interviewingIf you are a working parent interviewing for a new job, you’re probably assessing many factors that will help you determine if a particular role will be a good fit for you.  Yes, of course, you want to know the type of work the job will entail.  Who your manager will be.  What your team will be like.  Whether you’ll need to travel.  And these days, whether and how often you’ll need to come into an office.

You may also, however, be keenly interested in knowing the culture of the organization – particularly with respect to how family-friendly the environment is (or isn’t!).  It’s true.  You can never walk into a situation knowing exactly what you’re going to find on the other side.  But, you can still collect helpful clues as you investigate the potential employer.  With these clues, you can come away with a pretty decent idea of how welcome you and your parent identity will be, if you get an offer and accept it.

As you start the process of researching potential employers, don’t neglect basic web searching.  Does an employer appear on any lists of accolades related to working parents?  Can you find their leave policy on a public site like List Your Leave or The Skimm’s #ShowUsYourLeave database?  Have they shared information about a parent or caregiver affinity group or ERG among the available employee resources on their website?

How to find out more than what’s publicly available, though?  I queried the Mindful Return alumni hive mind to find out what type of sleuthing everyone does to get answers to the question of family friendliness.  Here are the brilliant suggestions they offered, when you’re interviewing for that new job.


While You Are Interviewing

  1. During the research and interview process, seek out parents who work there (or who used to work there). Also try to find people who work or worked for the same manager you would have.  You can use LinkedIn, school alumni databases, friends, and other networks to find people who are either current or former employees.  If you connect with them outside of the formal interview process, they won’t be locked into a structured format, and they may feel less obligated to paint the employer in a positive light.

Pay particular attention to finding someone who has worked for the same manager.  As one Mindful Return alum put it, “I also try to find people who have worked with the hiring manager before, to get a sense of what it would be like to work under that particular supervisor.  Others can tout culture all they want, but we all know that a supportive supervisor is a working parent’s best asset.”

  1. Ask direct questions about the culture. During the interview, ask about culture.  Yes, people can lie.  But if they say certain things, you might catch some important information.  Here are some translations from a Mindful Return alum: (1) “Work hard play hard” can be a red flag.  (2) Sometimes, “we’re like family” can be code for “we’re too up in each other’s business and not good at boundaries.”  (3) Or, they might say “we’re dedicated employees, but we also recognize that everyone has a life outside of work.” That’s a good sign.
  1. Ask about outside interests and vacations. One Mindful Return alum offered, “I always ask people what they like to do when they aren’t working.  I also ask them what is a favorite place they’ve vacationed.  If they have to pause to think about answers, it’s likely a sweat shop.”
  1. Ask HR to send you benefits information. “I always ask HR to send me benefits information, including employee handbooks, while I’m in the interview process,” said one alum.  “They won’t always give you everything, but they might once you reach an offer.”    

After You Get the Offer, If You Haven’t Already Done This…

  1. Ask to speak with other team members who weren’t on the interview list. Asking to speak with others you’d be interacting with on a daily basis can help you get a feel for how things really are.  Yes, these other team members will still be on their best behavior, but you may be able to spot some issues that otherwise hadn’t become apparent.
  1. Ask to talk to employees who have children. If there aren’t any, that in itself provides you with some important information.
  1. Ask about hours. Ask what the standing work hours and/or billable hour requirements are.  Dig deeper to ask about how much flexibility there is with those hours.
  1. Ask HR what benefits they provide that are specifically for parents. For example, be on the lookout for parental leave, ramp-up, flexibility, reduced hours, breast milk shipping, companion reimbursement for work travel, and backup daycare policies and benefits.  Also note whether they have a parent affinity group or ERG.  “Even if you won’t directly need all these things,” counsels one alum, “this information will give you clues about the organization’s culture and overall support for working parents.”
  1. Negotiate remote work and/or flexible hours. “If you have specific needs to make your working parent life manageable, for example telework and/or flexible hours, ask for those things after you get the offer but before you accept,” one alum advises.  “That way you care clear about what you are signing up for.”

If you wind up with legal questions when you’re interviewing that relate to family responsibilities, you can reach out to the WorkLife Law Free Legal Hotline at UC Hastings.  And if you’re interviewing while pregnant, you’ll want to check out Job Searching While Pregnant: One Mama’s Story.

Finally, do you need more networking and career advice?  I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend my hubby, Jason Levin, MBA, who is an awesome career, business development, and outplacement coach.  His book, Relationships to Infinity: The Art and Science of Keeping in Touch is a gem, too.

Good luck with your job search!



Back to Work After Baby

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

Our Gift To You

At Mindful Return, we know that calm, thoughtful planning, and time for reflection, are keys to success in working parent life. Our FREE guide, 99 Questions to Ask Yourself Before, During, and After Maternity Leave, is our gift to you and your new bundle of joy.

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