"I started a job six months pregnant - twice." Leah Melby Clinton's tips on interviewing while expecting.

By Leah Melby Clinton | Photo by Stocsky

Leah Melby Clinton is a writer, editor, and founder of In Kind, a modern magazine devoted to slow, conscious content around motherhood, career, and building a meaningful life.

I just fielded a call from a former colleague who had a specific question for me: What was it like starting a new role in the second trimester of pregnancy? And how had I approached the interview process? Blame it on the pandemic, but I was in the midst of my second go-around with transitioning while expecting. 

Before having gone through it, my pre-baby self probably would have had a different take, hewing to the opinion that it’s almost self-sabotage to leave a situation where you’d qualified for the maximum amount of leave and benefits, adding the uncertainty inherent with job searching to a time when so much is already up in the air. There’s truth to all of that. It’s just not a way I know how to be. 

In both instances, the role was brought to my attention through connections or former colleagues. It was the universe, giving me what I needed or wanted or manifested. And that was the crux of what I told my friend: If you find yourself with an interview scheduled or an offer sitting in your inbox, take a moment to think about how it’d feel to pass. If there’s not a reality where you wouldn’t regret it, why would you ever consider pulling the plug? Sometimes there are no second chances. 

As we get older and more specialized in what it is we’re good at, we’re simply growing more and more into our own version of Goldilocks, comfortable and confident enough to reject options because they’re not quite this or quite that enough; when the pretty-darn-close-to-perfect thing shows up, it’s a sizable risk to not grab at it with both hands. 

Beyond the philosophical part of interviewing, there are still practicalities and specific concerns that come with interviewing when expecting. I told my friend about wondering whether there was a legal dictum about when or how I notified potential employers (there’s not) and what the correct thing to do was (the internet’s torn). 

These days, most interviews are happening over Zoom, a medium that makes seeing anything lower than bust-level pretty impossible. The physicality of pregnancy is no longer a thing, which, for better or for worse, leaves the reveal fully on words and when you’re ready to share. As I began the interviewing process I read a handful of stories online and ended up going with my instinct anyway: I’d wait until I felt like I was far enough down the funnel for it to be a factor and had the chance to convince my potential employer that I was a compelling candidate. 

Most interviews are happening over Zoom…the physicality of pregnancy is no longer a thing.

I sent a note to the recruiter who’d initially contacted me, asking if she had a few minutes to hop on the phone. I decided I’d share the news if she said they were down to a few final candidates. If it sounded like there would be additional rounds, I’d hold off a little longer. 

So strategized, it threw my game off when she kicked off the call saying she was glad I’d reached out because she was about to—they were delighted to offer me the role. I stumbled before collecting myself, saying how exciting that was and that I also had news to share: I was pregnant and expecting at the end of the summer. 

At this point, I think it’s vital to point out that both times I’ve delivered this “surprise!” news, I’ve been met with genuine excitement and kindness. Whether big corporate outfit or small start-up, the women on the other end of the phone had not a trace of worry or anything that made me feel like their mind was spinning and wondering how to turn back the clock.

While the internet, again, makes me think retracting an offer post-pregnancy announcement is iffy at best and illegal at worst, I’m old enough to not believe anything until it’s in writing. I maintained an attitude of slight skepticism until the official offer letter pinged through in my inbox, confusing my husband as to why I wasn’t quite ready to mentally commit to the idea of the new role. It turns out that being offered a job while pregnant felt like a big deal to me, but the vibe I got from the employer was the exact opposite (in the very best way). 

As for more of the nuts-and-bolts specifics, there are likely to be some company-provided benefits you won’t be eligible for as someone who delivers without having been employed for long. You will, however, be able to access the short-term disability pay that’s offered by the state you work in. The latter is what’s provided the majority of paid leave and made it financially feasible for me to make the move. I decided I could go without the few weeks of paid “parental leave” that seems standard policy for many companies. But skipping a paycheck for two to three months? A nonstarter.

The trickier reality was prepping for the routine rupture heading your way. It was the element I forgot to consider when interviewing, while in hindsight it might be the most crucial element of all. Whether you manage a big team or a small one, have a job that relies on cross-functional work or stay in your own sandbox, there’s a lot of ground to cover and relationships to build before you’re out. Add in a remote work situation, and it’s even more of a doozy.

As a new hire, there’s an urgency to making headway. Without the looming reality of maternity leave, it’s easy to go at your own pace and let things unfold naturally. It’s not that I’m doing anything differently: I’m just more acutely aware of the ticking clock. I want to return not as the “new person,” but as a team member who was out on mat-leave. For me, that means making sure I carve out time for in-office days and focusing on getting to know people (and letting them get to know me). 

In the end, pregnancy, no matter how seismic it feels to you, is just life. And when you’re ambitious, letting it affect a move you make feels deeply unfair. It’s bold and brave, one of the earliest examples you can give your child of independence and passion. If you want to parent by providing an example of someone who went for it and pursued the things that define them as an individual, you couldn’t do much better. 

There are no official rules or how-tos for any of it—the interviewing, the accepting, the first weeks—but that’s a good thing. Rely on instinct and cues. Go with what feels right, and don’t let anxiety creep in by expecting the worst. And, honestly, in the highly unlikely situation where the announcement is met with scorn or skepticism, take it as the very best example of dodging a bullet.