As I enter the interview process, I am specifically looking for ways to “spin” motherhood. I have the appropriate degrees, background, etc., but I am insecure about the time I took off from my career to raise a family. I am an active volunteer with my community and organizations like the Red Cross, but honestly most of my time and energy has been dedicated to raising my three children almost entirely by myself. I would appreciate any additional advice or guidance you may have for me.
Advice from Dana
I’m so glad you asked this question. Since I had a wonderful “stay-home-dad” during my career, we’ll expand this to “parenthood.” I have coached a number of returning parents after raising their kids, so here is my advice:
Add your experience to your résumé as a job. Give yourself a title such as “Head of Household,” “Household CEO.”
In your job definition section, highlight the skills that are relevant to the job type you are seeking. Be proud of your skills in project management, attention to detail, managing multiple projects simultaneously, dealing with ambiguity, high energy, and more. Read job descriptions of your target jobs and pull in key skill words that you can honestly claim.
NEVER, ever, ever, ever apologize for being a stay-home parent. You are a professional. Be confident in your cover letter, phone interviews, and face-to-face interviews.
Invest in one good interview outfit, a folio with paper and pen, and learn how to job search. Get current with the latest techniques.
I enjoyed reading your recent Business Journals article on what not to ask in an interview. I am currently in line to interview for a nonprofit arts job that I think is perfect for me. I would love to know what you think are the best questions to ask on an interview.
Advice from Dana
First, let’s quickly review the guidelines for good interviewee questions:
Prepare your questions, write them down, and bring them with you to the interview.
Think about the perceptions the interviewer may create in his or her mind from your questions. Put yourself in their shoes.
Never ever, ever, ever ask about salary or anything financially related!
There are many good questions, but here are my four favorites. I recommend you always have these on your pre-prepared list:
- I’m very self-motivated. How will you measure the success of the person in this position after one full year?
- The first 30 days is very important for me to meet as many team members as possible. How will you recommend I do that?
- What are the top three skills or experiences you are looking for that may not be mentioned in the job description?
- The position we are discussing is something I am very excited about. Can you give me feedback on how I am meeting your qualifications and if I will proceed to the next level of the hiring process? (This is called “going for the close” or “asking for the order” in sales.)
For more questions, drill into the items on the job description. Ask them to elaborate on examples of skills they describe or their future goals for a certain objective. You can create so many this way!
For even more questions, ask them about their professional background (nothing personal!) and how they got to the role they are in – how they achieved success.
Congratulations that you got an interview! Remember, you are on stage from the minute you step into the door until the minute you depart. Everything you say and do can be in your favor. Or not. The more you prepare, the better you will do.