return to work parent

Interview Tips for Returning to Work Parents

Are you returning to work and lack confidence to face job interviews?

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking at the best of times but especially for mums and dads returning to work. You might feel self conscious about your appearance, unsure of your skills and uncertain about how your interviewers might perceive you.

The first thing to do is not to panic but to instead, think logically through the process and prepare yourself as fully as possible for your interview. In this blog post, I’ll take you through some of the key things you need to do to be prepared. 

How to prepare for an an interview when you’re returning to work:

Get clear on the details

Once the date has been set for your job interview, make sure you have all the necessary details you’ll need including the physical address, interviewers name(s) and contact number(s) in case you are running late or need directions.

Ask about the interview format and the length of time that has been allocated for the interview. The last thing you want is to be worrying about getting back in time to collect your child/children from school or child minder.

Arrange childcare

It’s a good idea to arrange childcare well in advance and to have a backup option in the event there are any last minute changes in availability. Be sure to arrange for childcare for a little longer than the time you anticipate in case the interview goes over time or you experience any travel delays.

Research the company

Before your interview you should learn as much as you can about the company. There are a number of ways to research the company including the company’s website, annual reports, published articles, reports, conference papers and marketing materials. You can also research a company via a simple search online and via professional networking sites like LinkedIn, or social networks like Facebook and Instagram. Glassdoor is a fantastic resource which allows you to gain insight into a company and its culture along with details of how they interview and even the kinds of questions to expect.

Research the interviewers

It’s important to understand who will be interviewing you and the role they play in the company. Getting to know your interviewers before the interview will help you understand what they will be looking for in a new team member. Learn about your interviewers’ roles, responsibilities, skills and experience via the company’s website or view their public profiles on professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

Dress for success

Make sure you have a suitable outfit to wear to your job interview that makes you feel the part. If necessary, buy a new outfit or if you are struggling financially contact Dress for Success, a charity that helps women on low incomes get back to work.

To help give you a boost, why not treat yourself to a mini makeover? Freshen up your look with a new hairdo and have your nails professionally done to make you feel your very best. Dads, book yourself in with the local barber to ensure you look neat and tidy.

Do a trial run

If you have the time, do a trial run to see how long it will take you to arrive at the interview venue and to determine which mode of transport is best. Depending on where your interview will take place, you might have a number of transport options available to you. Select the most reliable, stress free option you can so you can arrive at your interview in a good frame of mind.

Hone your interview skills

It is crucial that you set aside some time to brush up on your interview skills. Develop some practice questions you think might be asked during the interview and, if possible, have someone role-play asking you the questions. Alternatively you can work with an interview coach who will coach you in interview techniques, put you through your paces and provide feedback on how to answer questions as effectively as possible. For more advice on preparing for a job interview read How To Prepare For A Job Interview.

Overcome any nerves and anxiety

The first step to overcoming nerves and anxiety is to prepare well. Following the steps outlined above will help alleviate a lot of nervousness and anxiety. The next step is learning and practicing specific techniques to tackle those feelings. Negative self talk (e.g. ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘They’ll never hire someone like me’ etc) only serve to feed on your fears. Try being kinder to yourself with positive self talk like: ‘I’m perfect for this role!’ and ‘I’m really looking forward to meeting with them!’.

Breathwork can also help during the pre-interview stage and during the interview too. Try taking in a deep breath for a count of 7 then breathing out through your mouth  for a count of 11. This is a simple but incredibly effective way to calm your nerves and get back in touch with yourself. You’ll find after using this technique you will feel calmer and more in control. Exactly what you need when it comes to interviews!

Do’s and Don’ts for returning to work parents:

  • Do prepare as well as you can, there’s no such thing as being over-prepared!
  • Do be confident in your ability to fulfill the role you are being interviewed for
  • Don’t voluntarily discuss your children or family circumstances during the interview unless specifically asked
  • Don’t feel intimidated if questioned about your family life, remain calm and steer the conversation back to your ability to do the job
  • Don’t let nerves get the better of you. If you do start to feel nervous, take a moment to breathe and refocus.


Taking the time to prepare for interviews is vital if you want to land yourself a job offer. While every job seeker needs to prepare, returning to work parents might face extra challenges in terms of confidence, competence (if your skills are rusty) and logistics. Trust that you can overcome these challenges through adequate preparation and good organisation. And remember, you’re not the first parent returning to work  – millions have done it successfully. I’ve no doubt you can too!

Good luck!

Picture of Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev,  RCDP, MAC

Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev, RCDP, MAC

Career Coach, EMCC-Accredited Master Practitioner Coach and CDI-Registered Career Development Professional with more than 20 years’ experience helping achieve successful and fulfilling careers.



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