Nevertheless, even if you’re aware of what a potential employer can and cannot ask you during an interview, you might still be nervous about dealing with such questions if they pop up. And stressing about something that might or might not happen – in an already stressful situation – can take a toll on your mental health.
Grace Loh, a psychotherapist, counsellor and coach at Counseling Perspective, says that, unfortunately, some hiring managers and prospective employers still hold biased perspectives about women’s roles in the workplace. However, on the flip side, the interviewer may not necessarily mean to discriminate, and could be asking for practical reasons such as seeking information about your availability during anticipated peak seasons or your ability to work overtime.
She suggests confidently raising these questions politely and professionally:
* If you are eager for the role and think of the question as challenging not to answer, you could try to ascertain why they are asking such questions. Ask them, “I appreciate your questions; if you do not mind me asking, could you let me know the reasons for asking these questions and how this information will be used?”
* If you think they are trying to find out about your future capacity to work overtime when required, you could respond by saying, “I believe what you are asking about is if I can work overtime when required, and the answer to that is yes.”
* If you perceive the question to be about your level of commitment to the role, you could say, “I think you are trying to ask me about my commitment to the role and I can assure you of my commitment. Let me tell you of some previous situations where I have demonstrated this…”
Grace advises that you could also choose to be upfront about your pregnancy or childbearing plans if you are entirely comfortable doing so. However, you can courteously point out that the question is not relevant to your ability and capacity to perform the role and take this opportunity to address your prospective employer’s potential concerns with a prepared plan for minimising your absences, for example, through remote work, project planning and tracking milestones achieved.
“Here is your chance to exemplify your resourcefulness and commitment to outcomes and solutions. You can then steer the interview back to focus on your qualifications, skillsets and relevant experience to the role,” she says.
Ultimately, it would be helpful for you to assess their motives for asking. If you perceive that it comes from a discriminatory perspective, you could ask more questions to evaluate if this workplace has a broader culture that actually condones or supports this, and should the employer be unwilling to hire a professional that will soon have, or intends to have, a child, it may be a good cause to reconsider accepting an offer, or desiring to work there in the first place.
“Gather your impressions, pay close attention to any red flags that might signal that the company is not a good place for you, and make a decision that is best for yourself in the long term. The right companies will see your potential and choose to work with you,” she adds.