You’re Interviewing and Pregnant

by | Oct 15, 2015

Interviewing and pregnant -  help or handicap?

Within six weeks after signing a contract at Merrill Lynch, I announced to my boss that I was pregnant with my second child; she was due in November 2000. After my experience at Smith Barney Shearson with my son (as I tried to move laterally within investment banking while pregnant, I quickly became a hot potato), there was no way I was going to announce my pregnancy until after I had started at Merrill.

whitney post 2

Even though I had good reason not to be forthcoming about my pregnancy, in retrospect, I realize I could have managed things better – when you are vulnerable and scared you rarely do. So when a young woman who is currently interviewing for a new job – and pregnant – came to me for advice, feeling less than qualified to advise her, I reached out to my colleagues on The List, founded by Rachel Sklar and Glynnis MacNicol. The responses to the question are varied, conflicting, nuanced, and in my opinion, quite helpful. My mentee (and I) would love to hear your thoughts – what has worked, and not worked, in your view?

What Advice would you give?

It depends on the hiring company. If she's joining a large organization (more than 1000 employees) there's no need to disclose it. Many things can happen during a pregnancy. And especially if she's too early to be showing, she's too early to be telling. That said, if it's a small company (fewer than 50 people) she must tell. If someone is hiring you (perhaps with her own money) to be ~2% of her workforce she needs to know.

There is clearly a lot of gray area in between. Where things are gray I'd weigh all of the good advice I can get and err on the side of telling.

Julie Berkun Fajgenbaum, Adjunct Professor at NYU Stern School of Business

[Tweet "I interviewed at my current job while pregnant (and got the job)."] Legally you don’t have to disclose anything (and it is illegal for them to fish for that kind of information.) However, because my relationship with the folks at my new employer pre-dated this hire, I didn’t want to damage that relationship by being less than forthcoming about something as big as a pregnancy. It turns out my trust was well placed. My show producer essentially said "if its not a problem for you, it's not a problem for us."

Latoya Peterson, Senior Digital Producer, The Stream, Al Jazeera America

[Tweet "I once had someone ask me if I was turning down a job because I was pregnant! "]I have interviewed very large... Get the offer. Then be very upfront. You’ll learn a lot about whether you want the job by their response.

Joy Marcus, Managing Director, DFJ Gotham Ventures

If you need career advice or you are interested in a coaching and mentoring program for women please get in touch with the 3Plus Team 

Would a person need to share that a family member has a chronic illness, potentially requiring attention or time away? Or dying from a terminal disease, without health insurance or means of support? Either of these scenarios could result in a need for leave from the office. Life happens. Illness and tragedy happen.

I took jobs with each of those scenarios and didn't disclose them, and then down the road, had to take time to address the situation by taking time from work. But, at the time I was interviewing, it was not any of my employer's business. Not one iota. I didn't -- and don't -- view it as putting my own needs above the good of the company, but rather, holding on to some privacy -- and integrity - of my own.

M view about prospective employers is definitely colored by my too many years in large corporate America, where personal information wasn't valued or exalted but used as a sledgehammer or other object of destruction or discrimination or excuse not to promote or support, particularly against women, whereas with men, certain behavior has been exalted, discounted or just ignored (e.g., drinking, gambling and philandering & harassment not viewed as impeding good work but a pregnancy somehow does?).

Bottom line: [Tweet "I would tell her to do her research on the company and how they treat women "]maternity leave and more generally, the ebbs and flows of family and family and personal life. Is it embraced/understood as a normal part of life to have a valued employee out of the office for a (in the larger scheme of things) brief period of time?

Kathleen D. Warner, former COO, Startup America

I referred a friend to a job recently. It's a remote-work job, but still a very legit one. She is heavily pregnant, and I wasn't sure how they would respond.

They emailed back with: "Kudos to her for looking to change jobs while eight months pregnant -- that must be stressful, she is a rock star!"

I instantly had a MUCH higher opinion of the company.

Caroline McCarthy, Digital Storyteller at Google

If she is interviewing with anyone like me, when my paid staff is small enough to count on one hand, tell her to let the prospective employer know in the first minutes of the interview.

Because if she hides that, even though the law allows her to do so and prohibits me from asking about it, if she fails to grasp, respect, and address the impact this condition will have on both of us, she will not be the ideal hire. And she does not want to get a job where the first act of business is failure to be forthcoming.

I believe disclosure is important upon first interview as soon as the applicant discerns the possibility of compatibility. [Tweet "And I would expect her to have a plan to address the inevitable and the unexpected."]

Pregnancy gives an applicant the opportunity to show off her strategic planning skills, her ability to think ahead and plan accordingly, her sense of humor and flexibility.

It can be a WINNING strategy.

Ruth Ann Harnisch, President, The Harnisch Foundation

What has been your experience of interviewing and pregnant?

Original post from LinkedIn Pulse printed November 2013

Whitney Johnson Contributor
Award winning Influencer, HBR contributor, speaker and author of Dream, Dare, Do, and Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work Whitney Johnson is a leading thinker on driving innovation via disruption.
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