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Answering Job Interview Questions about Family Matters

Young women of child-bearing age may battle questions about family matters in job interviews. Another interviewer concern for those with children may be parental absenteeism.

Research companies for family-friendly policies before you apply. For example, women’s magazines regularly run stories identifying the best of national companies that promote work-life balance. Use your networks and search local newspaper stories to find similar small and mid-sized companies where you live.

When you have young children and you choose to stay home with them but you still need the pay, contemplate alternatives: working part-time, pairing up with another person to do the same job (job sharing), taking your work home (telecommuting), and rearranging work schedules without cutting productive hours (flextime).

Here are some standard responses to the subtle (or not so subtle) interviewer probes about children:

  • Kids are way, way in the future because (say why)

  • The lifestyle you’d like to grow accustomed to requires a two-income family

  • You have super-reliable child care (explain)

When cornered, try this tactic to assure you won’t become a staffing problem down the line:

Whether or not I plan to have children in the future is not central to my career. Like so many other energetic women today, I intend to work and have a career no matter what happens in my personal life.

The sample interview questions below appear in bold, followed by effective ways to respond to these questions:

What are your career plans?

  • This job meets your immediate career plan. It allows you to be a solid producer yet build on your already strong skills. You will work hard at this job to prove yourself and accept greater responsibility as it is offered. You’re reasonably ambitious. You don’t plan to relocate.

  • Making career plans five years out is not realistic in today’s rapidly changing job market. But you’re excited about developing new nanotechnology (or whatever) engineering and this job is exactly what you seek. Your background makes you a perfect fit — (details).

What is your management style?

  • Explain how your management style is compatible with the company culture (you researched that culture on the company Web site). Incorporate contemporary management style language (you read a few magazines and recent books on the language of business today). No marbles in your mouth when you state how you handle insubordination, motivation, serious mistakes, and other supervisory issues.

  • Explain that you don’t flinch at making tough decisions and implementing them. But you’re not a bully or a screamer. Storytell: Give true examples of how you’ve handled past supervisory problems.

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