Pregnant? What to say in a job interview

istockphoto

(MoneyWatch) Last summer, Marissa Mayer snagged the Yahoo (YHOO) CEO job when she was five months pregnant. Certainly, pregnancy probably won't make the whole interview process any easier, but it shouldn't hurt your chances of getting your own dream job. You can't be discriminated against due to your condition, but you should be prepared to deal with some specific issues, like when and what to reveal about your pregnancy and whether to discuss issues like maternity leave.

Here are some tips that moms-to-be may want to keep in mind before heading into their next job interview:

Don't lead with your pregnancy. Mentioning that you're pregnant right up front -- for instance, in a cover letter -- isn't necessary and takes the focus off of you as a candidate. "The priority should be about meeting your prospective employer and explaining to those you meet why you are the best candidate for this job,"  said Jena Abernathy, vice president at the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. "If you say something ahead of time, you are placing the emphasis on your pregnancy rather than on the role." She adds that sometimes you won't need (or want) to mention it at all: "Depending on timing, there may be situations where you will be hired first and then disclose a pregnancy afterwards. Again, be honest and transparent about your reasons and most employers will appreciate this."

Ask about maternity leave -- once they want you. Under the law, a job recruiter can't ask you if you're married, have kids or are expecting. But once you get an offer, then you should certainly ask about maternity leave. Try to "save that conversation until you're negotiating the compensation package," suggested Amanda Augustine of job search site TheLadders. "You can also pursue a little reconnaissance beforehand by checking Glassdoor.com for employee reviews on the company's maternity leave policy." When you have an offer in hand, take time to consider all the benefits, including maternity leave as well as any others that may pertain to you as a new mom, such as a flexible work schedule.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Once you're negotiating an offer (and discussing leave), you'll want to be ready to respond to any questions that may come up, such as when you anticipate your leave starting and ending, suggests Linda Descano, head of Women & Co., a service of Citigroup (C) that brings women relevant financial content. By anticipating their questions and planning thoughtful responses, you can instill confidence about your long-term value as an employee and that your department will be able to run smoothly while you're out, as well as once you're back.

Do what's best for you. The bottom line here is that you should do what is comfortable for you and makes sense for your particular situation (including stage of pregnancy and industry). Said Fortune 500 executive coach Shannon Cassidy: "There are no hard-and-fast rules or guidelines. However, the more you disclose, the more trust you create.... Just be careful not to over-stress the pregnancy aspect of your job search. It's a temporary leave of absence and should not interfere with [your] ability to perform the role."

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.