Tips for Mums Returning To the WorkforceAre you considering entering the workforce again after being a stay a home mum? Many women tell me that they are worried about what an employer will think about their absence from the workforce while they took a career break to be a mum and they get stressed out with the thought of attending a job interview.
Let's face it; no one likes the job interview. You have to be on your best behaviour, you only get one chance to get it right, and it's like taking your driving test all over again. Over the years I've been to heaps of interviews and I have learnt a thing or two that I would like to share with you. Being interviewed is a skill, and if you do the preparation you should get the job every time
Congratulations... You have got an interview. Here you are sitting in the reception area, your hands become sweaty, your heart beats faster, and nervousness is starting to show. Thoughts race through your head....am I sweating? Will they like me? Did I leave the stove on? What questions will they ask me? What if I can't answer a question? What if I waffle on? At that moment, the receptionist calls your name. You stand up straight and iron out the creases of your freshly dry cleaned suit, flick your hair back, clear your throat and stride with a purpose towards the interview room to greet the employer with a cheery smile and a firm handshake thinking quietly to myself I hope I do not have spinach in my teeth from the quiche I just ate for lunch.
To prepare yourself for this scenario, I have put together some tips and tricks that I hope will assist you in the job interview process and the quest for your new dream job. I cannot stress enough just how important it is for you to be totally prepared for an interview and for you to do your homework on the employer. Your resume and cover letter was the first impression you made and the interview will be the deciding factor to see if you are suitable for the job.
Return to Work Mums worry about a gap in their resume
A tip... Don't present your resume by date as this highlights a gap. A way to get around this is to present your resume by types of positions. Please do not write lies as cheats never prosper, it will always come back and bite you on the bum. Include what you have been doing while you have been a stay at home mum and highlight some key achievements, for example, did you organize events for your Mothers Group? Did you plan a fundraising dinner for your friend's charity? Did you help sell any raffle tickets? Did you help out in the sports canteen on weekends? Were you a chaperone on school outings?
The interviewer will probably ask what you have been doing. The best way to answer this question is to be honest, but do have an answer prepared otherwise your mind will go blank. Let the interviewer know that you were busy and active. You could say I spent time being a stay at home mum and did a lot of volunteering at my daughter's school and son's sports group. I am eager to return to workforce and look forward to a new career opportunity.
Do your homework before the interview
Before your interview, research the company as thoroughly as possible. Go to the company website, read brochures and annual reports. These are great resources. What is their culture? Where is the company heading in the future? Upload your profile at social recruitment sites like Link Me and Linked In and research the company via your online networks and connections. Sometimes it is not what you know but who you know.
Relax and just be your beautiful self
Relax. You don't want to be hired under false pretences. If they like who you are pretending to be during the interview, they will not be happy to find out that wasn't the real you. Same goes, if they don't like who you are pretending to be during the interview, you won't get the job and they won't get to find out how wonderful the real you really is. So just be your beautiful self.
Make sure you look and dress professional
The first appearance is important. Invest in your appearance and you will look and feel great. If you can afford it before your interview, go to the salon and get a haircut and manicure your nails. Buy a few suits that can be mixed and matched and worn later. Always wear a suit to an interview even where you're interviewing is casual. Keep your jewellery and accessories to a minimum. Take out any piercings or body jewellery. Don't overdo the makeup. Carry a nice bag as backpacks are never a good idea. Don't overpower yourself with perfume.
Look confident even if you are shaking in your boots
When meeting an interviewer make a great first impression. Stand up straight, smile, make eye contact, and shake hands. When you sit, keep your hands in your lap. Nervous people tend to make wild gestures and talk with their hands. Take notes, lean forward in the chair, use positive body language and nod to show you're listening. All of these gestures show confidence. If you look confident you will be confident.
Don't waffle on
Often when people get nervous they tend to talk too much and just waffle on. When asked a question before responding, take the time to think through your answers. It is much better to take your time and pull your story together in your head then to provide an empty and thoughtless response that does not make sense.
Talk about your strengths
Before the interview take some time out and jot down your experiences, skills and talents and then compare against the job advertisement or job description. During the interview highlight how your skills and talents make you a good candidate for the job.
Ask lots of questions
Asking questions is a great way to show that you have done your homework. The more you find out about the job, the more you know if you are a good candidate for the role. The interviewer can read these feelings from the way you speak and act. At the end of the interview, ask what the next steps are in the interview process and ask him/her for a business card.
Practice makes perfect
Have a girlfriend or your hubby help you get ready for your interview. Have them ask you mock questions that your interviewer may ask you so you'll be prepared and have an answer for.
Setting the tone at the interview
Interviewers may set the tone of the interview by first greeting the candidate and then engaging the candidate in casual conversation to create a calm and relaxed atmosphere. Comfortable and secure candidates may communicate more honestly. Interviewers may ask about the person's hobbies, interests, travel, or town of residence. The formal interview may then begin through a simple transition question, such as, What do you know about the organization? or How did you hear about this job opening?
Question - Tell me about yourself?
The recommended approach to answer this question is to talk about three things - education, where you've worked in the past and some of your past work experiences. This is your opportunity to show your new boss what makes you stand apart from the crowd and a chance to sell yourself and shine through.
Question - What is your greatest weakness?
The worst answer to this is to say you don't have any. An approach that seems to work well is to talk about an area that was once a weakness and how you worked to improve it. This question reveals a lot about you so go into the interview with a prepared answer for this question. Try a response that shows off your skills, for example, you could say, I have strong Word and Power Point skills but I feel like my skills in Excel need improvement. Follow up with a question such as, "Would you like me to elaborate on any of my other computer skills?"
Question - What are your strengths?
If you set out to do something and you did it that is called an achievement. You can talk about other achievements outside work. For example, you helped organise a successful fundraising event for your children's school and raised thousands of dollars, or how you started out baby-sitting for one of your friends and they recommended you to their friends and now you have regular babysitting jobs, that is an achievement.
Question - How do you balance life and work?
The interviewer wonders (and it is illegal to ask) if you have made arrangements for the days when your child is too sick to go to school and/or day care or if you will be the type of person who is a clock watcher and out the door at 5pm. You could say that I am a highly organised person. Being organises helps me balance my career and family life. I work hard when I am at work and for those unexpected times, I have a good back-up system of child care for my children or I can't wait to get back to work.' I have already lined up after-school care so that the hours won't be a problem, and my husband's schedule is flexible enough to fill in any gaps.
Question - Do you have any questions for me?
If you say 'no' to this question, it shows a lack of interest, motivation and curiosity about the company. You should come prepared with a list of questions to ask the interviewer, for example, benefits, work schedule, job responsibilities, company policies and procedures and salary and start date.
A MUST - Follow up your Interviewer
Follow up with a thank you letter or email to the interviewer and express your interest in the position again. If you forgot to mention something in the interview, you can add here. After a week if you haven't heard anything back a phone call never hurts. This shows that you are keen and interested.
Interviewing is a nerve wracking experience at the best of times but such a stressful time especially for mothers returning to the workforce. Lack of practice and lack of confidence are the reasons but if you practice, practice, practice, the confidence will follow because you know you can present yourself in a professional manner and answer all those tough interview questions that you are bound to be asked.
So for all you job seekers going back to work, congratulations! You are embarking on a new chapter of your life. View it is a positive event, prepare yourself and your resume and you just might find going back to work is an extremely satisfying and rewarding experience.