Should You Hide Your Pregnancy in Job Interviews?

You may be happy to share your baby news with family and friends, but be leery of opening up to prospective employers.You may be happy to share your baby news with family and friends, but be leery of opening up to prospective em …Interviewing for a new job can be daunting enough, but if you happen to be pregnant at the time, be prepared for a whole new set of job search jitters.

"The anxiety levels attending my employment and gestational statuses overwhelmed me," expectant mom Erin Keane Scott wrote in a post on The New York Times Motherlode blog. "Who would want to hire someone asking for at least six weeks of leave within a year of being hired?"

Scott, a journalist, said she followed others' advice about keeping her pregnancy under wraps during the first trimester and early in the second.

Was that a smart move? At least one career counselor says no.

"Let's assume you get hired," said Jean Baur, the author of "The Essential Job Interview Handbook." "At some point it's going to be obvious that you're expecting. The person who interviewed you and the person who is now your employer could really feel betrayed because you didn't mention it."

Related: 7 ways working moms balance Baby AND job

But when it comes to advocating for pregnancy disclosure, Baur seems to be in the minority.

Several experts, including other career counselors as well as lawyers, told BabyZone that keeping quiet about your pregnancy before you're showing is still the way to go.

The bottom line, said California employment lawyer Monrae English, is that employers generally would rather avoid hiring pregnant workers.

"I'd like to think we live in a nicer world than that... one that is friendlier to (pregnant) women," she said, "but the reality is they're getting bypassed, even for less qualified candidates."

English said employers are wary of hiring women who--as Scott suggested in her Times piece--will have to take time off and be replaced by costly temporary workers or worse, decide not to return to work at all.

"If a hiring manager has an urgent need for this role to deliver on timely requirements, you may not get the role," said Dana Manciagli, the author of Cut the Crap, Get a Job. "They won't tell you that is the reason, of course."

While the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act is supposed to protect pregnant job-seekers, most employers likely aren't worried about getting sued for running afoul of the law.

"A failure-to-hire case based upon pregnancy can be a difficult one to establish if the employer hires another candidate of equal qualifications," said New Jersey employment lawyer R. Daniel Bause. "This is because there is usually a lack of evidence establishing discriminatory intent."

In other words, it's really hard to prove that your pregnancy was the reason you weren't hired.

If you are hired, English recommends waiting to disclose your pregnancy to your new employer for at least a few weeks or until you are showing.

First, she said, "Get in there and show that you've been hired as the right fit."

Once you're visibly pregnant, your approach to job interviews must change, of course. English and Baur agree that the best course of action, whether you're obviously pregnant or have chosen to disclose your pregnancy early, is to come in with a plan.

"The whole point is just to build confidence and make it a non-issue," Baur said. "Say, 'I'm confident after X number of weeks, I will be back at work and will do everything to stay current in the interim.'"

It helps, she said, to do your research and find out how many weeks of maternity leave--if any--are standard for the industry you're applying to. (While being new to a company means you won't qualify for the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, you may still be eligible for leave under the company's own policies.) Or say that you're comfortable with whatever leave the company offers.

Don't worry if the plan has to change later on if, for instance, it takes longer than expected to settle on childcare, said English.

"The plan doesn't have to be absolute," she said. "The goal is to get in the door."

Though, as of the publication of her piece, Scott has yet to find work, there are certainly women who have been hired while openly pregnant--perhaps none more famous than Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who disclosed her pregnancy to the tech giant's board before she won the job last year.

Looking for less high-powered examples? Baur says she's worked with successful pregnant job candidates in marketing, finance and science.

"You just want to be positive," Baur said. "You're having a baby. This is a wonderful thing."

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Planning on keeping quiet about your pregnancy during job interviews? Lawyer Monrae English offers these tips:

  • Censor your social media accounts. Potential employers could learn your baby news through a Facebook update or Twitter message.
  • Don't be baited by interviewer family photos. Sometimes interviewers purposely display photos of children to encourage job seekers to talk about their own families.
  • Don't fall for the health plan trick. Some interviewers will ask which health insurance plan information you'd be interested in reviewing--individual plans or family plans. Just say "Any one that you've got would be great."

-By Alice Gomstyn

For 13 breastfeed pumping tips for working moms, visit BabyZone!

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