Stay-at-home-moms returning to the workforce can face some tough interview questions. Here’s how to answer them.
Tell me about yourself.
This is a common interview opener. Many job seekers make the mistake of thinking this is more of a social icebreaker before you get into the meat of the interview. Make no mistake—your interview has begun. Don’t talk about personal things like, “I have 2 kids,” or “I love to travel.” Summarize your professional history and biggest accomplishments. You can mention that you took time off to raise your kids, but then say something like, “Now that they’re older, I’m free to exercise my skills again and I’m so happy to be here today to speak to you about this role.”
Why have you been out of work for so long?
If you have a gap in your job history, they’ll naturally want to know why. This is an easy one. Just explain that you took time off to be with your kids. Lots of people do that, so it’s no big deal. But then, pivot immediately to how much you’re looking forward to going back to work and how well your job search is going (whether it actually is or not). But be sure to say that you’re especially excited you found this particular opportunity that’s such a good fit.
What have you been doing with your time while you were at home?
Not everyone realizes the time and effort that goes into raising our little darlings into productive members of society. While it may be tempting to school them, you need to humor them instead. What they’re really asking here is, ‘How much of a go-getter are you when no one’s watching?’ and ‘Do you take initiative when you don’t have to?’ You may have done some kind of volunteer work (maybe at your child’s school) or part-time work that you can point to. You may have even taken a class or completed a job shadow to prepare yourself for re-entering the workforce. Talk about the things that have contributed to your ability or skill set to do this job.
Why did you leave your last position?
Hopefully you can truthfully say, “It was a great job that I loved, but I made the decision to stay home with my kids. My old boss said he wishes he could hire me back, but since he can’t, he said he’d be glad to be a reference for me.”
Are you planning to have more children?
This is illegal for them to ask, but they may do it anyway. Or, they may try to get to it in a roundabout way by asking how old your kids are. (Young kids may be more likely to end up with more siblings than older kids.) They’re trying to gauge your career commitment before they invest in you as an employee. Just say, “I’ve thought long and hard about this decision, and I’m committed to building my career.” Then shift into why you want this job.
How do you plan to balance work and family?
You might be tempted to say, “The same way everyone else does.” Instead, briefly mention that you have great childcare lined up or that your kids are older and don’t need you. Then assure them that you’ll have plenty of time to devote to this job.
How long would it take for you to get up to speed and make a significant contribution?
They may be questioning whether or not your skills are up to date, but this is an ideal time for you to prove you’re ready by introducing your 30-06-90-day plan. These are a must-have for any job interview, but even more powerful for SAHMs interviewing for new roles. Read about 30-60-90-day plans here.
Want to know how to answer questions about salary, your greatest weakness, any lack of experience, where you see yourself in 5 years, and more? Find great answers to 101 tough job interview questions in my series How to Answer Interview Questions.
To make sure that you’re ready to interview for any job, work with a coach. Find more information on how a coach can help you.