QUESTION: I had an interview last week and the interviewer asked me about being a mom. I was uncomfortable and wasn’t sure how this was relevant to my candidacy for the role. How should I have responded?
You can state, “I’m not sure how this question applies to the position you’re trying to fill. If you are wondering if I have the time to commit, yes, I do.” You can even refer to your amazing attendance record in the past if that applies to you. Deflect away from the motherhood part of it. They should not be asking you that. Instead, focus on your experience and commitment to the position at hand.
That is an illegal question. I would ask very nicely, “how would that affect the job?” Do not say it’s an illegal question.
What did the person ask you? One response could be “It is an important part of my life and has taught me a lot about problem solving that I’ve been able to apply at work. For example… ” and then give a relevant work example (situation, task, activities, results) to steer the conversation back to the value you offer.
The simple answer, is that you are under no obligation to answer that, or any question. Since I don’t know the precise question that was asked, it is hard to determine the best response. As both an individual and a professional, I am a proponent of full disclosure. I wouldn’t want to work for a company that doesn’t value me–the employee, the coworker, and the mom.
Try answering,“I would be happy to answer. Could you tell me a little bit more about why you would like to know?” This response gives grace to an interviewer who made an innocent mistake and gently confronts an interviewer who did not innocently ask. Do they have underlying concerns you will have attendance issues? Asking why gives you a chance to explain your childcare and backup childcare plans.
I advise candidates to not cause uncomfortable confrontations. Answer the question honestly. e.g.”I love being a mom; my kids are young/old enough to not interfere with my work.” Then ask a relevant question about the company work culture. Finish the interview, unless there are more illegal/uncomfortable questions. If there are, politely leave, saying you realize the fit isn’t there.