For Immediate Release

Job hunting while pregnant

By MedZilla Staff Writer

Marysville, WA - October 3, 2003--Whether to interview for jobs while pregnant is a difficult decision for many women. If you're showing, you wonder if you can overcome the drawback of an employer knowing that you'll take a leave shortly after starting the job. And if you're not showing, you might struggle with whether to be honest about the situation.

All interview situations are different, so all job seekers must use their instincts to decide whether to reveal their pregnancy. Still, it helps if the job seeker is prepared to address the issue and has a plan as to how she is going to protect the employer's interests if she gets the job. "Ethics and conscience come into play for both the candidate and the hiring manager," says Frank Heasley, PhD, President and CEO of MedZilla.com, a leading Internet recruitment and professional community that targets jobseekers and HR professionals in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and science. "A responsible, honest job seeker shouldn't interview for a job unless she plans to work there after her delivery. A responsible, lawful hiring manager should not base her decision on hiring a person if she finds out the candidate is pregnant."

HR expert Liz Ryan says that she hears about the issue often on the women's email discussion network Ryan founded, Worldwit.org. According to Ryan, as daunting a thought it is to job hunt while pregnant, women are landing jobs up until about six months of pregnancy.

The first step is to weigh your career options. Many variables come into play, says John A. Challenger, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., an international outplacement firm. Putting off a search might not only create financial constraints, but also unattractive gaps in one's resume. "So certainly someone who is pregnant and feels the need to go out and look for a job should feel no compunction not to," he says.

On the other hand, a woman who is pregnant might not feel physically like putting up with all the running around often necessary in the interview process or the extra stress of interviewing. She might have morning sickness and can't show that to the world, Challenger says. Or she might have to cancel an interview and that is never good policy.

What is the right time, if any, to talk openly?

In this uncertain job market, women are getting laid off and many are in their early stages of pregnancy. Ryan hears from those who can't afford to go without work until their babies were born.

Experts say that women should be careful about mentioning their pregnancies to hiring managers too early. Some say women should remain mum until the pregnancy shows. Ryan suggests waiting until the pregnant woman feels comfortable about revealing her pregnancy to friends-when it's no longer a guarded personal issue.

Women shouldn't feel badly about not sharing their pregnancies before they show. First, personal health information is legally not something employers can ask about. And employers don't usually indulge complete and pertinent information, either. For example, Ryan says that employers don't usually reveal during an interview that a company is having a rocky financial time or that sales are a little soft and layoffs might be six months down the road. "Are they in possession of that knowledge? You bet they are," she says.

Ryan, who has 20 years HR experience in corporate America, makes the point that HR people might not want to know. "The only reason that they would benefit from knowing is to influence the hiring decision. Being influenced in the hiring decision by the fact that you're pregnant is unlawful in 50 states," she says.

Instead, a good hiring manager will deal with the situation as he would any other leave when the time comes. It's not the end of the world. "I took three maternity leaves while working in corporate America," she says.

At around six months, when a job candidate is obviously pregnant, the job hunt gets tougher, says Ryan. "What I recommend around the six-month point is that they talk to the prospective employer about being a contractor and say, 'Look, you get the best of both worlds. I'll be a contractor for you. You don't pay anything towards my maternity leave. But if you like the work I do, hire me as an employee [after the baby is born].'"

Another tip when showing: be prepared and confident to address your situation. The good news, Ryan says, is that even when wearing a maternity business suit, women are being hired. But if a job candidate who is obviously pregnant goes in and gives the impression that she "hopes" everything will work out, chance are she'll go to the bottom of the pile. If she exudes confidence, lays out her plan of when to return and how she plans to handle the workload, it works wonders, Ryan says.

Being upfront before the interview if you're obviously pregnant might not be a bad idea, Ryan says. If you send in a resume and get a call from a recruiter or hiring manager six or seven months into your pregnancy, consider saying, "I'm delighted that you want me to come in for the interview. I don't want anyone to be surprised I am six months pregnant. Is this something we can talk about in the context of a contract?"

LaShika Howard, senior account executive, The Datafinders Group, an IT recruiting consulting firm, says that job candidates who know they are pregnant should consider talking about it to third-party recruiters. The third-party recruiters can help them by investigating employers' policies regarding employee leave. This can help recruiters and job candidates decide whether to pursue certain jobs.

"If employers hire the people they think are the best for their postings and job candidate's interview with a sincere desire to do good jobs for employers, the process should be a win-win for everyone involved-regardless off pregnancies and other issue. It's when ulterior motives come into play that the process falls apart," Dr. Heasley says.

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