential start date would need to be after I've maxed out my current leave

I assume you are in the USA. If you are in the USA, there is no federally required paid maternity leave. In other words, any paid leave is from your employer and they will almost definitely require you to pay it back if you terminate your employment. So, a potential start date is really whenever you choose to make it (before or after 14 weeks). Again, your new employer may or may not fulfill this request; it all depends on how valuable of an employee you would be.

What about the next step, phone call w the hiring manager?

Every step of the hiring process costs money to your potential employer. The further you go without acknowledging a delayed start date and travel restrictions, the more money the potential employer expends. Therefore, I'd suggest doing it with a phone call with the hiring manager (if it occurs) or before you accept an interview (if they skip the phone call with the hiring manager stage). I would be ambiguous with HR, but I wouldn't lie. HR phone screenings are cheap. Interviews are expensive.
posted by saeculorum at 8:11 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I think the baby part doesn't necessarily need to, but I would probably try to work something into your cover letter to the effect of you are looking for a job to start three months from now, because that seems like the biggest hurdle. If you haven't said so already, most places you contact will assume you are looking for a job today, so they will be considering you for openings they need to fill in the near future.
posted by Sequence at 9:07 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Or you could just start looking closer to your preferred start date, depending on how successful you think your initial search will be. I can't imagine many employers looking now will be prepared to wait three months for an employee to start unless you have a skill set held by very few people.
posted by Jubey at 12:58 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't disclose at all until I had an offer in hand.

As you said the hiring process can take a long time. Especially for a director level job where presumably the company is more invested in finding the right person rather than someone who can start immediately.

If an offer comes in I would negotiate a start date that is acceptable to you at that time. Phrase it as wrapping things up before you leave old company.

As for the travel portion I would briefly address that in the interview portion. As in, travel will not be possible until x date.
posted by MadMadam at 2:41 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


It wouldn't occur to me not to disclose this upfront with the recruiter, to be honest.
posted by corvine at 3:33 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Like you said, the process may take months. I would suck it up for the interview(s) but not say anything about limited capabilities until after you get the offer. At that time, you can say, By the way, I have a new baby and would strongly prefer to keep travel limited the first few months, but will be increasingly flexible after that. Also, my start date will be ____. Then they're already a little invested in you, but can still change their minds if it's a huge problem.
posted by chickenmagazine at 3:48 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


But, yes, definitely investigate your obligations if you quit during or immediately after your leave. Health insurance and other benefits are other things you might have to pay back to your current company if you don't return.
posted by instamatic at 5:27 AM on January 17


I have recent experience with this, though the recruiter sought me out and knew I just had a baby, so it was pretty easy to discuss. I ended up not pursuing the opportunity after the first interview, but it was clear it was not a very crucial issue for them and they were wiling to be accommodating. I had the luxury of being completely up front and open with everyone because I love my job and don't really want to leave - so it would have to be a VERY good opportunity to lure me away.

That said, I really recommend taking that attitude because you are interviewing them as well. For an executive level job, particularly in industries where senior level women are scarce, you would not want to join a company that wouldn't be understanding about leave and travel. Also, because executive women are scarce and typically in childbearing years (if they spent their 20s building a career, as I'm guessing you did as I did) I have found that companies are really willing to be understanding.

As for travel, my current job requires frequent travel and my plan for the first six months of baby's life is to bring baby and dad with me on trips. This is not unusual among my peer group.
posted by rainydayfilms at 5:31 AM on January 17


Oh, on interviews I was planning to just ask for breaks between them and to bring my baby and caregiver along to breastfeed during breaks.
posted by rainydayfilms at 5:32 AM on January 17


I'm well aware that at this level, the process can take many months, plus I believe (but have to confirm) my current company will make me pay back my very generous leave benefits if I don't return to work first, albeit briefly

Whatever you decide to do, you may have to tolerate the fact that to some employers, this will sound ... like it is your right, certainly, but not awesome. I mean, if you go in and say, "I have to return as a technicality to avoid a provision in my benefits that's designed to prevent me from doing what I'm doing," they may think that's ... your right, certainly, but not awesome. You know? If I were hiring, I'd think of it a lot like dating: if you want to know how you'll be treated, look at how the last person was treated.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:40 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


In case the above comment with all the favorites is making you feel guilty about your choice to leave your job during maternity leave, I offer another point of view.

Job hunting is not like dating. It's entirely transactional - your labor for their money. Your emotional relationship with your partner (and now your child) is on a whole other plane. If you're not in a sick system sort of employer and you treat everyone with respect anyone should understand that you are doing the best thing for you, your family and your career. Of course, don't say that you will be returning to work just to avoid paying back benefits, but that's basic interviewing.

You just went through a major medical event and brought new human life into the world and you deserve every moment of leave to recover and bond with your child. The state of maternity leave in the US is pathetic and do not feel guilty for using the benefits you worked hard for and entirely deserve! Plus I'm sure you're going to be a Good Girl and pay back anything you need to per your company policy.
posted by rainydayfilms at 5:05 AM on January 18


If an employer brought an employee who was entitled to return to work back for one day and then fired them, obeying the letter of a benefits provision but not the spirit, I'd say the same thing. It's perfectly okay to hold yourself to the letter only; that's absolutely your right for exactly the reasons you've laid out.

All I'm saying is that a new employer, if they're hip to what you're doing, may not like it. I don't think she should feel guilty, but there may be employers who don't think it's an entirely great way to treat your company, and all I meant by suggesting she's got to tolerate that is that there are people who won't like it, so if you want to do it, just go ahead and do it, and be okay with the fact that there will be people who don't like it, rather than going in unaware that it may be a turn-off.

If an employer I was interviewing with told me, "You can't start until the 5th, because the last guy is entitled as a matter of company policy to have his job back at the end of his leave, and he's back on the 4th, so we'll bring him back that day and fire him, and then you can start on the 5th," I might pick another job. That's all.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:42 PM on January 19


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