If you are anything like me, you suffer from diarrhea of the mouth, especially in high-stress, high-anxiety situations. It’s like nerves make me lose focus and my cool. If you are not like me, you may have a hard time speaking at all… allowing the silence to consume you as the interviewer asks questions.
Here’s a few tips from me to you after having interviewed hundreds of people:
1. Logistics: Nail down the logistics. Nail them down. Don’t mess them up.
Moms, the kids make it impossible to get out of the house at a reasonable time. Having adult conversation may seem foreign to you lately, but do not let this one hold you back. Be on time. Set a time to be out the door for the interview and subtract 30 minutes from that. For example, if you have a 10 a.m. interview, your goal is to get there fifteen minutes before it begins and it takes fifteen minutes to get there. You should be leaving by 9:30. Now, subtract thirty extra minutes for the unexpected. Plan on being out the door by 9 a.m. knowing you have some wiggle room. Stuff happens, but don’t let a late babysitter, poopy diaper, or bad directions from your GPS get in the way of being on time.
If your interview is over the phone, find a quiet place where your cell phone reception (if using a cell phone) is amazing, and make sure you have zero distractions. I confess to putting on Yo Gabba Gabba while I did my phone interviews and locked my bedroom door. Despite my son missing me for a couple of minutes, he survived. And I got an in-person interview!
2. Dress for success
If your wardrobe is like mine, I would suggest a quick trip to the mall (you only need one nice outfit). If your wardrobe is amazing, make sure to check for spit up and/or funny smells. While throw up smell may be normal to you, it may cause your interviewers to hurl during the interview. Also, if you’re really like me (I am known to get food in my hair), when you arrive to the interview fifteen minutes early, ask to use the bathroom so you can check once more if a Goldfish cracker is in your hair. Always dress more business-like than less. If they say business casual, a nice pair of slacks and/or nice dress shirt will be nice. If you are breastfeeding, go with a bigger size on the dress shirt to avoid showing off your milk jugs! Be careful of having too much make up, perfume or crazy hair color or nails; for some employers, this could be a red flag. While employers should not judge you on your appearance, it certainly matters and can make a good (or bad) first impression.
3. Know as much as possible: Know the job. Know the job description. Know the team. Know the company.
The Internet gives you no excuses to nail this down. Research the company website and websites that can help you better understand the company, the culture, the industry, and the people. Some helpful resources include Glassdoor and LinkedIn or even the company’s Twitter or Facebook page. Obviously, it’s important to understand the job description and ensure you can meet the job requirements. Do as much research as you can, but not so much that you don’t have any questions. Have at least 2-3 questions prepared that are thoughtful and able to help you better understand the role or the company. If finding work is a priority for you, make sure to give yourself the time you need to research (even if it means turning on Yo Gabba Gabba again).
4. The Interview (phone or in-person)
As I mentioned in my previous post about marketing motherhood, the interviewers are not interested in your family, personal life or children’s poop schedule. They are concerned with your ability to meet the job requirements. Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to deliver a compelling reason as to why you can complete the job requirements. Typically, here’s how standard interview/recruiter questioning goes:
- Tell us about yourself or briefly tell us about your work experience: If you like to chat, think brief. If you’re quieter, try to fill at least 2-3 minutes covering your work experience. If you have a lot of work experience surrounding your children, stick to the work experience, not the children. For example, rather than saying, “while on my son’s PTA at his school, I did this this and this.” I would say, “As a member of the PTA, I am responsible for x, y and z.” It may seem less personal to you, but remember, they just want to know you can do the job.
- Standard Interview Questions: Listen to the question; take your time to answer and never be afraid to check in with the interviewer. If you get chatty Cathy like me, pause for a second, look the interviewer in the eye and ask: am I answering your question? It’s a great way to avoid diarrhea of the mouth while still checking the pulse of the room.
- Gaps in Employment: Unless specifically asked, you do not need to address gaps in employment. It’s up to you if you want to speak about them, but remember, your goal is to tell the interviewer why you are a great fit for the position.
- Applicable motherhood experience: If the employer is more laid back and open (which is happening a lot these days), you can always judge whether it’s appropriate to talk about your parenting experience as it relates to a role. As always, be cautious and stick to the job description. For example, when my friend interviewed for an administrative assistant job, I recommended she highlight her skills in travel planning. She is a whiz at booking flights, hotels and cars for people in an efficient, convenient and fast fashion. Rather than talking about her family, I urged her to explain how she multitasks to plan trips, collaborate with multiple schedules while coordinating the entire calendar (without mentioning her kids).
- Talking Points: If you have been out of touch or out of the market and you’re really nervous about adult conversation, do some research and find 2-3 things you feel comfortable talking about. Sometimes, there is an opportunity for small talk before or after interviews, it’s good to have a fun fact about weather, the news or even something in the industry that’s relevant to mentioning. For example, if you are interviewing with Fred Meyer, it’s worth bringing up the sale you saw in the newspaper and how excited you are to buy some daisies.
- Close the Deal: There’s a moment at the end of the interview where you’ve asked your questions and it’s starting to wrap up. You can see the interviewers checking the time, and you’ve pretty much said what you needed to say. Don’t stop now. Look them in the eye (imagine you are gently scolding your three-year old) and say, “Before we end this meeting, I just want to reiterate my genuine interest in this position. As you mentioned, I can do x, y and z and while you may be concerned about my lack of a, b and c, I think q, r and s can help bridge the gap. I am passionate about your company and this role.” Obviously, you want to cater this based on your conversation, but wow them before you walk away!
5. Google/Social Media Check
As social media was not around when employment laws were written, there’s some gray area about what’s legal and illegal when an employer looks you up online. To err on the side of caution, Google yourself and make sure there is nothing troubling about you. When I was searching for a nanny, I was fortunate enough to find a great candidate online. In doing a quick search, I learned from her Facebook status that she was just coming down from her high. She immediately did not meet my qualifications for the role, and I cancelled the interview with her. Although you shouldn’t be posting about your drug activity on Facebook, just make sure there isn’t anything on there that could raise some red flags to an employer.
Recently, I received a handwritten thank you card. It was memorable. I certainly don’t think a handwritten thank you card is necessary. However, it’s very nice to follow up as quickly as possible with a thank you email letting the interviewer know you appreciate their time. It’s also a great opportunity to re-iterate your interest in the position if you want to continue pursuing the role. It’s also OK if you write the thank you at 10 p.m. after the kids have gone to bed… just spell-check it before hitting send!
While being a mom may not be considered a “professional” full-time job in our society, there are certain skills and responsibilities you bring to the table that you need to highlight to get that job. Best of luck to you! Oh, and don’t take the kids on the interview with you!