5 years ago I got weird response to an offer & learned a sad truth about interviewing while pregnant.
I had been trying to recruit Lisa for 5 years and the timing never worked out.
She’d bring her team to the “search church” for our community events to network and learn year in and year out.
When she couldn’t get budget to educate her people, she found our events and would bring them there! I liked that kind of leadership. But in all my attempts I wasn’t able to have her join us.
One day I got a call … that she might be interested in interviewing at Seer. I was stoked. I had an open role, she would be great for it! But she said she wanted to see if I could hire her for a job to start in about 7 months.
7 months? Why would you be asking me for a job now, that I have an opening for now, that you couldn’t start for 7 months?
And that’s when I learned one of the biggest areas of naivete that I’ve ever had in my career.
She said two words. “I’m. Pregnant.”
I was confused, what does you being 4 months pregnant have to do with you not taking a job with us now?
She was confused. She said “I’m showing” — She assumed that no one would hire someone who needed to go out on leave for 3 months after only being in the company for 3 months. She wanted to take paid leave and assumed a company she just got hired at wouldn’t also give her paid leave because FMLA requires you to have been at a company for 12 months before you qualify. But we don’t follow rules here at Seer, so it was a no brainer.
I was confused, what does you being pregnant and showing prevent you from doing the job as we’ve outlined it in the job description?
And that is when it hit me. I was due for an education.
Her assumption was that many companies will interview you but they don’t hire you when you are obviously pregnant, she assumed that would be the case here and that was why she wanted to start working here after her pregnancy.
I was still confused. If you are the best applicant now, that I can get now, and I have a need now, then what’s the big deal about you coming to work with us for 3 months taking 3 months off and then coming back and working with us after that?
She was now super confused. Was I saying that I wanted to hire her anyway knowing that she would be gone for 3 months after only being here for 3?
100 effing percent!
What I learned
Two things that were insanely eye-opening for me in this exchange
1 — It never occurred to me that anyone would ever not hire a woman who was able to help them right now for the next three or four or five months and then take some time off and come back. We’re in the talent business, I can deal with someone being out for 3 months. I know there are some “risks” here but sometimes you gotta decide the company you want to be and what you want to put out in the world.
2 —Lisa was working at a Fortune 100 company, she had been there for four to five years and yet only being in our company for 3 months our maternity benefits (specifically the pay and some of the other support) was significantly better than her Fortune 100 companies benefits policy. She worked on an international team so it was especially difficult to see her colleagues in other countries getting very different amounts of support from the company.
That second point also shocked me, how could it be that someone who’s been a high performer in your organization for four or five years gets pregnant wants to start a family and gets worse benefits than a company for whom she’s never proven a thing?
How’d it work out?
Great. Lisa now leads our fastest growing division, she has helped take it from a volunteer project to 3 million division in the matter of two and a half years.
So for me, betting on talented people is always a GREAT bet, and if companies keep overlooking talented women because they are getting ready to start a family then they just might be losing out on someone about to do amazing things in their company.
I hope more remote hiring makes it harder to “see someone is pregnant” but I wish it wasn’t an issue either way.
One important thing here is she took a pay cut to come to our company, she believed in her ability to show value, she believed in what we were trying to do. She valued some things, at this time, more than maximizing the numbers in that check. The role energized her, the way the company operated energized her, and oftentimes those things come at a cost.
In her words “I needed a job that energizes me or I would never have been able to justify being away from my baby and putting them in day care for something I hated.”
Now she’s in our she took a bet on us, and I guess I took a bet on her, either way its working out!
This, my friends, is why understanding different perspectives is so important. It never registered to me that a company wouldn’t hire a woman because she might be going out in 3 months or so for a job now.
For those of us running companies, this story is also a reminder that people show up like “Yeah Right, your company is different, sure.” So don’t always expect people to just “trust you” — people are dealing with baggage that sometimes has nothing to do with you — but it effects their expectations on the way in.