Nontrad Moms at interviews

Hi all. I'm so grateful to have this forum for this question! I had an interview today that went very well. The folks at the school were really friendly and full of info.
One thing concerned me, I was asked on several occassions about being a mom. As in, what were my plans, did I have support? If I think about it, they were leading questions for the most part, not point blank. My concern was this. Are they only seeing my status as a mom and not my qualifications as a student? Other interviewees were asked ethical questions (stem cell research, etc) Most of my interview felt like it was about my being a nontrad. Is that a negative thing or do I just have post interview jitters?
How did you other moms handle these questions? During one session I felt like I kept wanting to redirect the conversation to my academic qualifications. Feel free to PM me!

I was asked about my son by almost every interviewer. Actually, it really ticked me off. But, I answered them as best I could. I can't say how it affected the outcome.
I found it really annoying because they could ask that question of anyone. Why pick on the non-trad females? Grrr…
Anyway, don't stress about it. I'm sure you did great! But, yes, the same thing happened to me.

Theresa, since you’ve got other interviews coming up, it’s good to be thinking about how to handle such questions. I agree with your desire to turn the conversation back to your qualifications as a student. I suggest a simple statement that kind of closes the door to further discussion, e.g., "We’ve handled schedule challenges before, so I am confident that we will handle this too. But what I’d really like to talk about is… " (here’s where it’ll be good to have prepared some questions related to the school or curriculum)
Med school folks have this sort of macho idea that med school is just in a completely different universe in terms of schedule challenges (it’s not for the first two years, but anyway… ) and so you don’t want to be dismissive of the concern that is being raised, because they’ll think you’re not taking it seriously. But you are right, you do not want this to be a focus of your conversation, so you have to acknowledge the concern, show that you’ve thought about it and take it seriously, but that you have lots of things you are taking seriously about med school, thank you very much. You could probably say something like, "I look forward to talking to the other students at the school who have families, to find out what they’ve done."
Those who’ve known me on OPM for a long time are probably amazed that I have given low-key practical advice because they know that this story makes me absolutely ballistic. Why? Because:
Such questions are ILLEGAL and should not be part of your interview!
When we’ve kicked this subject around before, the consensus has been that it is not productive to confront your interviewer with the illegality of his/her questions, nor is it helpful to refuse to answer. But it is good for you to know that they’re not supposed to evaluate you on your family support system or your ability to manage your kids, just as they’re not supposed to evaluate you on the color of your skin or who your sexual partner(s) might be. So politely but firmly steering the interview back to your qualifications for medical school is absolutely appropriate.
If an interviewer seems particularly persistent, you could be nicely confrontational: "I am a little surprised that we are spending so much time discussing my family."
I’m gonna quit here before I get worked up! tongue.gif

This one makes me ballistic too!!! I have a 4 year old… and I am single to boot. I know that when I interview in a year from now it is going to be flung my way.
When I was in the corporate world, I interviewed many job seekers. I had been trained NEVER to ask such a question. It is illegal. You were only permitted to ask if there was anything that would prevent the applicant from doing all the responsibilities of the job.
Surely Mary is right on about carefully handling the interviewers. It is too bad the schools don't train there interviewers better. But such is life! Hopefully I'll think of an ideal way to handle it when I interview. Right now the only useful advice I have is to respond with a short and sweet answer that acknowledges the challenge but that you are an expert at dealing with it… and leave the photos in your wallet.

Sorry you have to be subjected to it! I wonder how many men with children get these interview questions. Perhaps we haven't come as far as we'd hoped. And to think it is coming from the students!!!

Thanks ladies! I knew you all would have some good insight and I feel better hearing someone else back up my thoughts on how to handle it.
I’ve got more interviews and more opportunities to present myself as an outstanding applicant with strong qualifications who, yes, also happens to be a wife and mom. That just makes me superwoman, right? wink.gif laugh.gif ( can you hear the pep talk working?)

i guess i wonder how they know you are a mom?
did you open the door talking about your kid(s) either in your statement, secondary or conversation - or
was it a blind “so, are you married, do you have any kids” question from the interviewer that opened the door? or an open ended “tell me about your family” … ?
or did you notice the picture on the desk of the interviewers kids, ask about the family and s/he reciprocated by saying “do you have children?”

The fact that I'm a mom is in my personal statement, though i may have been guilty of bringing it up, too. Because my kids & hubby are the reason that I'm 33 and just now applying I felt it was important to include in my essay. (some of my prereqs were done 8 years ago, they want to know why the delay…)
Wonder if the Dads get asked about this?

QUOTE (TheresaW @ Aug 8 2003, 07:17 PM)
Wonder if the Dads get asked about this?

Yep. I did. I was 35 the time of my interview and had three little boys, ages 2, 4 and 7. I was asked about demands on my time and about balance. It had also come up that my youngest son lost an eye to retinoblastoma and I was asked what I would do if the cancer became an issue during my schooling.
So maybe it's a non-traditional thing as much as it is a mom thing. smile.gif
So maybe it's a non-traditional thing as much as it is a mom thing.

The question "what would you do if your son became ill again?" makes me see red (sorry for the yelling, flag-waving line above but sheesh).
Nobody knows the future. One of my "traditional" classmates, during her first year, experienced her mom being diagnosed with breast cancer, AND a sibling being diagnosed and dying of leukemia. Obviously that's not going to happen to many people, but ya know, I bristle at non-trads getting such queries when, in fact, crap can happen to anyone.
I know I'd be so shocked at such a question that I wouldn't have a witty parry at the ready, but if asked, "How will you handle school demands if you have a family problem?" I would LIKE to answer, "The real question is, how will the school support me?"
Theresa, I wrote about my family in my personal statement too, and brought them up during my interviews. I do think it is perfectly okay to incorporate your life and surroundings - my family is part of who I am, after all. And I am very, very proud of my kids and do take some small credit for them being decent human beings... I think I may have spoken of them with some degree of pride in my interviews. And I don't think there's anything wrong with volunteering such information. But probing for it - especially when you get the sense that your answer may affect the interviewer's evaluation of you - is wrong. Too bad it's "their game, their ball, their rules." wink.gif

Corporate experience here…not medical school interviews.
I’ve had the opportunity in my current career to interview many people and we are coached over and over again what you can and cannot ask. The things I’ve heard here are clearly in the “do not touch” area.
It really ticks me off that this professional enviroment gets away with these kinds of questions. I guess it’s because no one individual wants to risk leaving a negative impression by openly calling them on such questions.
On a more helpful note…
When I was just getting my undergrad degree and interviewing, one interviewer asked me how I would handle my work responsibility if my child were sick. Never mind that I was unmarried and had no children at the time and we were talking about an 8-4 engineer’s job at a manufacturing plant - not exactly the kind of job where the earth would cease to spin if I wasn’t there. <!–emo&<_dry.gif
After explaining that I had no children to which he persisted with the request to treat it as hypothetical, I swallowed my anger and tried to treat his question as one worth answering. I must say I really felt as though I caved… because I knew I was being asked an unethical question, if not outright illegal.
When I returned to campus, I told one of my professors about the interview and asked what was a good way to answer. His advice was along the lines of Mary R…deflect as much as possible, but if they persist, turn their challenging posture around.
" I’m sorry, but does company X (insert X school of medicine) have a policy against their employees having families."
That’s actually a fairly snappish comment, but in some ways gives them what is deserved. The ones Mary mentioned are great…particulary where you turn the interview around and ask how they would support you in such a situation.

Just a thought here but when at these interviews do think its possible they want someone to say"hey you can’t ask me that" Maybe not those exact words but something like that?
I’m sure these people know that they should not be aksing certain questions.

or it could be that the interviewer is unskilled at asking it in a non-illegal manner -
“we all have many interests that place demands on our time - work, school, spouses, children, family, church, friends, … what are your plans to address the balance that would be needed if or when non-school obligations begin to cut into time you need to devote to your studies?”

CathyR, it’s been my observation that, for the most part, interviewers are unskilled. I’ve seen professor emeritus types creak in and literally set the form down in front of the prospective student and ask them questions right from the form, then stop to fill in the answers. NOT the way you’re supposed to do it, but hey, they are emeritus faculty, they don’t need to be told what to do! (or, more accurately, there is no point in telling them because they are going to do whatever they want)
Student interviewers at GWU are given a briefing on what to do and we were all told NOT to go into those areas, but I think it is entirely possible that some people forgot, or didn’t pay attention. When I interviewed at GWU, both my interviews were with students and neither of them asked off-limits questions although I know my family came up in both discussions (I forget the context).
It is probably a little unnerving for y’all on the interview trail to read my comment that interviewers aren’t necessarily skilled. I know you are freaking out, saying, “But everything rides on the interview!” So you need to focus on being a GOOD INTERVIEW regardless of whether you have a good interviewER. And the stuff we’re discussing here, about how to drive the agenda for the interview, will help you do that. So don’t freak out, just go in there determined to make your sales pitch.

I got asked about my child care at a job interview once, what I would do if I needed to come in early… (This buffoon also asked me if I would spend my time working in my husband’s lab instead of at my actual job!)
To the childcare question, I replied (after taking a few seconds to count to 3 and rephrase my initial answer), "It’s not an issue. I’ve been in the workforce for X number of years and it has never been an issue."
These questions make me see red, too!

These types of questions definately border on the ‘illegal’ line…and yet they continued to be asked in many different fields. When I was looking for a lab to do my research in for my Masters, I was asked by one of the profs “what will you do if you are running a gel and your children’s school calls and you have to pick them up” and another prof (definately old school) made the comment to me “You should be at home with your children”. The only thing that I will say about these types of comments that was beneficial to me was that it told me where I didn’t want to be. Forget whether or not these people wanted ME in their lab…I realized that I didn’t want to be in their labs regardless of the quality of the research that they were producing. At the end of the day, I found a PI who let me come in evenings/weekends/nights/early mornings…whatever I needed to get done…he wasn’t the warmest guy…and I can say that I never really had a good relationship with him personally…He wasn’t a PI that I would have ‘chosen’ if I hadn’t had children…BUT…he was extraordinarily flexible and accomadating…and the quality of my research project ended up being excellent…
So maybe it’s also important to make a mental note to yourself about the attitude of the interviewer and find out if it would perhaps be an attitude shared by faculty? Maybe it’s a way to find out that the school isn’t a great fit before you get there?

QUOTE (TheresaW @ Aug 8 2003, 07:17 PM)
Wonder if the Dads get asked about this?

Howdy Theresa!
Yep, I was asked about my kids during one of my interviews so it isn't just a mom thing.
While I completely agree with Mary's assessment of the legality of these types of questions, I'd at least keep one possibility in mind. The interviewer may not have any particular agenda in mind by asking you this, but rather may just be trying to get to know you by asking about your life (albeit in an clumsy, illegal manner).
Obviously, asking pointed questions like some of those mentioned above is verboten (and rightly so), some interviewers may just be trying to ask open ended questions about something in your personal statment in an effort to make you feel comfortable and open up. At least, that was my take on it when I was asked about my family by one of my interviewers here at UTMB. In fact, we spent almost all of the interview talking about our kids and what types of things Galveston offered young families. While this particular interviewer was male, I was also asked about my family by a female interviewer. I wrote about my wife and kids in my personal statment FWIW.
I'm not trying to excuse inappropriate questions by saying this. I'm just offering my experience with them.
Take care and good luck!
Jeff Jarvis

Jeff, you’re absolutely right - I do suspect that in a lot of these conversations, questions about your kids MAY be a way for the interviewer to make conversation, put you at your ease. Certainly innocuous stuff like, “So you have a family, what kinds of things are you interested in for them in this area?” seem to me to be perfectly okay.
And while dads and moms may get questions that sound the same, they are taken VERY differently by moms who generally are pretty touchy about questions regarding child care! tongue.gif
I would not want someone to feel that they could not discuss their family at all. As I commented earlier, I know I talked about my kids in my interviews. With my interviewer at Georgetown we got into a discussion about high school hockey since I had a kid playing house league at the same time. The thing was that I was the one bringing them up - I think probably as part of my “I want to go to med school here in Washington” spiel.
But if that same interviewer had said, “You sound like you’ve been very involved in things with your kids, how are you going to handle their schedules as well as medical school?” I would have taken it as an implied criticism even if that wasn’t what he meant - moms just DO that guilt, we can’t help it! laugh.gif And I know I would’ve gone home and fretted that I’d been found wanting as either a mother or a medical student or - probably - both. I DO have a few buttons that can be pushed pretty readily!
Anyway, I know that, for all my brave talk on an internet forum, I would’ve meekly answered these questions and just worked to put the most positive spin on it possible. I’m not good at confrontation!

Put me on the same ballistic soapbox! All questions about family, family plans, etc. etc. etc. are ILLEGAL.
It's tough to know how to handle them - Mary always has such good advice about this. :slight_smile: If you for sure no longer have a vested interest in the school, complain vigorously to the dean/director of admissions. And even if you do still want to be considered by the school, think about bringing that person (top dog in the admissions office) into the loop. Most med schools don't want their interviewers asking illegal questions.

Actually, a top dog in admissions is one of the ones guilty of asking direct questions… ph34r.gif I was floored.
The good news is, I have 4 more interviews in the upcoming weeks and I feel well prepared to handle this situation now. Thanks in large part to the terrific people here on OPM! smile.gif

Good Luck with your interviews! It sounds like you are going to go in there and knock 'em dead! biggrin.gif