I Have to Go Back to Work, but No Employer Gives Me a Chance

Question:

I gave birth to twins a year before the pandemic hit. As a result, I’ve been out of work for more than two years.

At first, staying home seemed like the best solution. I knew I couldn’t work full time, manage twin babies and handle housework in my “off time.” Also, the cost of childcare seemed prohibitive, and it was a rocky time emotionally, as my ex-husband and I were getting a divorce.

When the pandemic hit, the childcare option evaporated, so even if I wanted to return to my job, I wouldn’t have been able to. But I loved my work, longed for adult conversation, and staying home full-time was driving me up the wall.

Fast forward to two months ago. One of my neighbors let me know that because she would be staying, she’d be glad to offer me in-home childcare. I began looking for work.

I’ve had twelve interviews, but no job offers. The interviewers turn icy when I answer their predictable first question about the two-and-a-half-year gap on my resume.

I try to warm things up by answering all their unspoken questions, but nothing I say works. It’s clear they think I’ll ask for sick days anytime my kids are sick (I won’t) and I’m a basket case because I’ve spent the last year getting divorced. What can I say to show I’d be a responsible employee so I can get hired?

Answer:

When you’re asked personal questions in a job interview, the less you say the better you’ll do. You’re sharing too much if your divorce has come up. You could instead say, “I had a once-in-a-lifetime personal challenge and am completely ready to commit to a job and employer.” If you’re asked what that challenge was, answer briefly, “Twins, for whom I now have reliable in-home care,” and then move past your resume gap into what you offer an employer.

Show you’re ready to return to work by preparing for your next interview. Research the employer so you can speak specifically to how much you want to work for them. Bring letters of reference — a common mistake applicants make is listing references on a resume or worse, noting “references available” when strong recommendation letters delivered at the interview make a more powerful sale.

If you’re up to speed on recent changes in your industry or have maintained crucial certifications, explain that. You can also show you’ve stayed in the work world by taking relevant courses from one of the online sites such as Coursera.com, Lynda.com or Udemy.com.

Finally, laws in many states ban discrimination based on parenthood or changes in marital status, so if you fix your part of this hiring problem and still don’t get a job, you might visit your state’s human rights commission.

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One thought on “I Have to Go Back to Work, but No Employer Gives Me a Chance

  1. Lynne, you gave this woman great answers for those intrusive and frnakly nosy, barely legal interview questions about her situation. It’s always a good idea to find ways to limit what you say to the absolute minimum on touchy questions, and the answers you offered were stellar. I hope this woman is able to find a job now, a good one, with a good employer.

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