Interviewing is stressful. Returning to the workforce after taking time away is stressful. I know because I’ve been there.
You might find yourself second guessing your background. Or question your decision to take time away to raise your kids or care for loved ones. Was it all worth it, you wonder as you start preparing to answer tough interview questions. Questions like, What were you doing during your “break?”
However, as moms we know this time away from the workforce has been anything but a break. Not only that, you’ve gained courage, strength, as well as many diverse skill sets during your time working inside the home.
But how do you communicate those skills and experiences on your resume? How do you speak intelligently and purposefully about your background and how it ties in to your next job or career path?
Easier said than done, right?
Interviewing takes practice, regardless of your background or career circumstances. In addition to practicing, it’s also important to be aware of common pitfalls during the interview process.
Read below to learn about the biggest mistakes in the interview process for moms returning to work, along with key interview strategies you can use to make your background shine.
#1 Biggest Interview Mistake for Moms Returning to Work
In the interview process you will most likely get asked a question like: What have you been up to for the past ___ length of time?
You might be tempted to say something like the following:
Well, I took some time off to care for my children. I realize I was away from the workforce for a while, but I am ready to come back and work now!
Here’s another way to respond to that same question:
For the past several years I’ve honed my multitasking and project management skills. For example, I worked full-time caring for my kids while simultaneously chairing the special events committee for the PTA and leading my son’s Cub Scout troop. The major skills required for this position include time management and organization. I perfected both of those skills by successfully juggling my commitments managing my home and family as well as my volunteer activities.
If you were a hiring manager, which response would impress you the most? You would no doubt prefer the second response for two reasons:
A: It does not sound apologetic or defensive. The candidate is demonstrating how their time away has strengthened their candidacy.
B: The response highlights the key skills from the job announcement and ties them in with the candidate’s background.
It’s important to own your background and experience! Be proud of what you’ve accomplished while working inside the home. Because after all, you were working. You were doing one of the most important jobs in the world: caring for your kids. ‘Nuff said.
See related: 30 Scam-Free Side Hustles in 2020
#2 Biggest Interview Mistake for Moms Returning to Work
There is literally no limit to the number of superwoman skills we acquire as moms. Many times I’ve considered listing my ability to catch vomit with both my hands at the top of my resume (I think I’ve actually earned a certification by now). Or my most recent accomplishment of cooking dinner while teaching my daughter math and simultaneously calming my hangry four-year-old son.
However, I realize that while these skills are important and have been my total reality lately, I would probably omit them from my professional resume. I would also probably choose not to chat about vomit (or poop) in an interview situation.
Okay now I realize I’m being a little extreme with my examples, but I’ve been a career coach for nearly 20 years, and I’ve also sat on plenty of interview committees. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen candidates completely blow it because they were too casual and overshared way too much information about themselves.
You want to remain professional, even during the “small talk” portion of the interview. Keep the conversation focused around your professional background and skills and how you can be an asset to the organization.
#3 Biggest Interview Mistake for Moms Returning to Work
One of the most important things to remember in relation to interviewing is that it is a two-way street. The employer, or interviewer is not the only one making a decision. The hiring manager is not the only person in control.
You’ve got to be proactive and investigate the organization or employer before and during the interview. You need to determine if the job and organization will be a good fit for you.
Here are some examples of topics you want to research:
Is the company family friendly?
Family friendly could mean offering flexibility. For example, the ability to work from home some or all of the time. Flexibility can also mean working part-time or job sharing (where you share half of the responsibilities of a job with another person and you each work part-time).
What is the rate of turnover?
This is very telling about an organization. If they have a high turnover rate, that’s usually a red flag.
Is there room for growth?
If growth and moving up in an organization is important to you, it’s a good idea to ask this question in the interview.
Are there opportunities for professional development?
This is another great question to ask in the interview. A company that values its employees prioritizes professional growth and development.
A few places you can do some digging before the interview are:
Glassdoor which allows employees to leave anonymous reviews of over 600,000 companies world-wide.
LinkedIn features thousands of professionals in every industry niche imaginable. If you have the names of your interviewers, you can check out their profiles before the interview!
Salary.com offers a free personalized salary calculating tool so you can successfully negotiate your salary or use it when asking for a promotion.
The biggest take away from this article is to spend time preparing and researching before your interview. You don’t want to go overboard and spend too much time, but you also don’t want to take a hands-off approach and leave the decision up to the employer.
After all, this is your career!
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