interviewing when I look 5-6 months pregnant — but I’m not

I’m throwing this one out to the readers for suggestions. A reader writes:

I’m wondering if you can give me some advice on how to deal with a potentially awkward situation I deal with every day.

Due to some medical problems that do not affect my ability to work, I perpetually appear to be about 5-6 months pregnant. My doctors and their nurses even ask me how far I am along. Dressing differently, as others have suggested before, is like trying to cover a 700-pound gorilla in the corner of the room.

When confronted by strangers on a daily basis, I just make jokes when people comment on my “pregnancy” and tell the horror stories of the people who were much worse than them, we have a good laugh, and move on.

But how do you deal with this in an interview? I also don’t want to concern a future employer that I have a large number of health issues that will impact my performance.

Readers, what advice do you have?

{ 117 comments… read them below }

  1. Coelura*

    I would ignore it. If asked, I would simply say that its my body shape. My daughters do not have any medical problems nor are they pregnant, but all three of them have bellies & look about 3-4 months pregnant. They get asked all the time if they are expecting. They just say “no” and if the person persists, they say “its just my body shape” and move on.

    I would try to find clothes that made me look fat rather than pregnant, but that’s not always possible.

    1. KellyK*

      I definitely like this answer. In social situations, I’d be inclined to say “Nope, just fat!” with a smile, but that’s probably going to make an interviewer do a double take. “That’s just my body shape,” is perfect.

      1. Christine*

        An interviewer shouldn’t even be asking about pregnancy, body shape, etc. Isn’t asking about assumed pregnancy–correct or not–considered an illegal question?

        I know, that’s beside the point. Something like, “That’s just my body type”, then bringing the conversation back to the job at hand, seems like a perfect response.

        1. The Other Meg*

          The question isn’t illegal, but basing hiring decisions on pregnancy status is, which is why smart hiring managers will avoid them in the first place.

      2. crookedfinger*

        “Nope! Just fat!” is my usual answer, too. Usually delivered with the brightest, cheeriest smile I can muster, regardless of who I’m talking to. It usually makes people blink a bit, but I haven’t ever offended anyone (to my knowledge) and I also haven’t had anyone ever comment on my body again after that.

      1. Zahra*

        That’s exactly my concern and that’s why I’d try to address it if it’s possible to do it in a non-awkward way (and tact/diplomacy not being one of my strengths, anyone should feel free to ignore my advice ;) )

      2. Penny*

        Yep, I agree. They won’t ask if you’re pregnant, but they might assume it and even though it’s illegal and they may be doing is subconsciously, they may take her out of the running because of it. I think the OP would be better off addressing it instread of waiting for them to ask or letting them assume.

        Say something like, “And before you ask, no I’m not pregnant, I get that question a lot” and I think saying that’s just your body shape is a good way to phrase it. No reason to explain it’s a medical issue.

        1. A Bug!*

          My only minor nitpick with this would be that the wording implies that you expected the interviewer to ask. Given the issues surrounding such an inquiry, the interviewer might be miffed at the suggestion that they’d ask (no matter how accurate the suggestion might have been).

          So I might wiggle the phrasing around a bit and say something like “I realize I look pregnant. I’m not; my body’s just shaped this way.”

          And if the interviewer’s response calls for it, an elaboration like “It’s given people the wrong impression in the past, and sometimes they draw conclusions without offering me the opportunity to correct them.” Said matter-of-factly without defensiveness, I think something like that might be effective.

          1. fposte*

            That’s where I do like Anominal’s suggestion below of working it into a question answer rather than bringing it up on its own, but of course it has to work as a legitimate answer for that to be effective.

            1. A Bug!*

              Yeah, there are so many “if”s here that it makes it a tough question to answer without a ton of qualifiers! I guess a person could save it to the end, and if it didn’t come up naturally to bring it up then.

              The major unknown for me is the interviewer, really: has the interviewer made the assumption/is the assumption likely to affect the interviewer’s impression and decision? But there’s literally no way for the writer to know for sure if the interviewer isn’t giving any outward signs. There are lots of people who understand the laws well but who also know exactly how to discriminate while maintaining plausible deniability.

        2. Jane*

          “They may take her out of the running because of it.” If that is the case, its not the type of environment I’d want to work in anyway. If a manager is willing to take a woman off a list as a candidate just because she might be pregnant, do you really want to work there?

      3. OP*

        Thanks- this is my concern. I have worked for more than one employer that did this. I get that it’s illegal, but not everyone does or cares.

        I had considered phrasing as though to alleviate any potential scheduling concerns.

      4. Jessa*

        This is what I thought too. Someone sees the OP thinks she’s pregnant, doesn’t make an offer because they’re worried she’ll go off on leave. And doesn’t ask because they’ve been drilled in how you don’t ask questions about protected statuses.

  2. Andrea*

    FWIW, Pope Francis has the same issue. Cortisone injections to help with his one remaining lung have left him with a swollen stomach.

    I might just address it if you get further on in the process.

    1. Anonymous*

      I’m not sure if people are mistaking the pope for being pregnant though, so it’s not really the same issue. ;)

    2. EAV*

      LOL!!! Not quite the same issue. NOBODY is going to think that Pope Francis is pregnant, for a multitude of reasons. Although I love imagining the college of Cardinals quietly mulling it over: “Hmm, he’s a great candidate and all, but are we really ready for a pregnant Pope?”

  3. Zahra*

    Interviewers can’t legally take your pregnancy or lack thereof to exclude you from a position. However, let’s be real, it happens all the time.

    Personally (and I am not a manager), I’d address the elephant in the room, especially if your condition doesn’t require a lot of medical appointments and the like where you’d miss a lot of work days. Something like “I have a medical condition that makes me look pregnant. However, I am not pregnant. This condition requires a little bit/a lot of monitoring, so many days a month/year.” Ideally, I’d address it when they ask for your availability or during the “Do you have any questions for us?” portion of the interview.

    1. fposte*

      It’s tough, though; I’m leaning toward that too, but then you’re risking people concerned about the medical condition (and it’s not just absences, it’s insurance costs).

    2. badger_doc*

      I would not bring that up in an interview. That will make things awkward. Unless you are asked, I would just ignore it. I have interviewed pregnant candidates in the past and we have even hired one knowing she was pregnant and would need to take time off. For most good companies, it shouldn’t ever be an issue. But starting out saying “I have a medical condition that makes me look pregnant” will just make things super awkward. I mean, what to you say as a response to that?

      1. Spanish Teacher*

        Maybe get it out of the way beforehand in an email, like I’ve seen in previous advice involving medical concerns/disabilities. That way, no response is required and in-person awkwardness is avoided.

        1. OneoftheMichelles*

          The only credible advice I’ve gotten about such issues mirrors Aam’s:
          Don’t talk about it at all until I’ve been offered the job!

          Can you give examples of this alternative tactic?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The issue is that if they can see it anyway, it doesn’t do you any good to not bring it up until you have an offer. They already see it and may be factoring it into their thinking, consciously or unconsciously.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        I would bring it up, because yes, it might be awkward, but worse than awkward is if the OP is interviewed by someone who doesn’t want to hire a pregnant woman* but doesn’t want to run afoul of antidiscrimination laws. In that case, the hiring manager probably won’t ask, because he knows that could open him up for a lawsuit, but he could just find another reason not to hire OP. And then OP is out of the running for the job without having been able to let this person know that his assumption was wrong.

        As for how to bring it up, that’s harder — I think it depends on the interviewer. If the interviewer’s eyes go straight to OP’s stomach as soon as she walks in, I would say it right then — “nope, not pregnant, just a food baby!” or something like that. Or, if OP is in contact with a recruiter before she meets the hiring manager, could she talk to the recruiter and let her know, “Just so you know, my waist is big enough that some people think I’m pregnant, but I’m not”?

        1. Jamie*

          This is really hard to finesse though – and there would be a lot of room for offending the interviewer.

          It would be easy for them to infer that you’re heading them off at the pass before they illegally discriminate against you. Or that you are responding to them evaluating your body. Either one could easily insult someone you don’t want to insult.

          If someone unsolicited discussed their body in an interview I’d immediately become self conscious and wonder if they were evaluating mine and should I declare my love of Cheetos and that I have no additional plans to reproduce.

          I have no idea how this could be done diplomatically.

          1. Jamie*

            Also have to be careful that they don’t think you are throwing down unsolicited info on a medical condition to try to accuse them of discrimination if you don’t get the job.

            Crazy – but I’ve seen some paranoid people and they don’t know you at this point.

  4. Anonimal*

    I feel for you OP. I had a friend in high school whose mother must have had some sort of medical issue like that because she looked about 6 months pregnant for the 4 years I knew her. I can only imagine the awkward conversations.

    My only thoughts are to be gentle if you decide to address it, maybe as a joke even. Because it’s going to come out of left field since medical issues are something usually discussed in an interview. The other option is to use it as an answer to a question like “Tell us about a time when you handled a difficult situation”. That sort of thing. It gets it out there and allows you to talk about yourself in a good way too.

    1. Julie*

      Hmm… I think using an interview question to address it could be really interesting, if done right. Obviously, most interview questions want work-based answers (a “difficult situation” would ideally be a situation that happened at work or on the job), but if you happen to have one that relates to your medical condition, this could be an interesting way to roll it in without making the interviewer feel to awkward. Something along the lines of, “Well, as you can see, I have a medical condition that makes me look pregnant, even though I am not. I was once meeting with a client and someone asked me when I was expecting, and said he wouldn’t want to do business if I couldn’t be around to follow through on the arrangements because I’d be on mat leave…”

    2. Mary*

      I like this option as well. One question we ask every candidate is to describe a team they’ve worked with. Sometimes the answer is work related but oftentimes it’s not. We can still get the same information we’re looking for though, no matter which way it’s answered.

      I think it could be a great strategy, as long as it’s phrased in the correct way as Julie said.

      Good luck OP!

  5. Erika Kerekes*

    I am in a similar situation – I am overweight and carry ALL my extra weight in my middle. When I’m asked when my baby is due, I smile and say “Eleven years ago.”

    One fashion tip I received from a professional stylist is not to wear empire-waisted tops or dresses. When you have a big belly, any delineation between bust and midsection makes your midsection more prominent. Go for loose, flowing jackets/shirts/pants in slinky knits, not form-fitting, so the clothing hangs straight down from your bust and flows around your middle. Longer shirts and jackets help. And/or wear a wide belt to give yourself the illusion of a waist.

    Although it is illegal for employers to discriminate based on pregnancy, I’m quite sure it happens subtly all the time.

    1. Jamie*

      I think almost everyone looks pregnant in empire waist and baby-doll cuts – which sucks because they are so cute and forgiving.

      My daughter is a size 4 and she looks like that also in those cuts. I think Erika is right that the longer jackets which are belted can really help.

      1. Natalie*

        As far as I can tell, the only people who don’t look pregnant in those cuts have washboard stomachs or are under 14.

        1. Jamie*

          And really small on top. It doesn’t matter how flat your tummy is if you have a B cup or above it’s going to billow like you’re expecting twins.

          Every time I watch Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth version) it’s all I can think of is that they all look like they are starting their second trimesters. But since I have manners I wouldn’t have mentioned that to the Misses Austin if I had met them. Or they were, you know, not fictional.

            1. Natalie*

              That makes sense. They’re a really popular costuming choice for hiding a pregnant actress. That, and having them hold large purses in front of their torsos.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                On Roseanne, they just made Jackie pregnant when the actress, Laurie Metcalf, was. But they didn’t start it until she was obviously so. I remember wondering if they were ever going to acknowledge it, before they finally did.

    2. Blinx*

      I’ve also read that building up your “top” will de-emphasize your middle. Larger “boyfriend” type jackets with padded shoulders with a blouse/top that doesn’t cling, and padding your bust line might help. (You might also look larger overall, though.)

    3. Ash*

      Be very careful with wide belts though if you are plus-sized. If you are a little teapot like me (short and stout), then you don’t have a waist as is*, and trying to put a belt of some kind in that area would just make you look ridiculous.

      *I have actually been called “short-waisted” as in, I have maybe two inches between the bottom of my rib cage and the top of my hip bone. It’s weird.

      1. jesicka309*

        Two inches! So lucky! The distance between my ribs and hip bone is more like 1 inch. :( No joke, I have no idea how my internal organs all fit in there…though knowing my luck, they’ve all been squashed down to my ass or something. :-/

        1. Rana*

          Yup, one-incher here, too. This is why I loathe most panty-hose and other things with elastic waists that aren’t sold specifically as “low rise.” They don’t sit at my waist; they end up just south of my bosum and make it hard to breathe!

          (Weirdly, I have the opposite problem for my top half; I’m apparently longer between shoulder and bottom of rib cage than the average person, so if I buy an empire waist top that doesn’t have adjustable straps, it always rides up.)

          1. Meg*

            I’m the opposite. I’m “high-waisted” and have like, 2-3 inches between my rib cage and hip bone, but it’s higher on my body. I can actually pull off a good empire waist or baby-doll cut.

            And my top half is short. I often need to tighten straps as short as they go, even had to get dresses tailored at the shoulder straps. Although I’m short, (5’4″), my legs look long because my upper body is so short. Low-rise jeans are the devils for me… they sit waaay too low.

    4. Manda*

      I avoid empire waistlines too. Especially when the bottom half has a lot of excess fabric. I’m busty, pudgy in the stomach, and skinny in between. The last thing I want is to look pregnant. (Sometimes I worry I do.) Unfortunately, a lot of tops fit snug around the stomach and bust and then sag in the middle or at the shoulders, which looks bad too. =/

      OP: You may just have to do some shopping and put some extra effort into planning your wardrobe. You won’t be able to fake a flat stomach, but you may be able to create the illusion of a smaller stomach. Have you considered wearing some sort of girdle or other type of shapewear? Does/would that help at all? Colour blocked dresses and tops can have a slimming effect when the side panels are a different colour, but I’m not sure if that will help in your situation. As Blinx mentioned, a padded bra or a blazer with shoulder pads may help balance out your stomach. Perhaps even a scarf might give the same illusion. (Although I have no idea whether a scarf would be appropriate for an interview.) Is there someone else whose opinion you can trust? If so, maybe take them shopping or model for them at home and see what you can wear that hides the issue best. As for addressing this with a potential employer, I really don’t know what to say. But if you can take the focus away from your stomach and make it less obvious, that may help.

  6. AnotherAlison*

    I know the OP said she has tried camoflauging it with clothes, but I’m curious if she’s tried a tailor/seamstress or maybe a personal stylist?

    A friend of mine had a similar condition due to a side effect of medication. All she wore was gym shorts and t-shirts or velour track suits (a whole different issue). People asked her all the time when she was due, but things wouldn’t have been out there as much with some structured clothes on. (Obviously the OP knows her situation better than I do, but I’ve seen some impressive camoflauging for wedding dresses – for real pregnancies – & don’t want her to give up on that idea too soon!)

    1. HumbleOnion*

      I was gonna suggest this. An investment in a few interchangeable pieces might go pretty far.

    2. Kara*

      I agree with this also. Someone had suggested just dressing like your fat instead of pregnant, but that can also add to concerns of health problems and may end up just making the OP look sloppy. Purchasing a larger garment is fine, but definitely have it tailored. She may also play with color/layering – a lighter garment that is belted underneath a dark jacket would give the illusion of a slimmer physique and disguise an extended abdomen. Using accessories – jewelry, tasteful scarf, etc – to draw the attention to the face (tasteful makeup also helps here – a bold lip, or an eye shadow with a little shimmer) instead of the waistline. Certain hairstyles help as well – chin length styles tend to draw the eye upward, whereas long hair can highlight a larger body shape if it isn’t pulled up properly. I would consider all of these when dressing for an interview.

      As someone else said, its sad that we have to consider this as a culture, but unfortunately in the unstable economy and with changes to the healthcare mandates, employers’ costs may go up and hiring employees who have obvious medical conditions may discourage an employer for hiring them, subconsciously or otherwise.

    3. Amanda*

      All good suggestions.

      I also carry excess weight around my middle and I’ve found that wrap tops and dresses really do create a slimmer waist.

    4. OP*

      Thanks! This is a really good idea. I actually do most of my tailoring myself –it’s much easier than you think– anything over my head like a princess seam blazer goes right to the tailor. I buy non maternity suits, usually skirt suits and wear heels and pretty impressive jewelry. Anything to direct the eye away from the middle. I honestly don’t think that I could do anything else grooming wise.

  7. East Side Tori*

    Wait a second. Did the OP say that on a daily basis complete strangers ask her about her assumed pregnancy? Why are people still doing this? It’s such a potentially hairy situation that I generally try to avoid it at all costs. It’t to the point where even if I am almost 100% sure the person is pregnant, I don’t mention it until I hear the words come out of their mouth.

    1. VintageLydia*

      When I was pregnant, every day I went out I got asked about it/congratulated. Even though their assumptions were true, it was still awkward. Especially the people that would go on and on about their own kids and pregnancies before they even confirmed that their guess about me was right!

    2. Blinx*

      I know! I just met a new neighbor of mine, and she looked pregnant. It was on the tip of my tongue to congratulate her and ask her when she was due… but I stopped myself. After all, it’s none of my business, and she was a stranger to me. Even when I thought a close coworker was pregnant, I didn’t ask her — if she has news, it’s HER news, and she’ll tell it to people on a need-to-konw basis.

    3. just another hiring manager...*

      +1!!!!! Seriously, I don’t get it either. Even if the baby is crowning, I’m not going to assume anything until the woman volunteers the information herself.

    4. Elizabeth*

      Personally, I follow Dave Barry’s philosophy on it. In part because I’ve been asked when I’m due, when to my knowledge I’ve never been pregnant.

      1. Jamie*

        I heart Dave Barry so much. This reference made me all warm and fuzzy.

        And just another hiring manager – I’m a little looser than you are since if I actually can see a head crowning I will make that assumption…and run like hell to find someone else to catch the baby…I do not do births from the other side of the cervix.

        1. Elizabeth*

          I don’t even like walking into our Labor & Delivery unit. I always feel a little creepy about it. I used to make the colleagues who had kids of their own do the hardware fixes in there.

    5. Kou*

      I was always taught you never assume a woman is pregnant until you see a baby coming out of her.

    6. Design-in-Dutchess*

      And then you have the people who think they should be allowed to rub your belly. WHAT??? I DON”T EVEN KNOW YOU!!! Get your paws off me!

    7. saro*

      I had a friend ask me if I was pregnant and then asked me THREE MORE TIMES if I was sure. Because I’m carrying it in my middle just like her pregnant friends.

      I still get irritated when I think about it. Once, okay, you get a pass but THREE TIMES?

    8. Manda*

      By congratulating someone you don’t know on an assumed pregnancy, not only do you risk offending her if you’re wrong, but you also risk offending her if it was an unintentional pregnancy that she isn’t happy about. =S

      1. Zahra*

        And if it’s someone that has struggled or is currently struggling with fertility problems, you may be adding insult to injury.

    9. ThatFormerHRGirl*

      Agreed. We have an employee here that (whether by medical condition or just general body shape) always looks about 4-5 months along, and other employees always describe her as “that pregnant girl” (as in, that pregnant girl stopped in to ask you a question).

  8. Sydney Bristow*

    I think my answer would depend on whether this is a permanent medical condition or a temporary one. If it is permanent, I’d use the “before you ask, no I’m not pregnant but I get that question a lot. This is just my body shape” suggestion above. If it was temporary, I’d be more likely to disclose that it is a medical issue and use the language that the OP used in the letter that “due to a medical condition that does not affect my ability to work.”

    All that said, I beg of people not to ask someone about their pregnancy unless you know 100% that they are pregnant because they themselves have mentioned it. All it does is embarrass you both if you are wrong in your assumption.

  9. Looking forward*

    I have an acquaintance who was griping about not being hired – for pretty entry level jobs. I’m pretty sure it’s because she looks pregnant – but haven’t found a time/place/way to tell her.

    I would assume a hiring manager would not ask – but they may speculate. Maybe focus on the business aspect of it – I want you to know that I do not have any plans to take time off. I’ve had folks mistaken me for being pregnant when it’s just my body shape. I can assure you there is no need for maternity leave or extended vacations any time soon.

    1. khilde*

      “I want you to know that I do not have any plans to take time off. I’ve had folks mistaken me for being pregnant when it’s just my body shape. I can assure you there is no need for maternity leave or extended vacations any time soon.”

      This is what I was thinking along the lines of, too. Weave it into the discussion about plans for time off and that you won’t be needing any. I suppose you could leave the part about looking pregnant out entirely. Because if you say:
      “I have no plans for vacation or need any time off in the near future” it would help weed out those interviewers that were indeed speculating on your gestational status. Some might push back and say, “really? No maternity leave?” Then you know you need to address the issue with them. Others could be like, “That’s cool, thanks for letting me know” and not have it ever cross their mind.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I think this would work. As with the advice above of working in into an interview question, you could say it if asked something like “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or about career goals in general.

        In line with the suggestion for tailoring/personal stylist – OP should make sure her interview clothing does NOT look like it came from the maternity department – even if that means doing things like ordering a couple sizes up or in a tall and having the clothes tailored. Since there are so few work-appropriate maternity clothes available, one “tell” to me when someone is pregnant is that I recognize a pair of maternity pants as being identical to the ones I just had last season or just saw on the rack at Target.

        And with regards to posture like putting a hand on top of or under belly, as mentioned below – OP, do you have any hint of the pregnancy “waddle” or having to “haul” yourself out of a chair? I would ask close friends to give you honest answers on these, as they could also make the pregnancy impression worse.

        Also, OP, have you talked to your doctor about this side effect and if there are alternative treatments you could try instead, if this side effect concerns you? Or if there is a complementary treatment you could take with it to lessen the side effect?

      2. Amanda*

        Yeah, I think the best way to calm worries about a potential maternity leave would be for the OP to talk about how is she ready to hit the ground running and how excited she is for the first few months. Or something like that. The interviewers will probably deduce that the OP is not pregnant after all. Address the potential concerns without revealing too much awkward or just as damaging information (since they might balk at a medical condition too).

  10. Rachel B*

    That’s so tough. I think it depends on delivery and ongoing treatment arrangements. I used to worked with a woman who had a protruding stomach. To be honest, I didn’t really notice until after she was hired. She only stood up briefly and wore a looser jacket during the interview. I think it would have come off strangely if she said “I’m not pregnant.” This may be a case of asking a trusted friend for his or her honest opinion of you in your interview clothes.

    1. just another hiring manager...*

      Not trying to be snarky, but I had a chuckle at “depends on delivery” in the context of this post…

  11. Nichole*

    Perhaps a comment like “my children are older now and I’m ready to make a change” (if that’s true) could be worked in? It suggests that no new ones are on the horizon without getting too personal-‘older’ could be college age or school age, or preschool age. Also, make sure you’re avoiding pregnancy posturing. Since you say people comment often (so rude!), it’s possible that you frequently rest your hand on your belly or conspicuously support your lower back. These are things you may not realize you’re doing that could make people more likely to assume you’re pregnant. Stand straight, maybe wear heels. Those things encourage you to tuck your belly back and discourages those posturing behaviors.

    1. Chinook*

      I am glad you brought up the posturing because that is often the give away to me when I think a woman is pregnant (though I know better than to bring it up). The hand(s) only the belly or lower back seem to shout “I’m pregnant” more than a belly or skipping wine standard event.

  12. Acidartha*

    I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I would imagine the best way to address the situation would be in the way you dress. Just to point out that I have quite a large stomach (not because of medical issues – just how I’m built) and for a time when I didn’t dress right – it would look like I was about 6 months pregnant.
    Anyways, my point being that although you have attempted to dress differently, I still think that the right clothing and fit will probably help you feel less self conscious. If you can, meet with a stylist – a lot of fashion schools offer student stylists for a modest budget. Because I’m not entirely certain what your body type is – I would reccommend wearing tailored jackets and scarves to help camouflage the problem area(s).
    Beyond that anyone making comments about your body should be stopped immediately – imo, it’s a violation of personal space especially if they aren’t close friends and/ or relatives.

    Good luck!

  13. Laura*

    I wouldn’t address it unless/until asked, mostly because I wouldn’t want to work for a company that would dismiss me out of hand just because I was pregnant anyhow.

    FWIW, I did go through an interview process when I was actually 5mo. pregnant with my daughter and for the in-person interview wore a blouse with a ruffled front under a slightly oversized jacket (kind of a “boyfriend jacket” style). I looked quite a bit heavier overall than I like to, but still well put-together and not sloppy, which I think is the key. The ruffle nicely disguised the baby-bump shaping of my abdomen.

    When I let the interviewer know I was pregnant (after they offered, before I accepted), he clearly had no idea. To his credit, he handled it very gracefully and I felt even more comfortable accepting the offer. And, it was indeed a really great place to work and he was a really great manager.

    1. Natalie*

      “I wouldn’t address it unless/until asked, mostly because I wouldn’t want to work for a company that would dismiss me out of hand just because I was pregnant anyhow.”

      This is certainly the ideal, but the OP may not be in a situation where she can afford to screen out prospective employers on that basis.

      1. Laura*

        I am aware of that, which is why I also offered information about how I dressed for interviews when I was pregnant and trying to hide it. I also see how that seems contradictory to my first statement, but that was then and this is now and in the intervening 7 years I’ve gotten a lot more secure/confident/picky about employers. So, I stand by my original statement that *I* wouldn’t address it unless asked for the reason I already gave, but I *do* understand that not everyone would/could make that choice.

  14. Marmite*

    I’d be tempted to respond to the initial, “Nice to meet you. How are you?” question with something like. “Nice to meet you too. I’m very well, thanks, but still laughing because someone on the train/in the car park/wherever just asked me when I was due. The look on her face when I told her wasn’t pregnant was priceless!”

    If you can deliver it convincingly it would break the ice and address the issue without mentioning a medical condition or implying that the interviewer was going to ask.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      My worry there is that it would make a lot of people uncomfortable, because you’re asking them to think about and potentially comment on your weight.

      1. Marmite*

        True. Although, I read this as the OP looking for a way to comment on her weight, so I was trying to think of ways she could do that in an offhand/indirect manner. There may be a cultural difference at work here, but I think most people hearing someone say something like this in a way that made it clear they were amused not upset wouldn’t be too uncomfortable. I’d be less comfortable with someone announcing to me that they had a medical issue that made them look pregnant because then there’s not just their weight but a mystery medical problem to think of an appropriate response to.

        I think you would have to be a certain type of person to pull this off though. It would need to seem like you were genuinely amused by the fictional encounter. In any case, I don’t think there is an easy answer for this OP, unfortunately.

    2. Steve*

      I bet 99 out of 100 people would deliver that line in a manner that would make the interviewer very uncomfortable. It’s a tough sell!

  15. Kou*

    We as a society need to agree on a way to explain things we know people will notice but not mention. The most common would probably be “That mark on my pants is water.”

    1. Meg*

      Similar to the when your chair or shoes squeak in a manner that sounds like flatulence, so you do it again (or try to) so that people KNOW it was your chair/shoes/not gas.

  16. Sniper*

    I don’t think anyone mentioned this, but I see a bunch of my friends trying to sell these wrap things that supposedly make you look thinner/more proportional or something like that.

    I have no idea if they work or if there are side effects to constantly squeezing your torso, but it might be worth checking out.

  17. Rose*

    Honestly, as someone who interviews a lot of candidates, I would feel pretty weird if someone told me “I’m not pregnant, I just look that way”. Honestly, I dont pay attention to a candidate’s weight or physical characteristics. All I care about is that they can do the job, look and act professionally, and are going to fit in our company culture. Most physical characteristics that bother us are not going to matter to an interviewer. Just dress professionally in a style that you are most comfortable with. If it makes you feel better to downplay the condition, stick with a basic black suit jacket, slacks and add a neclace with a little pop of color to draw the eye away from your mid-section. If you do get stuck with an interviewer who is is rude enough to ask you how far along you are, just state that you are not pregnant, and stear the conversation back to a more appropriate topic for an interview. Of course, once accepting a new position, if it makes you feel better you could always just talk to your boss about your condition in private.

    1. Another Evil HR Director*

      ^^This, exactly! I’m far more uncomfortable when an applicant starts telling me all sorts of personal things that have nothing to do with the job, or anything I’ve asked in the interview. And I think something like this would top that list.

  18. The B*

    Wear neat, good-quality, well-tailored (key in tailored) clothing. Trying to hide by using loose garments won’t make you look thinner, but the exact opposite. If you look well put together chances are people will look at your nice outfit and accessories rather than linger on your belly. Buying a few nice pieces and spending the money on a seamstress to adjust them is such a good investment. Also wear proper undergarments. I don’t mean a girdle, but the right bra support can really make a difference.

    I have dealt with Cushings disease, which gives you among other things a big belly, so I know it’s not fun, but nice clothing helped me a lot!

  19. Beer Belly*

    I had this exact problem over the last few months, as I have been interviewing. I just simply carry my weight all in my belly, and having two very large babies (almost 11lbs) didn’t help. Neither does my love of beer.

    Anyway, what I did was spend a lot of time shopping for the right suit that did not accentuate my belly. I was able to find a few suits, plus button down shirts with stretch to go underneath. I felt like I looked good, and hid my belly. No one asked me if I was pregnant, and I did get a job offer!

  20. V*

    I think when most people see someone who they think is pregnant, they have a tendency to look for a quick second and then look away. If you can catch them doing it at that moment and time it right, it might be appropriate to say, “I know I look pregnant, but I’m not,” without it being too awkward.

  21. Alanna*

    I second the advice to subtly frame your answers in a way that makes it clear there is no baby in the future. They won’t assume you’re pregnant, because we’ve all made that dumb mistake. They’ll just wonder and be subconsciously looking for an answer. You should be able to give it to them without anyone even realizing the process.Maybe just make sure your answers emphasize the fact that you are expecting to be steadily at work three months from now, five months from now, etc.

  22. ThatFormerHRGirl*

    A lot of great advice in this thread! I went on a lot of interviews while I was 8-10 weeks post pregnancy, and definitely still looked pregnant, so I understand.
    A good tip regarding suits is to look for jackets that are 2+ buttons. The 1-button jackets typically don’t flatter anyone with a larger bust or a larger midsection, since they can pull and accentuate that area. 2+ buttons help the jacket to lay flatter in general.

  23. Beth*

    I would absolutely address this issue up front. And yes, as a woman, I might still want to work somewhere in which a hiring manager would take a pregnant woman out of the running. Here’s why: a hiring manager choosing not to hire someone who appears to be 5-6 months pregnant does not necessarily mean that the hiring manager is a misogynist or the organization isn’t family friendly. It can mean that all things being equal, the hiring manager would prefer to hire someone who won’t be taking time off (and potentially never coming back) a few months down the line. Wouldn’t you have that same preference, if you were hiring, again, all other things being equal?

    As a woman, if I were currently pregnant and I could avoid doing so, I wouldn’t even try to find a new job. My pregnancy would be my choice, but I think it would be unfair to accept a position knowing that, very early on in my tenure, I would be gone for a fairly significant amount of time. I would feel bad imposing extra work on my new colleagues (as often happens when someone goes out on maternity leave.) Also, from a practical standpoint, FMLA benefits do not kick in for 12 months, in a new job. My personal feeling is that I should sort of earn the right to have my job held open for me while I take time off. I know that’s a controversial view, but pregnancy is usually a personal choice and of zero benefit to the employer or colleagues, and only detrimental to them.

    So, back to the original issue… it’s not in someone’s interest for an employer to assume they are pregnant. The employer can’t ask about it, and it’s illegal to discriminate, but it’s not illegal for them to make their pick among many similarly-qualified candidates. And you’re likely not head and shoulders above any other candidate, so they can probably easily point to some other reason why they chose someone else over you. They’re absolutely NOT obligated to hire a pregnant person, although fear of being sued probably also enters into the equation, making the situation even worse. I think that although the conversation could be a bit awkward, it’s important to make clear that you’re not pregnant, if you’re not.

    1. Beth*

      Just to clarify… here I’m talking about if you TRULY look pregnant. A lot of people are overweight and put weight on in the stomach area and they may or may not be thought to be pregnant. If your appearance is such that almost anyone looking at you would think you were pregnant, then I would address the issue. If you could be confused with just being overweight with a tendency to store fat in the belly, then I would not risk making the hiring manager uncomfortable. Maybe another way to address it… discreetly explain the situation to the HR rep and ask that it be passed on to the hiring manager.

  24. Agig*

    Re: 3. Manager says I’m not friendly enough with coworkers

    I kinda feel the same way, except I work in an office setting. We are a small team but because I am just quiet by nature, I’ve been told by my colleagues that they thought I didn’t like them or that I wasn’t happy there, which of course isn’t true. You don’t have to socialize or hang out with them, after all work is work, but I find that a simple hello or smile helps a lot.

  25. Samantha Albert*

    Hi there,

    I also have a medical condition that makes me look 7 months pregnant (this from a young man at a fast food restaurant who had taken a course and knew a lot about pregnancy).

    My approach is to charge in head on and say right away something like “Just so you know, this is my liver, not a baby. I have a medical condition that makes it like this, but it’s very stable and I’m in good shape.” Then I go on to tell one of the many funny anecdotes of being thought of as pregnant (and there are many – look at my Belly Laugh Fridays on my blog). This makes everyone more comfortable.

    If you ever want to connect, you can contact me directly through my website.

    All the best and good luck!


  26. AmeliaA*

    I wouldn’t address it at all. I would address your abilities and why you are the best fit for the position. I wouldn’t want to work for a boss that would come to conclusions on their own about my “pregnancy” or lack thereof. If you’re interviewing with someone who would make a hiring decision on that basis, would you want to work for them?

    Conversely, I recently asked an individual about a 2 year gap in her employment. She indicated hat it was during a time when they were trying to get her epilepsy medications sorted out. Her medical condition was never used against her. She’s a fabulous candidate.

    If you really want to bring it up… you may have some “volunteer” experience for the disease that you are struggling with. Perhaps you fund raise for a cause? This is a great way to say, “I’m actively involved in helping people with this because I’m impacted by it as well.”

  27. Mary*

    Hi – while I agree with most of the comments, I would address the issue and attribute to body type. Even though a person may have great qualifications, I would not want to hire someone who I think may take at least two+ months off four months after they are hired. I would also not say that I had a medical condition; again might be perceived as time off of work.

    I remember a former co-worker telling me she couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t landing a job especially after she thought her interviews went great. I asked her if she mentioned that she had four kids under the age of 12 in her interviews. She replied yes. I told her employers are reluctant to hire people with smaller children as they are perceived as taking time off when their kids are sick, doctors, appts. etc. Once she stopped mentioning her kids, she landed a job.

    I am overweight and I pull on the Spanx- it really does help me. Also a black blazer is one of my must wears.

  28. Dawn*

    I have been in Human Resources for a number of years, and done training on legal hiring practices. A hiring manager would not appreciate being told about a pregnancy OR a medical condition at an interview, since a candidate can accuse them of basing an employment decision on either, which is illegal. It is also awkward and unprofessional to mention anything about “body shape” in an interview environment. My advice would be to go into the interview and knock thier socks off with your knowledge, skills, and past experience, so that they will want to hire you regardless.

  29. Rebecca Menkiena*

    I am really looking for some good advice I’m what I should do I look like I’m five to seven months pregnant almost everyday I’m not sure if it’s because I do have some beers butnot an alcoholic so I’m wondering why I am in this much pain and my stomach looks way does it hurts everyday and I don’t have insurance I have 2 kids at home I don’t know what to do someone please help or give me some advice I’m what they have doneplease

  30. Pam*

    I have this same situation as OP. Would be interested to hear what they decided to do!

    I’m waiting for a large ovarian cyst to be surgically removed and it is the size of a melon. I really do look 5-6 months pregnant and I noticeably get some discomfort when I sit down or stand back up.

    I’m meeting a potential new employer tomorrow and I have decided to tell them as I sit down “I’m not pregnant, by the way, I’m just feeling a bit swollen today!” Perhaps trying to cheerfully raise and dismiss the issue in one minute, so they get the impression it’s nothing to worry about.

    I’m reluctant to mention medical conditions or surgery as that might cause concern, but equally I want them to know that I will be available for work for the next year without childbirth/maternity leave etc. Tricky situation.

    For friends / acquaintances, I’m thinking I will start saying “I’m waiting for some abdominal surgery. It’s not serious, but it does make me look a bit swollen”. I’m finding that if I don’t mention it, people assume I am pregnant, and if I mention words like ovarian cyst they go a bit wide eyed!

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