Should You Mention Parental Leave Time Before A Job Interview?

Elizabeth Witbeck

Many people take time off from work to stay home and raise their children. In the majority of cases, it is the mothers who choose to stay at home with the kids. At some point, parents might decide to join the workforce again.

One question on a job candidates mind as they send out resumes is if they should disclose the fact that they were on parental leave.

  • Is it appropriate to tell managers in your cover letter that you were not working because you were taking care of your children?
  • Is it best to let that information be talked about during an interview?
  • Or should it not be discussed at all?

There are many different opinions that people have to this question.

How Long Was Your Leave?

If you were out of work for less than a year, then there is no need to mention the gap in employment to a hiring manager. It is completely normal for a person to take a few months off between jobs, for a variety of reasons. Some people take a few weeks after first giving birth. Others take a couple months to find a job. Some want time to relocate.

There are many reasons why people may take time off. It is not necessary to explain a small gap in your employment.

On the other hand, employers may get concerned if you take a large amount of time off from work. How long were you on parental leave – one year? Two years? Five years – or more? An employer may look at your resume and wonder why you have not held a job in several years.

Look at Other Experiences

If you have not been formally employed, there are still plenty of ways that you can gain experience. You can take online classes and gain certifications. You take work from home, doing anything from writing, to making jewelry, to selling clothes. You can take a part-time job. You can volunteer at a local organization.

All of this counts as experience. So before you go talking about an employment gap, think about all of the things you have done recently that would benefit the organization. Instead of discussing parental leave, you could talk about your business you run out of your home, or the fundraiser you put together for your local church or fire station.

It’s Not Required

Remember that it is not required to discuss any information related to your personal life. It is illegal for employers to use personal information to make hiring decisions. This includes your marriage status, how many children you have, age, gender, disability, nationality, and other information.

While it is not illegal to ask these types of questions, most employers refrain from asking, because they do not want the information to interfere with the decision making process.

Your personal life is your personal life. You don’t need to explain what has happened inside of your own family. Remember that an employer wants to know what kinds of benefits you bring to the company. Often your personal information is not relevant to the conversation. If mentioning that you are a mother or a father would be a benefit in this position, you might consider adding it to the cover letter. If it is not a benefit, it is probably best left out.

Why Should I Hire You?

There is one question on an employer’s mind when they are looking over your application materials, and that question is “Why should I hire this person?” Remember that there are dozens, possibly hundreds, of other people who are competing for the same position that you are.

It is in your best interest to discuss the past experiences you have, the skills you have, and what would make you the best candidate for the position. You can discuss jobs that you had prior to taking your leave, your educational background, and what you have done to remain savvy in your industry in recent years.

The issue with discussing parental leave is that an employer may think you are not as up to date as other candidates. Other job candidates have continued to be in the industry, learning the latest tools of the trade. They may wonder if you will need additional training to get caught up.

As difficult as it is to say, we live in a world that can be biased against parents, especially mothers. Hiring managers may worry that, as a mother, you might take a lot of parental leave off, or personal time off in order to care for your children. Managers often view family obligations as something that takes time away from their business.

To Disclose or Not

You can help yourself during an interview by reminding the interviewer of all that you accomplished so far in your life. Tell them about your accomplishments at each of your previous jobs and how you went above and beyond what was necessary. Tell them about your skills and how you would benefit the team. Explain why you are the perfect candidate for the job.

If you decide to disclose your parental leave, mention that you decided to take time off from work. Explain your decision to now return to the workplace. Discuss the ways that you have continued to stay engaged in your industry while on parental leave, whether it was taking a part time job, running your own business, volunteering, taking classes, or other ways.

At the end of the day, everybody needs to make the individual decision to disclose their parental leave. I hope that if you do decide to disclose, it helps land you a job that you truly enjoy. If there is a company that would not hire you due in part to being a working parent, you wouldn’t want to work there anyway.

About The Author

Elizabeth Witbeck

Elizabeth Witbeck works as a college consultant and educational entrepreneur. She launched the first business in the United States that sends care packages to first generation college students, and also helps prospective college students on their applications. Her interests include education, poverty, and working with youth.

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