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Applying for a job on maternity leave

(8 Posts)
PetShopGirl Sun 12-Apr-15 22:54:51

I'm currently nearly 5 months into maternity leave with DC2 and planning to return to work around the end of September/beginning of October. Out of the blue I have seen a job advertised that whilst not necessarily my ultimate dream job, is pretty much my dream job for now. It's quite similar to my current role, but working in a much more interesting field and I would really like to apply. However, there are a couple of issues in that the advertised role is full-time (my current role is 4 days per week, and I would really like to keep to that if possible) and of course I don't really want to start working again until September/October.

There is a number to call for an informal chat about the role, so I don't know whether it's best to sound them out about the maternity leave issue and flexible working in advance, or just apply as normal and then should I get an interview and subsequent offer (I believe that I'm a pretty credible candidate and it is a very niche area) I might have a bit of leverage for potential negotiation. Plus, if they were to receive a decent application from me, even if they subsequently decided they couldn't wait that long, would there be a possible advantage in already being on the radar in case anything else comes up further down the line? Or is it best just to fess up in advance and see what they say? I'd be grateful for opinions.

For added info, the job is public sector so in theory (I would hope) should have fairly robust equality and family friendly policies.

PetShopGirl Mon 13-Apr-15 10:12:07


DougalTheCheshireCat Mon 13-Apr-15 13:07:07

I wouldn't fess up in advance. The first part is selling yourself to them. If they want to buy, then you negotiate. So if I were you I would:

1. Research the job a bit. Find one or two interesting / relevant questions to ask that ideally show you off a bit. Phone them up and ask those questions. Sound enthusiastic, say you will be applying: prep them to be excited to get your application. Also, it might be worth asking about process. Most public sector jobs have a scoring system at each stage, so you also need to figure out how to frame your application so they score well. (I'd also research this independently - do you know anyone in the public sector that can help you get in the mind set, and review your application, if you are not in the public sector already?)

2. Go to interview. Do all your usual interview prep. I would volunteer nothing about availability or T&Cs unless asked. BUT you need to prepare what you response will be if they ask you. Standard questions at first interview could be about your availability, pay rate and other T&Cs.

Again personally, I wouldn't say that I was on maternity leave and don't want to start until September (too negative). I would consider saying that something like 'I need to check, but I think my notice period is 3 months' it's April now. Likely they won't interview until early May earliest. Three months would be from an offer, so that puts you at September already. I maybe would consider saying that I was on maternity leave if it seemed relevant, I wouldn't necessarily though. Depends on the vibe in the room. It's none of their business. If I did volunteer it, though, I would something like 'I'm on maternity leave now, and looking to move my career on / get into this dynamic sector I'm v passionate about when I return.' I.e. direct them to your career focus.

If asked about package etc, be ready to include all your benefits (pension etc) I usually give these as a figure, rounded up a bit. I maybe would mention I was on four days a week, but not give a reason. (I've been on four days a week since before I had children. I used to do some freelance work in a different field on my fifth day, so when interviewing I explained that and included that in my ballpark earnings figure). If they asked about four days a week, I would be non-committal - might be looking for the same, might not, its negotiable.

3. Have your interview rounds. Hopefully wow them and become their first choice candidate. Pick up info where you can about their working patterns. Maybe ask about flexible working in the 'any questions for us section' (they might volunteer this as a selling point to you - many places do. If they don't and seem v hostile, I might not raise it. But I'd also be pondering whether I wanted to work there.) Be ready at each round to ask the questions about your package and availability time scales. They will get more likely as things go on.

4. Wait for the offer. Say thank you very much, you're v pleased etc. Ask for full details (if they offer you over the phone - you need an email breaking down the offer). Say you'd like to think about it, give them a timescale of a few days for when you will get back to them. They might tell you its urgent. Be firm. You need at least a day or two. bear minimum of overnight. Consider what you want. Consider how you can make it work. Go back and make that proposal, pitching not just what you want, but how you see it will work from what you have learned through the interviews. 4 days a week can be very attractive to them, they get almost all of their dream candidate at a discount. I would consider negotiating on pay. E.g. 90% of what they offer for 4 days a week. etc.

This can be done. I was interviewing while I was pregnant (big British FTSE firm). the process took ages. My now boss phoned me six weeks before my due date to say he'd sorted out the budget and wanted to hire me now. I asked to meet and explained at that meet that I was about to have a baby but was still v interested. We knocked around how it might work. I suggested 2-3 days a week from 3-4 months after (first baby, I was naïve). He raised his eyebrows and said: call me after the baby is here, lets talk then.

I did. We met when PFB was 6 weeks. He said, and I quote: 'I am definitely hiring. You are my top choice candidate. I know you just had a baby. Tell me what you need to make this work.'

He has been true to his word in both offer and execution. We negotiated around various things, including start date, pay rate and time commitment. We agreed 4 days a week with me going back at 6 months (this got pushed back slightly after I got an illness requiring hospitalisation when PFB was 4 months to allow me to recover). We discussed an earlier start date, I said I was only prepared to do that if I could do 3 day a week for 6-9 months. He said that didn't work for him. I started 4 days a week when PFB was 7 months (to the day!).

I hope some of this is helpful. Good luck.

DougalTheCheshireCat Mon 13-Apr-15 13:10:22

I think my point is: You don't want to give them any reasons to rule you out early on. You want them to like you the best and then figure out what they have to do to get you. If what their offering isn't for you, you can turn them down, and they can go to their second choice. People are not available (long notice periods) or turn down jobs (get a better offer, get a pay rise to stay) for lots of reasons. Your maternity leave is irrelevant to this process.

lovesmycake Mon 13-Apr-15 13:43:32

I had this exact situation I went to the interview and answered every question I was asked honestly but didn't volunteer any extra information IYSWIM. I was offered the job and then we started negotiating. In the end I delayed starting the job by three and a half months. I ended up going back to work a month earlier then I had initially intended and decided that it was worth going FT (my ideal would have been a 4 day week like you) because the job sounded ideal.

Good luck hope it works out for you

PetShopGirl Mon 13-Apr-15 22:53:15

Aargh! Typed a whole response and it's disappeared confused

Basic gist was OMG, thank you so much Douglas for your amazingly detailed response. Was more or less exactly what I was thinking and so good to have it reinforced. You have also given me plenty of other food for thought, like I hadn't really considered that a four day week might work in their favour too. Will definitely be following your advice.

I'm not too worried about the application as I am currently public sector so fairly confident I know how to get all the boxes ticked.

lovesmycake, I'm glad to hear that taking a similar line worked for you.

Right, now I just need to find a few spare hours to do that application...

PetShopGirl Mon 13-Apr-15 22:54:12

Sorry, Dougal, not Douglas.

poocatcherchampion Wed 12-Aug-15 16:38:10

How did you get on pet shop girl?

I'm considering this but haven't had the baby yet....

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