Interviews are often anxiety-inducing exercises for even the most seasoned of job seekers. For stay-at-home moms, who may have been out of the workforce for years or even decades, the nerves involved in a job interview can reach a fever pitch.
Still, with the right mindset, a stay-at-home mom can have a great interview by anticipating and preparing for the questions that will inevitably be asked about her employment gap — a crucial concern for hiring managers.
She suggests telling an employer: "I decided to leave my last job and become a stay-at-home mother until my children reached school age. I am now ready and excited to return to the workforce!"
Interview questions for a stay-at-home mom are likely to focus on why she has been out of work for so long, how she has spent that time, her skills, and how they can fit the position.
Never act apologetic, Lappinen says, for staying at home or talk extensively about your children. You want to focus primarily on how your skills, experience, and qualifications can benefit the employer, she says.
Here are five ways stay-at-home moms should prepare for a job interview:
- Do your homework. Use LinkedIn and social media like Twitter and Facebook to learn more about the employer. Online trade publications can be helpful and may provide insight into industry trends. You want to make sure that you understand the company's products and services and know the names of the top leaders in a company, often listed on a company's website. Also, be sure to search for news articles about the company. If there is news, such as a recent IPO, you'll want to know that before your interview.
- Practice your answers. The chances are good that you may be asked one or more common interview questions, such as, "What are your biggest weaknesses?" or "What are your greatest strengths?" For example, you don't want to tell an interviewer that working too hard is a weakness since they may see that as disingenuous. Instead, offer an honest answer that won't set off alarm bells. Add to your response how you're trying to improve that weakness. For example, you might say, "I have a problem with delegating and trying to take on too much by myself. But I'm learning that I can be more effective when I teach others and let them help me."
- Understand the STAR method. This stands for situation, task, action, and result. This method of answering questions is very effective when the hiring manager asks questions that begin with statements like, "Tell me about a time when ..." or "Give an example of …" Think about setting the scene with details about an example (situation), followed by your responsibility in that situation (task). Then, you move into the step you took to address it (action), followed by the outcome that your actions achieved (result).
- Show you're staying current. One concern employers may have about stay-at-home moms seeking to reenter the workforce is that they may be out of the loop regarding the latest technology or industry trends. Lappinen says you can address such concerns by mentioning the trade journals you read, the professional networking events you've attended, courses you've completed, or situations in which you've donated your professional abilities to volunteer organizations.
- Prepare a list of questions. To prepare for this portion of the interview, write a list of three to five questions that can't be answered by reading the job ad or quickly perusing the company website. Specifics about the job's parameters, what training and professional development are available, and more about where the job fits into the organizational structure are great options. Don't ask about compensation and benefits until at least the second interview — you want the interviewer to know you're there for more than just a paycheck.