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May 19, 2015 / Stephanie Anderson

Admit or deny? When playing the parent card can help in a job interview

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Job interviews are all about selling yourself. Highlighting the skills and experience you’ve gained in your career that make you a great fit for your desired job. But what about the skills and experience you have gained outside the office, specifically from raising children? Are those fair game in an interview, or could simply mentioning your parental status backfire?

It’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against a candidate simply because he or she has children, (or is pregnant) but technically there’s no law that says the interviewer can’t ask the question.

Because human beings conduct interviews, it’s inevitable that some will come to the table with preconceived ideas about how being a parent can affect someone’s job performance. Interviewers may make assumptions about parents; such as they’ll need more time off to care for sick kids, attend parent-teacher conferences or school events. They may also assume a parent will have less time and energy to dedicate to their career, and less flexibility to work outside the typical 9-to-5 work day. Stay-at-home moms and dads returning to the workforce may also be unfairly tagged as having rusty skills or less knowledge of industry trends.

Worries over those perceptions often may make parents decide to keep mum about having kids – and that’s unfortunate. Yes, parenting requires a significant time commitment, but it’s also an incredible skill-building experience. One of the toughest jobs in the world – raising an actual human being – can help a person develop a wealth of skills that translate well to their professional lives.

To keep kids alive and thriving requires the organizational skills of a super computer, the negotiating prowess of a diplomat, and the stamina of a decathlete! It teaches you empathy, how to multitask, be flexible, prioritize and manage sometimes difficult personalities (aka toddlers and teenagers). Plus, parents have a vested interest in keeping their employers happy; they have mouths to feed and mortgages to pay – a lot is riding on their work. What employer wouldn’t want a candidate with those qualities?

Ultimately, you are the only person who can decide if playing the “parent card” will benefit or work against you. However, here at LinkUp we believe there are three times when it is advantageous to mention you are a parent in an interview:

1. If you’re a stay-at-home parent headed back to work.

The time you spent at home with your little ones was a wonderful bonding experience, but it also left an employment gap on your resume that might raise questions for a potential employer. Here sharing you have children is a no brainer. It explains the employment gap, and allows you to speak to your excitement for re-joining workforce.

2. Your parenting experience is more relevant than your professional experience.

Interviewers can ask some tough questions, and sometimes your experience as a parent will be a better answer to a question than your work experience. Leverage those previously mentioned parenting skills when they provide a stronger interview response than actual work experience, or when you lack relevant work experience.Remember, however, to do so sparingly. While parenting skills can absolutely be applicable to office jobs, employers will likely place greater weight on formal office experience.

3. When you want to work for a family-friendly company.

If disclosing that you are a parent is going to dissuade an employer from hiring you, do you really want to work for them anyway? A growing number of companies put a great deal of emphasis on work-life balance, and supporting parents is a key plank in their platforms. In fact, these companies may view candidates with children as more rounded individuals who will fit well with the organization’s culture. I would go so far as to seek out these employers, because your kids aren’t going away any time soon – at least until college – and working for a company that doesn’t respect your parental responsibilities may create more stress than it’s worth.

What’s your take? Have you mentioned your kids in an interview situation, and if so, what was the outcome? I know I feel strongly that I want to work for a business supportive to parents, and wouldn’t hesitate to disclose. I love working, but I love being a mom even more. I’m forever thankful for the skills my two little ladies have taught me that i could never learn behind a desk.