It can be tricky to explain your time as a stay-at-home parent during job interviews. You don’t want to come across as unprofessional, but you also want to make sure your skills and experience are properly highlighted. Stand out as the best candidate in your next job interview after being a stay-at-home parent.
COVID-19 prompted a lot of parents to make a change in their employment. In fact, 40% of working parents had to change their work. Of these, 25% voluntarily reduced their hours and 15% quit entirely. So, you aren't alone if you were one of the parents that took a break from the workforce.
Interviewing for a job is never easy. But, the questions about your time away from the workforce won't face the same time of scrutiny that it may have prior to the pandemic. So, make the most of your preparation for the upcoming job interview with the following tips.
Do Your Homework About the Company
The first step for preparing for your upcoming job interview is to do your homework about the company where you are interviewing. Review the job posting, research the company’s website, and see if you can find any recent news articles about them. This will help you determine if the company is a good fit for your skills and experience.
A few simple ways to pull up some important information about the company are:
Careers Site. Read through the company's career page to understand the values of the organization and to see what skills they value.
Google it and Use the Filters. Run a quick google search with the company's name and/or its products. Click on the "News" icon in the search results to filter by news about the company. Then use the "Tools" to filter the results by the last week or month. This will get you the most recent information about the organization to use in your job interview.
Social Media. Scroll through the company's social media pages. By looking at all the platforms, you will have a better sense of the audience it is targeting, news, and what people are saying about the organization.
Look at the Industry. Run some internet searches for the competitors of the organization. See what those organizations are doing in the industry and look at the company stacks up.
Reviews. The online reviews for a company (employees or customers) can give you a lot of insight into the organization. It can also be relatively subjective. So, read through these reviews to see trends and then use them to prepare your questions for the interview.
Make sure to use all of these great insights that you gain from doing your research in your job interview. It could be incorporated into your responses or used to ask questions in the interview. Showing that you are prepared for the interview makes you stand out and demonstrates many of the skills that employers want in their newest team members.
Don't Undersell Yourself
A big challenge for many returning to the workforce after time away is often confidence. Your time as a stay-at-home parent involved a lot of skills that are just as important to employers. Don't underestimate the value of these interpersonal skills in your interview.
The following are some of the skills that you likely strengthened while being a stay-at-home parent:
Leadership. Managing a busy household during the pandemic was no small task. This likely wasn't the first time that you used these skills, but definitely the most recent.
Problem Solving. There are always going to be unexpected events and problems when caring for a family. You had to be able to identify the issues and find a solution quickly.
Time Management. Juggling all of the responsibilities of being a stay-at-home parent can be a big job on its own. This was particularly true through the pandemic while balancing quarantines, shut-downs, and at-home learning.
Teamwork. Raising kids requires collaboration - with significant others, family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, and everyone else in your life. We all ask for help at some point and how you did that as a parent can be a reflection of how you collaborate in the workplace.
Interpersonal Skills. Building and retaining relationships through the pandemic was also challenging in a whole new way. Provide examples of how you did that and how you creatively forged new relationships.
These are all valuable skills that employers are looking for. So, don't sell yourself short in your job interview. Emphasize the skills you've gained while being a stay-at-home parent and explain how they will benefit the company if you are hired
Prepare for the Expected
There are many questions that will be asked in a job interview that you can plan for - especially after being a stay-at-home parent. Take the time to prepare your answers for the questions that you know will be asked in the interview.
Some of the questions that you can expect are:
Tell me about yourself. This is your chance to explain your job history, skills, and why you are a good fit for the job opening. Treat this question as an opportunity to give your elevator pitch that will set the tone of the interview.
Why are you interested in making a change at this time? The pandemic isn't over, so people will ask this question in the interview to gauge how serious you are about returning to work and what you want out of the job.
What have you been doing since you left your last job? This question is usually asked to understand why you left and how you have kept up your skills.
What are your strengths? This question is an opportunity to share some of the skills that you've gained while being a stay-at-home parent.
What are your weaknesses? Be honest about an area that you would like to improve upon or develop further. Then, explain what you are doing to improve in this area.
Why should we hire you? This is the entire point of the interview. So, prepare to answer this question with the reasons why you are the best candidate for the job and be confident in your answer.
Answering questions like these can seem daunting, but if you take the time to prepare, you'll feel more confident in your responses.
Illustrate Your Strengths with Examples
The skills you gained before you left the workplace matter and so are the ones that you have gained since that time. So, take the time to think about those strengths and prepare examples of how and when you used them.
Your job interview is an opportunity to sell yourself and your skills. So, be prepared with examples of your skills and how they will benefit the company if you are hired. The best way to do this is to re-read the job description and to come up with examples of when you did those things. Or, to identify how your prior experience connects with those needs of the employer.
You can also prepare a list of negative examples. This means to think about the times when you did something and it didn't go as planned. Or, when someone made a mistake. Focus this answer on how you navigated the unexpected and what you learned in the process. This response can be as much of a reflection of your strengths as your weaknesses.
A lot of employers will expect or prefer the STAR method to answer their job interview questions. This is simply a way to structure your responses to keep the answer focused on the question. STAR means:
S - Situation
T - Task
A - Action
R - Result
For each of these steps, keep your answer to a few sentences. And, make sure that your answer is focused on you in the process.
In every job interview, you will be asked by the person interviewing you if there are any questions that they can answer for you. It is expected that you will have questions when asked. Use this opportunity to show off your research or to dive into the specifics of the job or company.
Examples of some questions to ask the person interviewing you:
What do you like about your job?
What do you wish that you had known when you started?
What do you expect to be some of the challenges the person hired will face within the first 6 months?
Why do you stay?
How will success be measured for the person hired in the role?
Do you have any reservations about me as a candidate?
What can I expect for the next steps?
After the job interview is over, you will want to follow up with the person that interviewed you. This is as simple as sending an email to the person you met with or to the person that coordinated the interview for you. Thank them for their time, and let them know that you are interested in the job and would like to be considered for the role. You can also express your excitement about the possibility of joining the company.
If you don't hear back after a while, you can follow up again to see what the status of the job is. But, don't overdo it. The goal is to show interest without appearing desperate.
Using these tips you should be as prepared as possible for your next job interview. Put the time in and write out your answers if possible. This will make it easier when you interview the next time. And, make sure to practice your answers out loud. You will want to sound polished, but not rehearsed. So, get a friend or family member to help you out.
And, do not stop applying in the meantime. Nothing is final until it is final in the current job market. This means that you should keep all options open until you know for sure. Taking an aggressive position in your search is the best way to find all of the options out there for you right now. And, it will make it easier for you to negotiate or to say no if something isn't quite right with a particular job. Think about what you want, articulate in that job interview, and go after it!