Three job hunt questions I get asked a lot

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Is it okay to look for a new job while I’m at my current job?

Yes. You have to be able to look for a job while you have a job or it’s indentured servitude. Most people in their twenties change jobs every two years. At any given moment 70% of the workforce is job hunting, which surely means that 99% of the workforce under 30 is job hunting. So looking for a job at your current job is totally normal.

You do not need to tell the company you’re interviewing at to not say anything. It is common courtesy to not say anything to a candidate’s current employer. If it’s a small town and there’s nothing you can do, well, then, there’s nothing you can do. If someone asks you at your work if you’re looking you can say, “I’m always looking. Isn’t everyone?”

You should not make yourself look sneaky or paranoid. It’s not good for you.

What should I do if no one responds to my followup calls and emails after an interview?

If you are writing to the person who is in charge of moving you to the next step, and he doesn’t respond, there’s not a lot you can do. If there is another person who might be able to move you to the next step, try following up with that person. Or, if there’s someone there you interviewed with who really liked you, you could try that route. But only one more email – you don’t want to be a stalker. Also, did you get the interview with a connection? Ask that person who helped you get the interview to inquire how things went, in a way that might keep you in the running.

Things to consider:

1. They might just be slow and you are still in the running and you don’t want to be annoying and take yourself out of the running.

2. If they are not talking to you they might not want to hire you and that’s okay. If you are right for this kind of job, with persistence you will get one, somewhere. If you’re not right for this kind of job, the world has a way of telling you in a nice way that prevents you from going down a bad career path: not hiring you.

2. There are other jobs for you. This is not the only job in the world for you. If you find other jobs to apply to you will be less invested in this one. Not helpful advice for getting this job, I know, but helpful advice for maintaining your sanity. You will have many many job hunts in your life. It’s important to develop the mental skills to do interviews for job you want without losing sleep over did you get it.

What do I need to disclose in an interview if I’m pregnant?

Women should disclose a lot less than they do.

1. Try to interview before the second trimester. It’s a lot easier to interview if you’re not showing. And if you’re not showing, don’t tell. Think of it this way. A man interviewing for a job does not tell the interviewer that his wife just threw him out of the house and he’s probably going to have to take time off of work to move and deal with the divorce. He gets the job and then deals with his personal life however he wants.

2. You do not need to say that you are considering maternity leave. When you have the baby you can say you changed your mind. There is no law that says you have to be certain how you feel about having a baby. There is no law that says you have to reveal everything you are thinking about this very personal topic. Also, even if you think you want to take maternity leave, you never know how you’ll feel when you actually have the baby. Some women want to go back to work. So in the interview, saying you have no firm plans for maternity leave would be a truthful answer if you are leaving doors open for yourself.

3. Interview to get the best possible work you can. Don’t worry about your upcoming departure. You are not under moral obligation to accept only projects that will end before the baby comes. CEOs leave jobs all the time, right in the middle of projects. The world goes on, and people do not bring up morality tales. Your company will be fine if you leave in the middle of a big project. It’s good to get that project on your resume.

43 replies
  1. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    Penelope, let me make sure I understand. Are you saying that if someone interviewed with you while pregnat but not showing and you hired her and she immediately went on a maternity leave that would be okay with you? (Or maybe what you as employer may feel about it is not relevant).

    * * * * * *

    First of all, if a woman is not showing, it’s probably going to be four or five months until she goes on maternity leave.

    I’m not saying this is a great situation, but my point is that we hold pregnant women to different standards than everyone else, and pregnant women shouldn’t buy into it.

    For example if a thirty-year-old guy takes a job knowing he might relocate for his wife’s business, and then he does it five months later, we talk about what a great husband he is and how supportive he is. We don’t talk about was he dishonest in the job interview.

    And we would not expect a guy in this situation to sit around his house for five months waiting to see if his wife decides to relocate.

    It’s a very similar situation. Very different standards.



  2. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    “if a thirty-year-old guy takes a job knowing he might relocate…then he does it five months later, we talk about what a great husband he is…”

    No we don’t. Not the people I know. We think he pulled one over on the employer. And people I recruiter (as a headhunter)often tell me when they are in a situation that would make it unfair to take on a new job.

    Of course, if you have to do so for desperate economic reasons that trumps other concerns.

  3. Amelia
    Amelia says:

    I think I am missing something… I just took a course on Behavioral Interviewing and we talked a bit about questions you CANNOT ask in an interview. I was told it is illegal to ask if someone is pregnant or if they have any disability. Those types of things MUST NOT come into play when hiring someone. In fact, you can be sued if it can be proven that is why the candidate wasn’t hired. As a result, I am flabbergasted by this discussion. Not only is it OK not to tell you are pregnant, it is illegal for the recruiter to ask about it at all, let alone about plans for maternity leave. Did I misunderstand this or is this not a law?

    * * * * * 

    I want to clarify that while it is completely against the law to ask about maternity leave, people do it all the time. It is illegal becuase it is almost impossible to ask them and not discriminate (although maybe it sub-conscious, it’s still discrimination). When someone asks you an illegal question like this in the interview, it is not in your best interest to recite the laws to them.

    And any woman who says the question is illegal in the interview is not going to get the job. Let’s be real. It’s not fair, but that’s how it is. So women still end up having to answer the question all the time.

    More reason to give answers as I recommend. These are answers to questions that are illegal to begin with.

    And, PS in terms of proving in court that you were not hired because of the maternity issue: Nearly impossible. Don’t bother trying that.


  4. Dale
    Dale says:

    The world is now a different place for employees and employers than it was just 15 years ago. Both employees and employers are likely to come and go in the blink of an eye.
    We all still have to eat. And in the case of a pregnant woman, why should she have to sit on the side lines dependent on someone else for financial support when often times it takes two to support a family. In the case of the single mother, the situation is even more dire!
    Today, in most jobs the employer is hiring one’s cognitive abilities, and when all is said and done, we are all dispensible. A number of double standards/employment legacies exist that should not because the rules of the game of life have changed; and this is one of them. Just a thought:)

    * * * * *

    Yes, thanks for pointing this out, Dale. I hope everyone is remembering that the reason it’s illegal to ask a woman about maternity leave is because the topic is the basis for so much discrimination that undermines a woman’s ability to support herself.

  5. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    Sorry Penelope, I have to agree with the previous posters on this one. I think it is in your best interest to be completely honest and upfront with a potential employer if you realistically think that you might only be on the job for a short period of time. Before I joined the Peace Corps, I was in this situation. I interviewed for a job and I told them upfront that I might potentially join the Peace Corps, and they greatly appreciated my honesty. And, guess what? I got the job! Not only did a get great experience with a fantastic organization before I left for the Peace Corps, but also I still have a great relationship with them and a great reference.

    Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with most of what you say…if they don’t know that you are pregnant, don’t volunteer the information. But if you are clearly pregnant and point blank they ask you if you are considering maternity leave, if you plan to take maternity leave you should at the very least say, “yes, I will consider this as an option.”

    Just my opinion,

  6. Almost Got It
    Almost Got It says:

    If an interviewer point-blank asks (illegally — and yes, it happens all the time) if one is considering maternity leave, one might start by considering if these jerks are really worth working for. Nice thing to know, before you do.

    If they are, then of course one must give some sort of answer, but I would be even more vague, e.g., leave out the “yes…” as they may not hear anything else that comes after that. Nor is there any dishonesty involved here. Who KNOWS what will happen several months from now? (& that one is interviewing at all while pregnant ought to suggest that the job candidates’ own plans to LEAVE work for a baby are far from a “given”)

    Even if they don’t ask, interviewers naturally hope that overscrupulous candidates will volunteer all of their potential liabilites at the front end, so be smart: *don’t.* The most dangerous questions are illegal for a reason, and you do NOT have to be “more honest” than even the law requires you to be.

    Take care of yourself, first. Be assured: the company certainly can and will take care of itself, so it doesn’t need your help.

    Women, especially, need to be vigilant. Many employers, perhaps unfairly but certainly not without reason, are concerned that women (and not men)will take time off when babies are born; that women (not men) will expect time off when children are sick, etc., and later that it will be women (not men) who might retire early in order to care for an aging parent.

    Why on earth should any woman help a company discriminate like this? So long as we’re feeling scrupulous and save-the-world-y, why not get hired instead, and help show the corporate world that women in general, along some of their attendent “female” concerns with things like family leave, are assets, and not liabilities, for male as well as female colleagues?

  7. Been there done that
    Been there done that says:

    Speaking as a person who interviewed for jobs while pregnant with her second child, I would follow Penelope’s advice if I had to do it all again. I am a lawyer, and my theory was if they did not want to hire me knowing I was pregnant, I did not want to work there anyway. I also really didn’t believe there was such a thing as pregnancy discrimination, because I would not do that to someone else, so I figured no one would do it to me.

    I was number one in my class in law school, and had three years of experience in the largest law firm in my area when I interviewed, and clearly I had another child already, so I was used to the work life balance issues that came up. My husband was going to enter grad school, so it was also clear I would be the primary breadwinner. Despite all of these facts which showed I was more than committed to coming back into the work place after the baby was born, I only got one offer of employment, from a tiny little firm in the small town my husband’s school was in. None of the big firms in the large city about an hour away offered me a job, although when just sending out my resume (which did not indicate I was about 4 months pregnant at the time) I had about 6 interviews for those big firms (basically I got an interview with every firm I sent a resume to – and they were cold call resumes, basically, and not for jobs in the right hiring season for lawyers). I told everyone of them I was pregnant, and all assured me during the interview that was fine. However, apparently it was not fine, because I did not get any job offers from any of the big firms. I suppose one could argue that I just bombed all the interviews, and that it had nothing to do with being pregnant, but I really do not think that was the case, although of course I cannot prove it. What I believe is that I was discriminated against, plain and simple, because of the fact that I was pregnant. Therefore, I would encourage everyone to follow Penelope’s advice if you are in a situation like mine, because despite your belief (or hope) that pregnancy discrimination is not real, or that you would not want to work at a place that held such beliefs anyway, it really could impact your life in a negative way if you tell about your pregnancy.

    To finish out my story though, I took the job at the small firm (since that was my only offer), with a $40,000 reduction in salary than what I had before or would have gotten at a bigger firm, and I have been there for approximately 3 years now, and am expecting my third child, and really love it here. It was quite an adjustment regarding the salary loss, but there is no big commute, the small firm is quite pleasant, and most of all, I really do like working with people that do not discriminate against me because I am a woman, and therefore do become pregnant at times. So my story really has a pretty happy ending (despite a much tighter belt around our household now), but I see now that this was just luck, to be able to find the one place that did not act like sexist pigs and discriminate against me because of the pregnancy. I shudder to think what would have happened without that luck. All the other small firms I had interviews at did not hire me either, even the one run by other women lawyers. Therefore, follow Penelope’s advice. It sucks that it has to be this way, but if I lost my job all of a sudden today, since I am pregnant again, I would do just as Penelope said, to make sure I was not sabotaging my chances of getting a job. I am still the primary breadwinner in the household, and why take that risk? Why take that risk even if you are not the primary breadwinner? You should not allow yourself to be discriminated against because of pregnancy. And do not kid yourselves folks, pregnancy discrimination does happen.

  8. Marina
    Marina says:

    I absolutely agree with Penelope, if you are pregnant and it doesn’t show, don’t mention it.

    A woman where I used to work applied for and got a promotion, and then told her boss that she was pregnant. My boss (a woman, not the hiring manager) told me that she thought that this woman did not act ethically and should have told the hiring manager that she was pregnant beforehand. My boss said that if it had been her doing the hiring, and if she knew the woman was pregnant, she would not have hired her.

    Basically, the message was that although this woman was viewed as the best person for the job (proven by the fact that she got the offer), my boss would have chosen the second best person rather than a pregnant person. You will be discriminated against if you are pregnant, even in you are the best candidate for the job.

  9. Ace
    Ace says:

    I have a question that I struggle with mightily, and I appreciate any and all answers:

    How does one actively job search (while working) and still maintain a vested interest in their current job?

    As someone who has been in this situation in the past, I find that once I begin the interview process, I become completely mentally checked out of my current job. This is problematic because when it comes time to decide if the new job is right for me (or negotiate salary with the new company) I am so ready to quit my existing job that I have almost no leverage.

    What happens is that the mere thought of staying at my current job becomes almost unbearable. I try to tell myself that I am in a position where I don’t have to take a new job and that if its not a good fit, I should turn it down – but I’m lying to myself because in some ways, I’ve alread accepted the new job once I start interviewing.

    I’m exagerating here, but just a little.

    And I’m also bitter, this has really burned me in the past. For instance, that is how I ended up with my current job and now that its been close to a disastrous full year, I’m more than ready to move on. Just last week I started the interview process and I can feel my growing apathy at work and my level of frustration (with typical office problems) increasing exponentially. It’s almost as if once you start interviewing at different companies, the worts at your existing job becomes ten times larger and your ability to deal with them decreases. Next thing you know, your accepting the first thing offered to you regardless of whether its the right fit or not.

    one more thing, when (and where) is the book signing in Boston?



  10. Joshua
    Joshua says:

    Penelope: Good post, especially raising the profile of hiring discrimination against pregnant women.

    Ace: I think there’s a flip side to feeling disconnected from your current job when interviewing for a new one. I know myself, I get a feeling of liberation when I’m reminded that I have options. Proof that I could be hired somewhere else actually makes me more willing to stand up for my needs at my job.

    My advice would be to always keep networking on a low level, even when you’re happy at work. If you wait until you’re desperate for a new job, you’re absolutely right that you won’t be comfortable negotiating salary or doing anything at all to rock the boat. And your desperation might show in interviews!

  11. Jillian
    Jillian says:

    Now here’s a question – if you are looking for a job, and need to list your current employer as a reference (perhaps due to lack of experience or relevant experience anyway), but don’t want your current employer to know that you are actively seeking a new job – what’s the solution?

  12. Marina
    Marina says:

    Jillian: Something that I have done in the past is to show a copy of my performance review from my current employer. By doing this, the interviewer gets a good idea of your abilities without having to contact your employer. Of course, this only works when you have a written performance review and it is positive.

  13. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    On the pregnancy disclosure issue…it may be helpful to take a broader perspective here.

    Any concessions that you might need, should not be disclosed up front. First, you need to position yourself as the best candidate for the job.

    Then, once you’ve sold them on you because of your talent, experience, expertise, etc. and have a letter of offer, you can raise other requirements/issues you have (whether to telecomute one day per week, or that you are pregnant).

    Women and men need to start with the professional, and then introduce the personal concessions that you will need once the professional details are handled. I’m amazed at how many women start with the concessions in job discussions, rather than with their own skills and talent.

    One idea for Jillian: If you need references from your current employer, and don’t want to disclose you’re looking, you can ask the potential employer for a letter of offer subject to a satisfactory reference check. If they really want you, they’ll do this.

    Then you can negotiate all the terms (salary, vacation, flex time, etc.) in the letter first. Once you and the new employer have essentially agreed to your employment terms, you can set up a reference check.

    I did this for my current job, and it worked out well.

  14. littlepurplecow
    littlepurplecow says:


    Your comment to Recruiting Animal comparing the pregnant candidate to the soon-to-be relocating candidate is not an apples-to-apples comparison from the employer perspective.

    The company will be required to pay the pregnant candidate a portion of her salary for the six to twelve weeks she is out on maternity leave. Additionally, the company (particularly a small business) will likely need to find and pay a contractor to pick up her work load during that timeframe. This is a high price to pay for a small business.

    I say put your cards on the table.


    * * * * *

    These are actually very big issues you raise, Stephanie.

    Someone has to pay for women to live while they take care of newborn babies. The question is should the government or should women be left on their own? In our country, women are left on their own, but the government forces businesses to cover women if the women they happen to be employed by that business when they are pregnant (and if a lot of other things but anyway…)

    Many small businesses think this system is a cop-out by the government and too hard on small businesses. This might be true.

    But women should not bail out small businesses by agreeing to be discriminated against for being pregnant. The government demands that small businesses take part in supporting society in this way. And if small businesses don’t like the law they should take that up with the government, not with the individual women who are pregnant.

    I’m not saying the law is good, I’m saying that women are not responsible for bailing out small businesses, and small businesses owners are in no position to call women unethical for taking what is theirs under the law.


  15. Alan
    Alan says:

    Regarding the pregnancy issue, I had a boss who was a mother of three. She was fuming that one of the new hires soon became pregnant and went on maternity leave after the baby was born. SHE (the boss) said in the future we won’t hire women that get pregnant!

    Jillian, regarding the reference issue, as stated by a previous poster, I only allow my references to be called IF I get an offer from the prospective employer. This is to protect my reference’s time from being wasted by those who just want to snoop around and are not very serious about making an offer.

    Finally, regarding gov’t/business responsibility for maternity leave: It’s unfortunate that most Americans do not know that we are the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t have universal health insurance, paid maternity leave, minimum vacation/sick leave time, free or almost free college education, etc., etc., etc. We live in a Darwinistic society and it’s the reason for the many social ills we now have.

  16. daniel
    daniel says:

    Fantastic post &, as the previous comments show, #3 (pregnancy) is clearly the hottest topic.

    I have to say I agree 100% with Penelope & here’s why:

    The interview process is *not* a fair process. From the interviewee’s point of view, there are two essential tasks-

    1. Present yourself in the best possible light to move yourself to the next stage
    2. Gather enough information to decide whether you actually want the job

    Assuming you’re not going as far as lying, if you’re offering information that is likely to put the interviewer off hiring you, you’re probably wasting your time being there.

  17. Leets
    Leets says:

    Stephanie, (littlepurplecow) I want to know where you work that women are paid to go on maternity leave. I know NOT ONE WOMAN who became pregnant who received paid maternity leave. Thank God for the small favor of the FMLA, which guarantees a woman 12 weeks unpaid leave and that her job will still be there for her when she gets back. But that’s ALL it guarantees. The only company I can think of off the top of my head that offers paid leave is Ikea.

  18. Jillian
    Jillian says:

    Wow, thanks to everyone who commented to help me – all great ideas and really helpful, as I am actually somewhat in this situation right now.

  19. Liza
    Liza says:

    Leets makes a great point — while there are some employers who provide partially paid maternity leaves, not very many! My company’s short-term disability insurance paid 80% of salary for a maximum of 8 weeks, and I was damn lucky.

    In general, I agree with Penelope, but my own experience was different and very good. I was recruited for a new position that required relo, and the call came the day before my first medical appt for artificial insemination. I wasn’t “job hunting” but the $$$ figures were sufficiently tempting to make me consider the opportunity.

    Since I felt like I was holding all of the cards, I was totally upfront with the hiring manager and the internal recruiter, although not the headhunter. It was important to me to find out everything I could about the reality of work-life balance in the new position.

    That said, if I were the one searching for a new job, I wouldn’t disclose that I was pregnant, or especially the mere fact that I was trying to get pregnant.

  20. Greg
    Greg says:

    Here is another way to frame it. What other medical issues should be discussed in the interview? Should interviewees to bring a list of medical issues they will be dealing with in 4 to 6 months?

    I do not have any particular "how to" other than to start job searching before you become disengaged from your current job. Otherwise you will come across as desperate. I urge you to get a handle on it, part of success in business is to do things well, even if you are disengaged.

    I never turn in a list of past employers with my cover letter and resume (on the application if asked, but as little info as possible). At the end of the first interview, I offer my "booklet," through contact information for past jobs, references, education (and details on skills and accomplishment). If I have a good relationship with a former coworker, I give out their contact information for the current job. I also bring up with the interviewer that I keep all employment searching confidential (that is also how I handle the question "Who else have you interview with?"), but if made an offer it would be contingent on their satisfaction when they contacted the current employer.

    * * * * *

    So well put — about what medical issues to discuss. Exactly the point. Thanks.


  21. Alan
    Alan says:

    Greg (or anyone),

    Why do interviewers ask who you have interviewed with? I’ve been on many interviews over many years, but only the last two have asked that question. I find that question strange and almost insecure on the part of the interviewer. Any comments?

    * * * * *

    It’s a great question. It lets the interviewer know who you are attractive to, and who they are competing with. So be careful how you answer that question.


  22. Summer
    Summer says:

    On the topic of small business and FMLA, the federal government only requires businesses with 50 or more employees working for them within a 75 mile radius to offer family medical leave. Also an employee has to work at least 1,250 hours in a 12 month period in order to qualify for the leave. So, under federal law, a woman who started a job when she was 5-6 months pregnant would not qualify for FMLA. Of course, some states have additional regulations that require businesses to offer more leave.

  23. Greg
    Greg says:

    RE: Greg (or anyone)
    It also lets them know how hard you are search and (maybe) how quickly they need to act. Also, they will try to find out your acceptable salary range this way.

    I have been in a couple interviews where the interviewer pressed the issue really hard. I took it as a sign to stay away.

  24. ErinH
    ErinH says:

    I think a better comparison than the one about the man who might relocate is medical – suppose a man interviewing knows he is likely to be out for an extended period within the next year because he needs bypass surgery or back surgery or he in remission for cancer that might recur and require a lengthy treatment? I think most people would advise not mentioning that during an interview. After all, you still need to work even if you are going to be out temporarily for medical reasons.

    Also a note on the comments about paid maternity leave – when people talk about *paid* maternity leave, they are usually really talking about leave through short-term disability insurance, which is offered by many companies to cover periods when a person cannot work due to medical reasons. A lot of people don’t realize that most U.S companies do not offer true paid maternity leave – only disability which usually offers partial salary for maybe 4-8 weeks.

  25. sarah
    sarah says:

    In general I’m not so interested in the question of how long to wait if a company doesn’t respond after they interview you. If they’re going to employ you, they will, if not, they won’t. It doesn’t matter whether they think you’re a stalker, because you’d hardly go back to them in the future if they’ve treated you like that. What I want to know is why? They moan about lack of loyalty, poor retention etc etc. Yet right at the starting gun they are showing people a lack of respect, and demonstrating that they are spineless. Sure, they haven’t hired that person, but it’s indicative of their overall culture.

    Regarding the pregnancy issue, I have anecdotally been told that it is hard for women in their late 20s/early 30s to get teaching jobs in the UK because the schools fear they will leave and get pregnant. I fear that the behaviour you describe will only encourage such an attitude by employers. They can’t ask, and now people are being encouraged not to be up-front about such things. It isn’t legal to ask if someone is, or is planning to be pregnant, but it is legal to ask if they know of any good reason why they wouldn’t be able to perform this job 6 months from now. Not disclosing shows a lack of respect, and engenders a lack of trust. Seems like it’s all a downward spiral to me.

  26. H
    H says:

    Oh, Lord. A pregnant woman? Heaven help us! She loses her brain with the placenta, you know. And 12 weeks off is, like, 25% of a whole year! And then they all want to stay home anyway, right?

    Please. I took my current job at 12 weeks pregnant. I did tell the woman I was replacing, who advised me to not tell the higher-up management (small group, rather conservative). My mentors and previous colleagues agreed, so I didn’t. It was a good fit and I didn’t want to lose the opportunity.

    And here I am, 3 years later, moving along nicely in that same job. I like it and I’m liked and and respected in return. My son is thriving, my brain still functions, and life as we know it didn’t end. Yes, I took 10 weeks off about 6 months into my new job, but it was a lot harder on me than it was on my organization. We all survived just fine.

    When I told my president I explained that we’d had difficulties in the past and didn’t want to tell anyone until we’d managed to get through the ultrasounds and make sure everything was ok. It’s not about building “trust” with your boss, it’s your life! With pregnancy you just get some advance notice, as opposed to your mom’s heart attack or your spouse’s sudden transfer to a different state.

    Had I not taken that job, there probably wouldn’t have been another offer until well after I’d had the baby. Jobs aren’t that easy to come by, and financially I couldn’t do that.

    And if you’re not job hunting, you should be. Pregnant or not.

  27. Daniel
    Daniel says:


    How should I address weaknesses in my qualifications when applying for a job? I work in IT security, and am trying to move into web design, but most people looking for a web designer want to see an extensive portfolio of work by which to judge your competence. Unfortunately, I am just starting out in this field and don’t have such a portfolio. Aside from taking small jobs and contract work in order to build a portfolio (which I’m already doing), how do I address the lack of a portfolio when I apply for a full-time job? Many of the skills in my current field are applicable to the field I want to move into, and I know I could do the job well, but how do I convince a prospective employer of that without proof, i.e. a portfolio of work?


    * * * * *

    You don’t have to get paid to create a portfolio. You can create one just to get a job. You can just say, “here is an example of work I did for an ad campaign” or whatever. You don’t have to say that no one hired you to do it. People just want to see examples of your design work – if you are good they will overlook that you don’t have a lot of experience.


  28. Greg
    Greg says:

    Daniel: Look at doing some web design pro bono for some local non-profits with good reputations. You will have a portfolio of working sites, solid references from those organizations, and a way of communicating to your potential employers what a great person you truly are.

  29. Paul C
    Paul C says:

    On the pregnancy issue – The interview process assumes both parties negotiate in good faith. Not telling an employer that you will not be available to work in 5 months time – because of an event which you KNOW is going to happen – is NOT negotiating in good faith, and may well deny another candidate, who IS committed, the job. I cannot believe you encourage such flagrant dishonesty.

    * * * * *

    Paul, Thank you for this comment because I am have a feeling that you wrote what a lot of people are thinking. So I am laying this argument out a little more clearly:

    One point here is that women don’t know. No one knows for sure how they’ll react to having a baby before the baby comes. And men don’t confess all the possibilities of their future in an interview, so women don’t have to either.

    The other point is that I see you are from the UK. In the US the law dictates that companies cannot ask if a woman is taking time off because the courts have deemed it an inherenty discriminatory question.


  30. Fred
    Fred says:

    BS like this is the reason we don’t want to hire you in the first place. Have you considered the raw cost of recruiting someone, who then disappears a couple of months later, and “may or may not” return?

    Totally ridiculous.

  31. Almost Got It
    Almost Got It says:

    Probably we women (*all* of us) should just stay in our proper place, at home & barefoot, and stop causing so many people so many problems. (never mind the strain on the tax dollar!) And all other employees should be required to sign a life-time loyalty pledge to “die in (my) office”

    Employers, of course, should retain all rights to remain as fickle as ever.

    Penelope, I *do* see what you mean about the negative comments. Good for you in daring to publish them, anyway. In this case they are quite useful, in fact, as they demonstrate quite clearly exactly why we *need* anti-discriminatory laws in the first place.

  32. PA
    PA says:

    “And men don't confess all the possibilities of their future in an interview, so women don't have to either.”

    That possibility that other people might lie never makes it OK for you to lie.

    Whatever the topic, this article is wrong to advocate deliberately misleading a potential employer about availability. The line between forthrightness and dishonesty might be a fuzzy one, but the intent of your advice is to leave the interviewer in the dark and your only justification is that other people might be dishonest, too. For shame. Morality is not defined as what you can get away with.

  33. Carina
    Carina says:

    Your view on how to broach the topic of pregnancy during an interview hits home since I was in the exact situation a year ago. I was tailing the end of my first trimester and wasn’t showing a pregnancy bump at that time. My current employer had acknowledged the potential for being acquired and I happened to receive a timely call from a recruiter at that same moment. I didn’t disclose my pregnancy during the interview until I received an offer letter in hand. I offered a strong “out” to the new employer of meeting again after the delivery. The new employer was amazingly positive, boasting the company was very family-oriented and even checked-in with the CMO to receive a secondary confirmation. I took the new job considering that I would most likely be let go with my current employer due to the acquisition. I couldn’t afford to have a child and be laid off.

    Honesty and integrity are values I hold in high regard and others see these values in me. Knowing I wasn’t going to reveal my pregnancy until receiving my offer letter was something I thought long and hard about and seeked professional career advice from a licensed psychologist and career advisor. I don’t regret the decision I made considering I had a job to return to after the baby was born which literally helped put food on the table and a roof over my child’s head. Obviously, this decision was elevated from the basic question of “should I reveal something personal to a potential employer before receipt of an offer” to “what’s the most stable paying job my family can survive on.”

    I must say being in this situation put my hair on edge from a women’s rights perspective and wanting to live out my values of honesty and integrity. It’s one of the most blatant double-standard gender situations a woman could experience. An interview doesn’t require one to have full-disclosure on medical history so therefore I was protected by law.

    I’m very career-focused and want to be a good role model for other women which is another reason I chose the path I did. Hypothetically, if I shared my pregnancy with my employer prior to receiving an offer letter, I may have not received the job and I would’ve been out of work shortly after I delivered my baby. This would’ve been a tragic financial and emotional outcome for me. Having the safety net of returning to a job after the baby was born was incredibly reassuring.

    As Penelope points out, the american government does not support women financially after delivery especially compared to european countries such as the UK and France. To add to the complexity, every state in the US has their own unique law about paying out for a duration of time while on maternity leave. Many women take leave not knowing if their job will be held or if their medical benefits will continue. Why should the US have lower standards for pregnant women than our friends in the UK?

    Another blogger mentioned the unfairness of having a small business pay for disability while a women is on leave. I can concur since my parents owned a small business while growing up. I understand the financial hardships a small business endures with the slightest change. I believe I was senitive to this factor because I took a job at a publicly-traded, highly profitable company.

    Lastly, please realize reader that this wasn’t a simple and quick decision I made. It was a decision that I researched with great depth financially and introspectively. Was it the right decision for me? Yes.

    * * * * * * * *
    Carina. Thank you so much for taking the time to describe so well how complicated the issue is.


  34. chinahiker
    chinahiker says:

    Talk about a dilemna… I was every excited to apply to a job opening that came up in our smaller community, only to find out that one of the Directors I would be reporting to is my current boss’s brother.

    It would be tough to hide my current employer because if you google my name, the info pops up on several pages. The new job is much more suited to my career goals and interests.

    What a shocker this was to find out! Is there any way around this???

  35. pkys
    pkys says:

    my wife is currently in a similar situation. she’s 13 weeks pregnant and isn’t showing and she’s thinking about looking for a new job. she’s really conflicted on disclosing the issue to potential employers.

    i too, am very conflicted as to what the ‘right’ thing to do is.

    on one hand, i agree that a women has the right to privacy in regards to disclosing such a thing.

    on the other hand, i hold a middle management position with the company my wife and i currently work for and am in charge of hiring.

    we are a relatively small company and don’t have the luxury of being over staffed. when people are sick or go on vacation, we run short staffed. the added work load falls on the shoulders of the rest of our staff and even for a small period of time, this creates a lot of stress in an already stressful environment.

    we do not do work that allows us to hire ‘temp staff’ because of the amount of training required for our position (2-3 weeks on the job). as mentioned, we don’t have the staff to pick up the slack left by any person leaving for 8-12 weeks. our only option would be to hire a new employee… the problem we run in to as a small business is that when the new mother returns to work, we’re left with an extra employee and have no hours to give them.

    to me, it just seems dishonest to NOT disclose that kind of information.

    when i was interviewing for my current job, i was aware of an impending surgery that would leave me out of commission for 4-8 weeks. i disclosed the information to my employer and was still given the job. not only do think being upfront helped land me the job, i think it played a part in the three subsequent promotions i received.

    in my 20s, i was a touring musician. i know for a fact i lost a bunch of job opportunities because i would be up front about needed 2,3,4,5,6 weeks off once a year, but i felt it was the right thing to do.

    * * * * * * *

    It’s great that you told your employer about your surgery and your eight week recovery. But that is peanuts compared to a pregnancy.

    Maternity leave is longer than eight weeks, many women don’t want to go back to work, women often lose lots of work time becusae of pregnancy related issues before the baby. And, of course some women miss zero seconds of work becuase of a pregnancy. All this goes through an employer’s mind.

    My point is that your surgery is no comparison. The range of discrimination that happens related to a pregnancy is enormous, which is why women should not reveal their pregnancy until they have to.


  36. pkys
    pkys says:

    but shouldn’t that time be when they’re interviewed?

    it just seems like the right thing to do… assuming the women knows she’s pregnant.

    it just doesn’t seem fair to walk in to a job interview knowing you’re going to need dozens of days or half days off for doctor’s appointments, may need time off due to complications and will, less than a year after being hired, require a minimum of 2 to 3 months off to take care of your child.

    to know all that… and withhold it from a possible employer seems really underhanded.

    i don’t care if you’re pregnant. having surgery. getting divorced or planning to move. withholding info like this can really turn around to bite you in the butt as it really does make a person seem untrustworthy and sneeky.

    my wife and i talked about this and she actually agrees and WILL be disclosing her pregnancy when she starts looking for a new job.

    i understand if you’ve got a ‘stick it to the man’ attitude and are doing this stuff to some fortune 500 company with hundreds of employees, but withholding this kind of information does a ton of damage to mom & pop businesses that in many cases are barely getting by. it may be ‘your right’, but it’s also costing small business thousands of dollars. thousands of dollars that could drive them out of business.

    if it’s a job you actually care about and plan on sticking with after the baby is born, be up front with your employer. the good ones will work with you.

    if your plan is to get a job, work until the baby is born and then stay at home, find temp work or do something with no strings attatched.

    my company, for instance, hires people we hope will be with us for an extended period of time. we don’t hire people that seem flighty or who appear to just be looking to make a quick buck. we spend thousands of dollars and man hours training these people in and it’s something we couldn’t do… couldn’t afford to do if we knew they were going to leave us after a few months.

    while people certainly have the ‘right’ to withhold information about themselves, i really don’t see how it’s fair to withhold information that will affect their ability to perform their job in less than a year’s time…

    and that’s what you’re suggesting.

  37. pkys
    pkys says:

    sorry. this will be my last comment. i just felt i had to address a comment from penelope…

    above you said…

    “One point here is that women don't know. No one knows for sure how they'll react to having a baby before the baby comes. And men don't confess all the possibilities of their future in an interview, so women don't have to either.”

    the problem is, while a women may not be able to predict how her body will handle a pregnancy, she DOES know that she will need a great deal of time off for appointments (my wife already has 14 scheduled over the next 7 months)and she’s more than likely made up her mind regarding taking 2-4 months off for maternity leave.

    the truth is, male or female, if you know of a condition or a situation that WILL cause you to miss a significant amount of work in the not so distant future, it SHOULD be disclosed to your employer before being hired.

    i find your article to be rather disturbing, in that you are effectively telling women how to lie to / get around disclosing important information to potential employers.

  38. Greg
    Greg says:

    How much should a man revel about his family’s conditions? Should he disclose if his wife is pregnant? What other domestic or health issues need to be disclosed in the interview process?

  39. Mia
    Mia says:

    I started a new job 6 months ago and was excited about the future after being told that the outlook for the company was rosy and they were planning expansion. 5 1/2 months into the job I discovered I was pregnant (not planned but as I’m now 34, probably my last chance as I don’t want to have children any later). A week after discovereing I was pregnant I was told that my position at work was probably going to be made redundant (they don’t know I am pregnant).I am the main bread earner in the family and the prospect of not having a job and being pregnant is extremely worrying. Last week however I had a second interview with a company for a great job and I was offered the position and have now been sent confirmation by e-mail. I haven’t told them I am pregnant but feel terrible about hiding it. I am only approx. 8 weeks pregnant and haven’t even had my dating scan yet. What should I do? Should I tell my potential new employee before I accept formally in writing that I am pregnant or should I wait until after I have started the new position? I just don’t know what to do but know that I can’t afford not to have a job (I already have a 2 year old and fully intend returning to work after having the baby). Anyone got any advice?

  40. Hogkat
    Hogkat says:

    Yeah, screw the employer.  They’re all just rich corporations, right?  From a small business owner’s point of view, this is nothing more than a lie of omission.  The divorce scenario for a man is an apples to oranges argument.  If you lie to me, expect to get the short end of the stick at EVERY opportunity!

  41. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    Okay people, it’s just advice.. if you don’t like it.. then don’t take it. There are some good points made… and to tell the truth, trying to get a job isn’t just based on morality.. a lot of honesty in the workplace has disappeared. The interviewer could be a complete liar and make promises knowing they can’t keep them. You really shouldn’t be so hard on someone for giving advice that might help people. If you think it’s so bad, stay away from Penelope’s website, or make your own blog. But you don’t have to put others down to make yourself feel better. Let’s put on our “big girl” and “big boy” pants.

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