job candidate was distracted by her baby throughout our interview

A reader writes:

I’m a manager for a nonprofit and I was thinking about an interview situation that happened late last year.

Last year we were looking to hire someone who can conduct telehealth meetings with families who just had a baby as a part of a federal program. I was calling applicants over the phone to complete a phone screenings and if everything looked good based on that conversation, I would invite them back for a virtual interview with a panel that included my boss and another manager.

I had an applicant (let’s call her Misty) who I called to complete the phone screening. Misty was obviously preoccupied almost the whole time and sometimes distracted with her daughter throughout the time we talked (I could hear the baby and her responding to her baby multiple times), but I went ahead and booked her for the interview panel because her answers were overall good and aligned with our mission.

When we finally had the interview a week later, it was obvious that she wasn’t prepared. She looked disheveled and she had on a faded t-shirt with obvious baby stains. She apologized and said she didn’t know that this was her interview link, which didn’t make sense, but she tried to explain that she thought she was logging onto another meeting. Because her baby was crying in her arms, we gave her the option to reschedule for another day. She insisted on continuing, but we decided to have her come back later that day instead to give her time to deal with her baby. We also assumed that since she didn’t take our offer to reschedule for the following week, she must have someone else that would take care of her baby.

During the rescheduled interview, she started off strong, but halfway through the interview her baby woke up and was crying. We gave her space again to deal with it but she took up the second half of the interview trying to calm them down. This was at least an additional 10 minutes of a baby crying, her apologizing, and us telling her that it was okay. Once we were done, we decided not to move forward with her, because we were concerned that she wouldn’t be able to handle having clients and taking calls while working from home.

Looking back on her answers to our questions, she was the most detailed and gave great insights and passion for the role, but having her baby multiple times during each part of the interview process was just awkward and, to be honest, annoying. While we have all agreed that working from home does introduce children distractions, we also don’t want it to interfere with calls from parents that need her assistance.

I wanted to know as a hiring manager, is this the new norm? Do we have to accept multiple interruptions? Is this just a failure of her to schedule this time or are we being too hard on her? We’ve already filled the position and are very happy with our choice, but how much is too much for an interview? Was there something that we could have done to give her a better chance?

Well, it’s possible that she’d have child care once she had a paying job that allowed her to hire child care — so I wouldn’t assume that what you saw is what clients would see.

I also wouldn’t assume the opposite — that clients definitely wouldn’t see it. You’re entitled to be concerned about that! And who knows, she might have thought that the nature of the job (working with families with new babies) meant it would be okay to care for her own baby simultaneously. But you shouldn’t assume in either direction; instead you should address it explicitly, by explaining that she would need to have separate child care during working hours if you hired her and asking if that would be an obstacle.

It’s also not unreasonable to want to have an interview where you and the candidate can focus on the conversation and aren’t interrupted by a crying baby who needs to be tended to. Ideally you’d cut candidates a bit of slack on this right now, particularly given the child care shortages that have been a problem throughout the pandemic … but there’s also a level of disruption and distraction where it’s really not practical to continue an interview. When things reached that point, it would have been reasonable to decide to reschedule for another time and ask if she could arrange a time when she could talk baby-free.

I wouldn’t say what you saw was a new norm, given how significant the baby’s impact was in this case … but it’s definitely a current norm that many parents can’t get reliable child care at the moment and are having to work around that, often in ways that add stress that you might not even be seeing. In most jobs, having separate child care once on the job will be a necessity (if the person has young kids) and you should be up-front if you see signs the person might not realize that’s a requirement … but this is one of the few times where what you see in an interview might not be what you can expect to see once the person is hired. Again, have the conversation and find out — but do try to give interviewing parents some grace about the circumstances they’re dealing with right now, at least to a point.

{ 384 comments… read them below }

  1. Precious Wentletrap*

    If anything, her interview circumstances should be a bonus for a job where the duties involve interviewing new parents.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      . . . not really?

      The job is about how well she can provide these services and support, not how Instagram-relatable she is as a new parent. If she’s too distracted to listen and convey information effectively, she’s not a good fit.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes. If I were a parent seeking help, and she was too distracted by her own baby to provide what I needed, I wouldn’t really care that her problem was relatable. I would want my limited available time spent on my needs, not watching her take care of her own needs.

      2. NoMoreOffice*

        Yeah, I don’t necessarily think the kid was the problem. I would’ve had an issue with the simple fact that she wasn’t prepared for the interview.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I’ve had internet meetings interrupted by my neighbor’s power tools. The problem here isn’t actually the baby–it’s the lack of preparation and the fact that she didn’t address distraction (which happened to be a baby but could just as easily have been something else).

    2. londonedit*

      But when she’s interviewing new parents, the focus needs to be on *their* babies, not hers. Of course it’s nice if she can put people at ease by saying ‘Oh, I have an 18-month-old, I remember this stage well!’ but it sounds like this is some sort of health programme, and I feel like people will want to be focused on their own baby’s health and the health of their family rather than feeling like the person they’re speaking to, at what is probably quite a stressful and bewildering time, is distracted by their own child.

      1. LMB*

        But no one knows whether the candidate would have had childcare lined up when the actual job started. The screening call should have included an explicit requirements for the job that were given to all candidates, for example “remote work is allowed but you must have a quiet, private space free of any distractions to best serve our clients. If you have young children, outside childcare is required.” Lots of companies have these rules for remote work. If she had been given this information up front, she would have known whether she was able to move forward with the process. It’s no different than having a screening interview and the recruiter saying “there X amount of travel required for the position” or any other logistical requirements that may not be included in the posting.

        1. MP*

          I think that the candidate has the responsibility to make sure that she knows whether having a baby at the interview is acceptable. It normally should not fall on the interviewer. Although, I think it would have been nice for them to explicitly state that.

          Also, the interviewer tried to reschedule the call. Considering the issues that came up during the screening call, I would have thought that she would have taken that into consideration for the interview.

          Ultimately, if I was the interviewer, I would not have moved forward either. To me it would have shown a lack of critical thinking or even problem solving skills.

          Someone may say that I may be making assumptions but this is the only time you’re going to be able to make an assessment of someone’s fitness for the role.

          1. ferrina*

            Agree. For me this speaks to her judgement. I’ve had my share of babies interrupting meetings, and the key is being able to minimize the impact. Apologize and warn the others up front, mute when necessary, and be able to stay on task. She may not have been able to mute, but she didn’t acknowledge or warn the interviewers about the possible interruption and she wasn’t prepared.

          2. Lizianna*


            I totally get the challenge of balancing childcare and professional obligations. But the answer can’t be to just ignore it. If she had acknowledged it and explained what was going on, I may be willing to push through an interview, but the fact that the first interview had to be cut short and rescheduled, and the second one had the same issues, would have really been a red flag for me.

            I’ve interviewed (and hired) people who had kids in the background of an interview, because they acknowledged they understood it was less than ideal and explained why it wouldn’t be an issue if they got hired. (Sick kid who couldn’t go to daycare that day, they scheduled an interview for what should have been a 2 hour nap time, but neighbor’s barking dog woke the kid up).

            I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that a person interviewing for a professional, phone based job understand that she needs to have a relatively distraction-free workspace.

            1. Mizzle*

              I agree that it’s reasonable to assume that someone who’s interviewing understands that a baby is too much of a distraction, and that most people would have understood ‘let’s reschedule’ to mean ‘please make sure there won’t be distractions next time’.

              However, it seems pretty clear that the candidate *did not* understand this. Perhaps it simply never occurred to her that she might need to arrange child care for the duration of the interview. (That would explain her insistence on continuing the original interview, if she knew that there was no other time which was more likely to be distraction-free.)

              I reckon the OP and her company are doing themselves a disservice by not being explicit about this. Even though it was a reasonable assumption, in this particular case, it did not hold. If she otherwise seems like a good (even great!) candidate, why wouldn’t you make your expectations explicit and see if she can meet them?

              Imagine that, instead of saying ‘would you like to reschedule?’, the interviewer(s) had said ‘For this interview, we need to talk without distractions. Can you suggest some times for which you can arrange child care, so that we can reschedule?’ Things might have gone a lot differently, and it seems like it would have been a win-win scenario.

        2. Gan Ainm*

          I am surprised by how lenient Alison’s response was. To me, the point of of interview is being able to speak to you and assess your ability to do the job. Being so distracted that you can’t actually conduct an interview is a dealbreaker, and not something I as a hiring manager should have to explain.

          The fact that the candidate didn’t address it proactively, nor even when the hiring manager was rescheduling due to excessive distractions, says the candidate doesn’t realize how big of an issue this is, and likely doesn’t have well formed sense of professional norms and doesn’t pick up on context clues. That sounds like it would be exhausting for me to bring them up to speed.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            This is definitely a post-pandemic reaction from Alison because she always came down firmly on “you’re paid to be working not tending your baby” before.

      2. Daylight Sleepy Time*

        Right. Imagine taking your sick kid to the pediatrician, and during your appointment the doctor keeps getting distracted by taking care of their own child. I would not care at all that the doctor was “relatable” – I’d be highly annoyed! P

        I think both OP and Misty did not communicate well here. If Misty planned to have childcare once her new job starts, she should have said so. If she didn’t, the OP should have been clear that it would be necessary,. It’s good that OP wanted to be flexible and understanding, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of clarity.

        1. A*

          Agreed. I think both parties should have been more direct. Misty should have been proactive in letting employer know she would be juggling child care at the time (or at least once the first distraction instance occurred), and OP should have been direct in asking clarifying questions.

          1. Ayla*

            Perhaps OP could have been more direct about rescheduling, too. “We expect you will have childcare while on the job, and in order to properly assess you as a potential hire we will need to talk with you at a time when you’re able to be fully focused. Can we reschedule for a time when you have childcare available?”

    3. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I don’t know. If I’m participating in a federal program that might be complicated to navigate or provide any kind of benefits, I’d want my telehealth provider to be focused on me and my family, not their own.

      I do think the interviewer should have verified that the candidate would have childcare before declining, but I don’t blame their hesitation.

    4. generic_username*

      Her experience of being a new parent recently/being able to relate to the distractions of a baby is a pro, but not being able to focus on what’s actually happening with the adults she is speaking to because of her own child is most certainly a con.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Pretty much my thoughts reading the letter. This candidate, if hired, would be an A+ understanding and empathizing with the issues new parents are facing (and that’s not without value), but the role requires them to be part of the solution and that’s where my confidence in the candidate would falter.

        To answer LW’s question directly, the only thing I can think of would be a follow-up interview where the candidate actually had to help a coworker roleplaying as a patient needing the care. That should get closer to the heart of the issue of how close the candidate is to being able to handle the role.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      No. If I’m having an appointment for a service that is supposed to help me navigate a difficult or stressful situation, I expect full attention. We all deserve some kind of grace and benefit of the doubt, sure, but my time as a client is also important. Providing support means devoting your full attention to the person who needs support.

      My telehealth therapist once got a knock on the door during our appointment. My physician was interrupted by a barking dog. Both were handled swiftly, apologized for profusely, and I was ok with that. An infant who needs attention is not that.

    6. My heart is a fish*

      I’m not sure that parenthood is uncommon enough that being also a parent would make someone particularly qualified in assisting other parents. Sure, it’s better than someone who doesn’t have that experience, but having children is pretty common, even in today’s relatively low birthrate world.

    7. LGC*

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that had that thought! LW, at least you know she has experience with your clients’ situation!

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Experience =/= qualification. I like to read and am good at proofreading stuff for people, but that doesn’t mean I’m qualified to teach English. The applicant bombed at actually communicating during the interview, and communication sounds like a big part of this job.

        1. WindmillArms*

          This is a bit too close to “I drove my kids to soccer so I’m a chauffeur!”

          Unless you did the role under supervision, with clients and standards and contracts and *accountability to someone else for your results,* you don’t have relevant experience.

          1. SoloKid*

            +1. If you wouldn’t give your 18 y/o kid as a reference to say if you were an adequate chauffeur, it’s not a transferable skill.

      2. ferrina*

        You don’t have to have kids to be good at a job that works with kids and/or parents. Lived experience is great for exposure value (if the person knows how to tap into that and also aware that not everyone’s experience will be the same), but plenty of wonderful teachers, childcare workers, social workers, etc. don’t have kids.

        1. LGC*

          …well, the replies here were more serious than I was hoping for. I found it a little ironic (and okay, humorous) that this candidate seems to be the kind of person that would benefit greatly from the services provided. (And I hope that she finds them. Not with this organization, though, because that’s awkward for her.)

          I also didn’t say – or intend to say – that people without kids were unqualified to work at LW’s org.

    8. Clisby*

      Not if she’s going to be distracted from helping those new parents because she’s taking care of her own child.

    9. Amy*

      I have 3 children under 6, experienced many Covid childcare issues and I’d still find this distracting if I were being interviewed by Misty in these circumstances.

      I know too well that I’m at best only 30% focused when I’m working and also dealing with a fretful baby.

    10. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Dealing with your own child and conducting telegraphy calls with new parents are not overlapping skills. Would she have more empathy, perhaps, but it doesn’t make her more qualified.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Empathy is probably a huge requirement to be able to understand the challenges parents face. It’s not something you can swot up on, it’s a personality trait that you can emphasise.
        Apparently she was also pretty well qualified in that she gave thoughtful answers.
        (Which is not to say that turning up dishevelled and without any plan b for baby is fine of course)

    11. EC*

      The job requires the person to be able to pay attention to the people who call in. That’s not possible if they’re planning on ignoring the client or being interrupted. Its also sounds like the candidate wasn’t able to pay attention and remember basic things like when the meeting was.

      If this was a non client facing position that involved entering and working with data alone, then the baby wouldn’t be an issue as long as the work was done. In this case the baby is making it impossible to carry out the job.

    12. springthing*

      Huh? Not really. I work for a youth serving non-profit and we have a strict policy and have for years before COVID (half of our staff have been home based for the past 12 years) that telecommuting is not a substitute for dependent care and that alternative care arrangements must be in place during working hours. Of course, COVID required that we suspend that policy and as things started to open back up we were flexible to the extent that we could be. The fact that we serve children and their families doesn’t mean that while we are providing those services our employees would be more relateable with children climbing all over them. That doesn’t even make sense.

    13. SoloKid*

      Not really. It’s “telehealth meetings with families who just had a baby”, not leading a mommy support group.

    14. anonymous73*

      I don’t think so. If I was meeting with someone for an appointment as a new mom, and that person couldn’t give me their full attention because their baby was distracting them, I wouldn’t think “oh wow this is great because she’s going through the same thing I am.” I would think “this is bullshit, how can she help me when she’s barely paying attention to me.”

    15. Sarah55555*

      If you are providing a service for someone else, never ever focus on your own circumstances or experience. Your clients are here to be your focus, and all that does is put the focus onto yourself.

  2. animaniactoo*

    Yeah, I really don’t get the way this was handled. Politely giving the option to reschedule initially is one thing. But after that, continuing to break off to give her time to get the baby settled, without ever saying/asking “We would prefer to stop and reschedule when you can be free to focus on the interview. If we do that, will you be able to arrange for childcare coverage for about an hour to an hour and a half?”

    And asking how she plans to handle childcare while working, vs simply assuming that what YOU saw is what you would get as an employee. A reasonable thought. Not a reasonable assumption to work on without asking more, particularly from a candidate who you saw as a strong candidate.

    There’s giving leeway, and then there’s… giving up. This felt like giving up.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. I was hoping for a direct statement about childcare expectations for this role/interview. Apologies and understanding are nice but if they don’t get you what you want/need, you’ve failed to communicate.

    2. Washi*

      Yeah, this was not handled great on all fronts but the interviewers shouldn’t have said it’s ok when it’s obviously not and is removing her from consideration. It would actually have been kinder to end the interview, ask about scheduling a time to talk baby-free, and being as flexible as possible to accommodate her timing.

      That said, I don’t blame the OP for wondering if she doesn’t have childcare now, will she in a few weeks when she starts? But the way to find out is to ask! Hopefully she is already on some daycare waiting lists and has a sense of when a spot is coming up, because in my area it’s just reality that you couldn’t possibly wait until you have an offer to line up childcare.

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        The interviewers may have been concerned about being seen as discriminatory if they showed any annoyance at the constant baby-caused interruptions, sloppy dressing and obvious distractions on the part of the interviewee. These days, a company can be raked over the online coals for being seen as discriminating against any group of people. Being seen as prejudiced against mothers of babies? Forget about it! It’s much safer for them to smile, murmur sympathetically and go on to the next applicant.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I think there’s a lot of gray between not giving someone a chance and expecting them to be able to focus on the interview. IMO they did her no favors by not addressing the thing that was blocking them from considering her further. I think that’s worse.

          I was a SAHP for a bit for a company that knew upfront they were hiring SAHPs and clearly laid out expectations. It can be done without being seen as discriminatory.

          1. MsM*

            I’m not sure how many outs they’re supposed to give her when she refuses to take them even when they’re offered.

        2. ferrina*

          It sounded more like they were trying to be “nice” rather than worried about being sued (which they would have won the case btw). It’s the classic saying “it’s okay” when it’s not.

          Ideally, they would have said, “There’s a lot of distractions going on right now. We need to be able to conduct this interview when you are not also providing dependent care- let’s reschedule for a time when you will be available and the child will be with someone else.” That’s a really reasonable expectation for a job interview. After all, would you accept an interviewee who was clearly driving while interviewing or otherwise split their focus?
          That said, it’s such a weird position to be in that I don’t judge the interviewers for not thinking of this in the moment.

    3. Office Lobster DJ*

      I feel that this door swings both ways, at least a little. While the candidate was apologizing for the interruptions, she could have brought up her childcare plan herself. Clearly, things were not going well. Granted, OP’s company did her no favors by telling her “it’s okay,” and the company obviously has a stronger obligation to lay out expectations, but I can’t imagine myself being a candidate and just not saying anything about my childcare plans in this situation.

      1. Wildcat*

        It’s hard. As an interviewer, I’ve done my best to throw someone a rope or redirect when I think someone is nervous and it’s messing with the interview. But the person being interviewed also has to take those ropes and redirect. Ultimately my job as an interviewer is to hire the best candidate and the reality is that resume/cover letter/an hour tops of talking (maybe even less) is extremely limited information. So I just have to make that prediction off of what I’m presented. It’s hard.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I don’t think either side did hugely well here. I get not having childcare and I completely understand that it must be difficult, but the interviewee showed up on screen looking dishevelled, said she didn’t realise it was her interview and she thought it was a different meeting, and was then distracted by her baby. If she’d appeared looking a bit more polished, started the interview by saying ‘I’m so sorry, my childcare has fallen through and I’m just hoping my baby will stay asleep – would you be open to rescheduling if it becomes too much of a distraction?’ and then taken the OP up on their offer to reschedule properly for the following week, it would have given an entirely different impression. But on the other hand, it really doesn’t sound like the OP made it clear that ‘do you want to reschedule’ was actually supposed to mean ‘we need to reschedule this for a time when you can focus on the interview without the baby’ and it doesn’t sound like the OP made it clear that her not having childcare would be a concern that could affect her suitability for the role. So I can see why, if the OP was just saying ‘don’t worry, it’s OK’, the interviewee thought ‘OK then, might as well carry on if they seem to be fine with it’.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            “it really doesn’t sound like the OP made it clear that ‘do you want to reschedule’ was actually supposed to mean ‘we need to reschedule this for a time when you can focus on the interview without the baby’”
            To be fair, I’m pretty sure that for OP that went without saying! Like, the baby is being distracting as babies tend to do, and right at that moment they say “if you like we can reschedule”, it surely shouldn’t need pointing out that for OP it’s not possible to conduct an interview with a baby behaving like a baby.

        2. Casper Lives*

          Yes, this a difficult situation. I’d be less concerned if this wasn’t a job that involves set times with clients / patients.

          There are some remote jobs with flexibility on when tasks get done. Like little collaboration, working before / after kids are asleep, distracted, or cared for. I know that’s not ideal either since the parent can’t get enough sleep etc.

      2. BRR*

        I might be somewhat in the minority here but I also think some part of this is on the candidate. I’m all for accommodating parents during these times (and in general! this isn’t just a pandemic problem) but there are still going to be some expectations. That being said, the LW did have a few opportunities to do better as other commenters have outlined in more detail.

        1. Sasha*

          I don’t think you’re in a minority. Obviously you don’t do a job interview with your baby – it’s as unreasonable as planning it to coincide with your weekly 10K run. You get childcare. And I say this as somebody who took a day of annual leave to allow my husband to do an interview uninterrupted by our son, who was home sick from nursery. He has done similar for me in the past.

          You can’t possibly perform well in an interview whilst caring for an awake baby, and most candidates are well aware of this.

      3. 178*

        I don’t think asking about her plans for childcare would solve things. If it’s about a lack of availability because of covid, that won’t change once she’s hired, if it’s about childcare being to unpredictable due to covid, the age of the baby or other factors that is also not a solution for the employer. If it’s about cost there are still questions, will the pay be enough if prices are rising to much? Will she be able to get a vacancy and how long will that take? And those are just a few factors and then the interviewer is back to square one. And that’s not even talking about the candidates that would assure the interviewer that childcare will be arranged, sometimes with full intention of doing it, and then once they get the job don’t do it or arenito able to do it.

        1. Claire*

          I mean, sure, the candidate could not follow through or have childcare fall apart. So could any candidate who was a parent, even if they managed to get short term childcare for an interview. The only way to ensure your employees don’t have any childcare issues is to not hire parents of young children. However, laying out expectations/asking about FT childcare would at least give the LW more information about a candidate she found promising. It also doesn’t make sense to tell a candidate something is fine when it’s actually the thing that took her out of the running! Forthrightness could help a lot here.

        2. BubbleTea*

          I’ve just finished maternity leave and I went back to the same job, but if I’d I’d interviewing for a new one a month or more ago, I would have not felt able to afford childcare necessarily. I can’t have anyone in my home (not due to covid, there’s nowhere for anyone to take care of a baby while I work), I couldn’t find any home daycares with spaces, and nurseries don’t take one off drop ins. I started sending my baby to his nursery once I was a couple of weeks away from starting work, but I couldn’t have afforded to send him for speculative job possibilities. No income, no childcare.

          It’s a problem for my self-employed side business that I’m launching, I can’t expand his childcare hours til it turns a profit so I have to rely on naps for client calls. Eventually it will solve a lot of problems but for a single hour there are no good options.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Seriously. She literally showed up disheveled with a crying baby in her arms and wanted to continue with the interview that way. Why on earth did they assume she would have childcare later that same day if she didn’t have it when she was originally planning to be available? Maybe that sends a clear message about her professionalism but they certainly don’t seem to have been clear about their expectations.

      1. Kate*

        ‘She apologized and said she didn’t know that this was her interview link, which didn’t make sense, but she tried to explain that she thought she was logging onto another meeting.’

        She claimed to have forgotten about the interview, so I think OP’s assumption that she would come back better prepared was completely reasonable.

        Also, everyone seems to be assuming that she is currently unemployed, but it doesn’t say that? ‘Another meeting’ makes it sound like she already had a job.

          1. Kelly L.*

            This is what I’m thinking. She may also be a client of the program and thought this was her meeting to get help rather than her meeting to interview.

    5. I Don’t Know It All*

      I agree. I work remotely. And, I’ve found that often candidates have the misconception that they can work from home while having their child at home. Being direct to me almost always beats not being direct.

      1. Cascadia*

        On some pregnancy/parenting reddit threads there are a LOT of people who plan to work remotely full time without any additional childcare. It’s definitely an assumption that plenty of people are making – especially because in the US childcare is so expensive and hard to obtain, and with covid remote work has really become much more common.

        1. Sasha*

          Not an assumption that survives much contact with reality – I assume these are all first time parents? My son is five and I still can’t visit the bathroom without unwanted company sidling in for a chat. Holding a meeting with him in the room? Not a chance.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Depends on the baby. Mine is nine months and not very mobile yet. He sits and plays with his toys quite happily for an hour while I tutor, on the rare occasions when he isn’t sleeping because it’s his regular nap time. I couldn’t do my main job with him home though. Too many phone calls.

            1. Sasha*

              I’m not saying you can’t get any work whatsoever done with a small child in the house. But you can’t get eight hours a day done, five days a week, during the day, when you are in sole charge of a young child without either neglecting them or half-assing your work, or both.

              1. Clisby*

                I agree. I was able to work remotely for years with young children – but I worked half-time, and had a *very* flexible schedule. As in, unless I was scheduled for a meeting (which might happen 3-4 times a month) my employer didn’t care whether I started work at 3 a.m. or 3 p.m., or if I worked 10 hours during the weekend, as long as I got the work done. But I got really lucky with that job.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Why is this not the norm? I would have loved a job like that when my kids were small!

    6. CoveredinBees*

      It could be really tough to get childcare on the timeline people are often interviewed on. Few daycares in my area have care for kids under 18 months and none of them do drop in. I know it varies regionally, but if I needed to hire a babysitter in the middle of a weekday (when many babysitters are in school or another job), I’d need at least 2 weeks notice. I’ve never had 2 weeks notice on a job interview and have a hard time imagining an employer allowing them to reschedule that far out unless it is a very tough job to fill.

      1. anonymous73*

        We know this and some leeway can be given. But this interview was off the rails from the very start. You can’t expect to be able to be present in an interview with a toddler in the house and nobody to help you.

      2. ferrina*

        So true. If Misty didn’t have childcare, she may not have had a choice about the baby. But she did have a choice in how she communicated this back to the employer- letting them know that she had a childcare situation, having a bottle/diaper, rattle in easy reach and on standby to minimize baby fussing, etc. I’ve had to do this for key meeting and it sucks but there are much better ways to handle it.

      3. wittyrepartee*

        I had a friend who apparently showed up at her interview, in person, kid in tow. She brought a neighbor to sit in the car and babysit while she was in the interview. So yeah, sometimes you just… are flying by the seat of your pants.

        1. Scout*

          That’s completely different; your friend DID have childcare, and it matters not to the company if the babysitter is in the parking lot with the baby or some other location. I’m assuming this was a matter of weird timing (otherwise it makes no sense to bring both the kid and the sitter), but it really doesn’t matter: your friend completed her interview child-free.

    7. KateM*

      Yeah, I don’t like this, either. And everything has two sides, right? OP and others in hiring committee were assuming that she would also be distracted during work; while, if this applicant read and recognized herself in this letter, she certainly would be left wondering whether, if she had been hired to this company, her manager would tell her she is doing fine right until the moment she gets fired for not meeting expectations.

      1. Gan Ainm*

        Maybe , but I don’t think you can take the hiring manager’s reflexive/automatic polite response of “oh it’s ok” to mean that they care incapable of giving feedback when they see a pattern in work and are prepared to address it. People frequently aren’t as clear issues they could be when surprised by a situation.

        1. STLBlues*

          I second this.

          Also, a manager doesn’t have the same responsibility for feedback to a candidate as they do to an employee. People get turned down in interviews all the time for all sorts of things – and I think we all understand that we aren’t entitled to a deep breakdown of what went wrong. (Always nice, of course, but not required.)

          AAM talks a lot about how interviews are a two-way street, with candidates needing to see if the fit works for them too. And that’s true and fair! But it feels like a lot of the comments on this thread are almost ignoring the “does this work for the employer” portion of the interview. She showed up unprepared, disheveled and distracted – and then could only complete half the interview. If there were other good candidates in the running, why shouldn’t they get preference for hiring?

  3. Panhandlerann*

    Yes, I’d really want to factor in the circumstances many parents were in last year (even late into the year). This woman may have had no other choice than to have the baby there with her for an interview yet plan to have child care once she had paychecks coming in. You’ll never know that until you can have a discussion with her about it.

    1. anonarama*

      My childcare was more disrupted from around Thanksgiving last year into the beginning of February than it had been at any point in the pandemic (shout out omicron). I wouldn’t necessarily assume that circumstances from that stretch of time are her normal. Like I theoretically have full time child care, but my kids daycare center was closed for basically all of January either because all the staff or all the children had covid

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes absolutely. And as an interviewer I’d really want to hear that from you! Short-term and long-term circumstances have been really disparate in the last two years and even for non-parents or people who already work for my company understanding how folks have been navigating that is such important context.

      2. Just Another Zebra*

        This was my experience, as well. My daughter had zero full weeks for preschool between early December and early February. If I had been interviewing at that time, I can almost guarantee she would have made at least one guest appearance.

      3. Apparently victorious*

        I also had some of the worst childcare disruptions imaginable. We had a nanny who was awesome and reliable, until January 2021 when Covid cases started to really spike in our area and she no longer could bare the risk (I’m a healthcare worker). We managed to find a daycare, who subsequently sent my children home 10 days in one month due to “Covid related symptoms” aka runny noses, diaper rashes etc. We didn’t find reliable childcare again for 10 months. We were lucky that I could shift my schedule to work from 6pm to 2:30am when my husband was off of work, but I would get less than 4 hours of sleep a night until my days off and the burn out was insane. Reading stories like OPs makes me feel so sad for the interviewee. Working mothers have had it hard the past two years.

    2. Christina*

      Or even had childcare now, but just had the center closed due to an outbreak. Parents of young kids have been in a state where they’ve had childcare or school for two weeks, then its suddenly “keep them home for ten days! Outbreak!” The pandemic has been hell for a lot of people, and working women with kids who are not yet independent (which can be anything from your talented self directed second grader still needs a little help but there is light at the end of the tunnel to you are standing over your senior in high school making sure he does math so he graduates) have had it tough and need a little more understanding!

      But even pre-pandemic – fifteen years ago or so my husband and I both worked for companies that had fairly liberal for the time work from home policies (i.e. it wasn’t a problem to work from home one or two days a week) – companies needed to set clear expectations that work from home meant that any child who needed care needed care other than the employee. My elementary school kids could come in at 3:00 and I’d be fine working from home for the last hour or two of the day since they could be self sufficient for two hours. My coworker needed to make sure she had care for the toddler unless the toddler was napping as six year olds don’t need constant supervision, but three year olds do. And it always surprised me how many people needed to be told that you can’t work from home while watching young kids on a regular basis. (Working from home when the kids are sick because otherwise you wouldn’t be working at all was always tolerated).

      1. I Don’t Know It All*

        I think that is part of the issue now.

        We have more than one type of working parent. The first and I think most common is the parent who has forced to have their child home because of COVID. I don’t know one parent like that who hasn’t struggled during daycare closures and been relieved when their childcare was open again.

        But, there is still the kind of parents out there who see a remote job listing and who believe that they can forgo childcare if they are working from home. I have a permanent remote job, and we hire a lot of people to work remotely. And, we always have to clarify that we expect childcare, and that you must have a dedicated area for working that is separate from where your children are located and/or playing. Because we still get applicants who even if they recognize they’d need childcare for their toddler, don’t seem to grasp that even after their school age kids are at home we need their attention focused on work not on their kids (we get the occasional interruption, but occasionally we have someone who seems to think their work day ends when their kids get home from school).

        Being clear and direct works best. Because many people still have misconceptions about what is and isn’t okay with remote work.

        1. Rachmoon*

          Anecdotally, I am currently pregnant and see QUITE A FEW women on the pregnancy boards talking about how they are looking for work from home positions so they don’t have to pay for daycare. (Although not many people at all who already have work from home positions saying do this, it works!). I have the impression it’s an extremely common misconception that employers won’t notice your lack of childcare.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Some jobs you can do without childcare but if people need to have a caregiver, that needs to be stated upfront. I was able to get by without childcare at a particular job (and this was allowed) but it was fully online and no calls. I couldn’t have the job I have now with a toddler and no babysitter. Once babies get mobile all bets are off.

          2. Lucy Honeychurch*

            I have noticed this, too. I have been working from home for over a decade now and when my kids were little I put them in daycare so I could, you know, work, and people were shocked.

            Also? It’s hardly fair to a kid. I would find myself distracted, short with them (the kids I mean), and annoyed how needy they were because I had actual deliverables with deadlines, and it’s just too hard to do it all. At daycare they got to play with buddies and have a grand time. Win/win.

            It’s actually one of my biggest pet peeves when parents think that working from home means they don’t have to get child care.

            1. Momma Bear*

              This – it is not a great situation if you can’t do things with your kid who is not at an age to understand being on a call. PT daycare is sometimes necessary, even if you can flex (say, you can use the center that closes earlier because you are nearby).

          3. Gray Lady*

            Freelance positions are possible (though not easy) to do with children at home. Actual employment positions generally are not.

          4. LMB*

            I think it’s not just a misconception of the job, but also a misconception of having a baby. I think it’s probably doable (but difficult) to wfh with a baby in many jobs from ages say 4 months to 8 months. They sleep a lot, they can’t walk, you can probably work out a schedule around them. Once they are beyond that it’s extremely difficult.

          5. Cascadia*

            YES! Also currently pregnant and the number of threads I see of parents intending to WFH full-time, while also carrying for their baby so that they don’t have to pay for daycare is astounding. There’s even full subreddits of people who do just this. It seems to be a combination of covid making WFH easier and making daycare feel like a more dangerous place + the fact that the US has no paid family leave and day care is outrageously expensive and hard to get into. BUT, I am surprised by the number of people who plan to do this.

          6. EmmaPoet*

            I’m in several WFH groups, and this is a big issue. A lot of these jobs require dedicated child care, especially jobs where you’re on the phone a lot.

    3. WomEngineer*

      I agree. It doesn’t sound like the interviewer addressed it head-on. If she was a strong candidate otherwise, I’d clearly lay out the responsibilities and attention required for the job and discuss if she’d be able to fulfill that.

      It’s not ideal to have a distracted candidate, but what else can she do? Babies can’t watch over themselves, and not everyone has the means (financially or logistically) to have someone else watch the baby. So if it’s just her, she can’t just ignore the baby. Actually, I feel like that would be even more distracting to carry on with the baby crying in the background (especially for the candidate).

    4. CarrieT*

      Plus, considering the way she needed to soothe the baby, the fact that the baby wasn’t on a predictable schedule, and the way she looked disheveled, it was very possible that the baby was under 6 months old. She may have been in the maternity leave zone, which is a whole different ballgame than having an older child!!

      1. LMB*

        Yeah I’m guessing this candidate was still on leave and this was a young baby that may not have started daycare yet anyway. The lack of prep for the interview was probably just standard infant rearing frazzle. Who knows it could easily have been during the four month sleep regression.

    5. Calliope*

      I mean, yeah, but as someone with a small child, I would NEVER not proactively address this if I had no choice but to have my kid on a business call of any sort, much less an interview. This is a situation where you need to say “I’m so sorry, our daycare closed because of Covid, I understand that’s not ideal and I’ll do my best to minimize the disruption.” Then you see how they respond. It’s not really the job of the interviewer to ask you to explain every circumstance in your life and assuming they have other qualified candidates, it’s not unreasonable to go with one who didn’t raise big questions about communications abilities and understandings of professional norms.

  4. The OTHER Other*

    Yes, it’s possible that she might be able to get child care once employed. On the other hand, in general I assume people are likely on their best behavior during the interview stage, allowing for some nervousness. If someone is abrupt and rude during the interview, they are likely to be worse when hired, not better. IMO if someone is repeatedly extremely distracted during interviews, AND declines to reschedule, they are not likely to be better when they have the job and conduct interviews remotely.

    I get that child care during the pandemic has been a nightmare, and in the moment you want to be understanding, but IMO you did the candidate no favors by saying “it’s OK” when she was repeatedly distracted by the baby during the interviews. It was not OK, you (understandably) didn’t move forward with her because of it.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think I would put declining to reschedule in the same bucket as nervousness. It’s rooted in not wanting to come off as difficult, not making your best gametime decisions, and perhaps some amount of desperation for things to go smoothly.

      But to your second point – yeah! The interviewers didn’t handle this well either, though they were arguably better positioned to do so. It wasn’t okay, and a firm “we’ll reschedule for x can you get childcare for that time” would have given the candidate a much better chance.

      1. Calliope*

        I don’t think it’s an interviewers job to give the candidate that much help though. They’re trying to suss out how people will be on the job. In this case, it sounds like the job involves conducting telehealth sessions with patients. They need someone who can communicate effectively, not someone who needs to be told exactly what circumstances they can have a productive conversation under. It is possible the interviewee was just frazzled and didn’t take them up on the rescheduling offer because of nerves and I imagine this one interview won’t define her life or career. But the potential employer doesn’t have a ton to go on. You don’t want to handhold candidates so much that you can’t assess them. I think offering to reschedule was more than reasonable.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I agree but OP specifically asks “Was there something that we could have done to give her a better chance?”, given their work this is probably a top of mind concern for them, and we aren’t in general operating under normal circumstances.

        2. Noblepower*

          I agree, the interviewers could have done her a favor by bringing up the childcare issue, but the candidate also seems to be lacking some self awareness that juggling a fussy baby does not make her come off as professional. I think we all get that child care is in a weird and unfortunate place right now, but surely candidates can recognize that you need to be able to focus on a job and taking care of a small child or infant without assistance is not compatible? In her shoes, I would absolutely want to make sure the interviewers knew if my childcare fell through or that it was something that I was in the process of arranging.

      2. Koala dreams*

        Yes, the interviewer made the applicant a disservice when being so soft about re-scheduling. A firm “You’re clearly distracted right now, let’s re-schedule” would be doing the applicant a favour.

        Realising when meetings go awry and you need to re-schedule is an important skill for a telehealth provider, but as an applicant you’re in a totally different mindset.

    2. KatieP*

      IMO, it’s one thing if you failed to display a behavior that costs nothing (being polite). Failing to drop a chunk of, possibly very precious, cash on child care while remote job-hunting is different. I’d go with Allison’s response, and mention that separate child care is required.

      I also agree that the interviewer didn’t do the interviewee any favors by saying something was OK. It was a missed opportunity to segue into asking about a better time to interview her, baby-free.

      1. KateM*

        I”d wonder if this reflect how things in general happen in this company – do these people who kept telling the applicant that it was OK while silently dismissing her from next round tell their reports when something is amiss?

    3. Rananculus*

      I agree with Otter.
      An interview is when one must arrange to put one’s best foot forward. That means taking whatever measures are necessary — having the child’s other parent or another relative on hand, asking a neighbor for help, finding a sitter through Next Door, asking a local church for help, whatever. If one can’t muster that sense of urgency for an interview, one isn’t trying hard enough.

      Being disheveled, underdressed and disorganized at a panel interview, pandemic or no pandemic, kids or no kids, would be an automatic disqualifier for us. We would have said “We seem to have caught you at a bad time, so we’ll conclude now and be in touch as we consider next steps.” The interviewers should not have said “it’s OK” when clearly it’s not OK.

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I think this is unfair without knowing more about the candidate. Not being able to afford a sitter, or find one because of the zaniness of the pandemic, isn’t a character trait.

      1. The OTHER Othe*

        Good point, but I think the larger issue is that, without significantly more info, is it reasonable to just assume this issue will disappear once she were hired? That’s partly why I said papering it over with “it’s OK” (and I get it, I try to be polite too!) didn’t help the candidate.

        1. LMB*

          I don’t think it’s reasonable to just assume anything. That’s why you provide all the information up front.

          1. Calliope*

            To me the issue is that you shouldn’t have to provide the information that a telehealth provider can’t simultaneously care for a baby and do telehealth at the same time. It should be obvious. I’m not saying the interviewee didn’t find herself in a bad situation but the way to address that is to say “I’m so sorry, my childcare fell through but I would not do this on the job.” Not to ignore it and act like it’s not an issue.

            1. anonymous73*

              I like to agree that it’s obvious, but that’s assuming common sense, and that’s a rarity these days. I’ve encountered co-workers with babies and very young children who thought they would be able to work at home without childcare (before they were told that wasn’t an option), and this was before the pandemic made things more difficult.

        2. Amaranth*

          OP asks if they could have done anything more to help from their end, so from that approach, I’d say they could have communicated more clearly if they wanted a child-free interview rather than Misty perhaps thinking there might not really be a second chance. Also, I’d recommend just asking about childcare and making the requirement clear. From the letter, they thought Misty was well qualified but assumed childcare would be an issue.. From the letter, it sounds like that was the deal breaker, not the frazzled interview.

          1. tessa*

            Isn’t child-free interview the norm, though? I mean, why say that to every applicant? For the job itself, sure, but the interview? Would be like telling every applicant to dress appropriately for the interview.

  5. generic_username*

    I’m sure since she was interviewing for a position for someone who would be working with new parents, she figured that you all would be more accommodating of children/babies than a normal company (and she wasn’t wrong, you all gave a lot of grace in this situation!). You definitely should have addressed this directly, but I also can see how the baby crying distracted you from seeing her pros as a candidate – although it’s really unfortunate.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yes. I won’t even go into what would happen if companies paid for interviews.

        Candidates can ask to reschedule. If rescheduling is not possible, then it can be a conversation. If the hiring manager says, “We can reschedule if you need to,” then you can absolutely take them up on it.

        1. cubone*

          There ARE companies that pay for interviews. Few and far between, but they do exist. I’m sure they have come up with methods to circumvent the type of thing you’re imagining, but I think it’s kind of besides the point. They have clearly decided it’s a greater risk that they’ll lose out on good candidates who can’t afford to coordinate time off/childcare to interview, than the risk that a candidate here or there will take the interview in bad faith just for the money.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          I got paid for an interview recently. Like- a really lengthy set of interviews with projects involved. It was a lot. But I made a few thousand even though I didn’t get hired.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      Final candidates who have to do some all or multi-day on site visits with tests and practical application of skills? Sure – that is worth the investment on both sides.

      A 15 minute phone screen and a couple 30 minute video calls as is currently the norm in my field? Not practical. Every candidate would require a 1099 at the end of the year for taxes so they would have to fill out a W9 before the interview, then AP would have to set up a new vendor for each candidate, and be paid by paper check. Plus as a candidate I would then get multiple 1099’s at the end of the year I would have to enter on my taxes as income depending on how many interviews I went on. Plus even if those were paid, they aren’t going to be paying enough to cover child care costs.

    2. Colette*

      I feel like that would backfire. Companies would end up interviewing people who had no intention of taking the job (because they wanted the money from the interview), and so would likely become more dependant on hiring contacts of people they already employ.

      1. cubone*

        It’s really insightful how many people are responding adversely to this idea based solely on the risk that a company (who already interview plenty of people who don’t intend to take the job right now) might lose money, more so than the very real fact that job candidates lose money in the interview process by having to take time off, pay for childcare, commute to the interview, spend their vacation/sick days, etc.

        1. Colette*

          The issue isn’t that the company might lose money, it’s that they will react to having their time wasted by taking away opportunities from people who are already disadvantaged. If you want nepotism, this is a great way to get it.

          It does cost money to interview, for the candidates and for the company. Paying the candidates will reduce the risk on the candidate side, but it may also reduce opportunities for candidates.

        2. tessa*

          When I interview, I know I will spending my own funds on those things, minus, perhaps, travel costs.

          What’s wrong with that, especially since no one is forcing me to pursue an interview opportunity?

  6. nineleaf*

    It’s very possible that she *had* child care lined up (a co-parent or paid provider) and it fell through at the last minute. Unfortunate things happen all of the time, typically at the most inconvenient time.

    If you’re saying that despite her distraction, she *still* gave a great interview, then she’s probably g good candidate for the role. It seems like you could…try bringing this up in a follow-up conversation? You might get the actual answer about her child care situation instead of speculating about it?

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      True, but that is also something the candidate should have proactively brought up either at the start of the interview or after the baby woke up.
      “Sorry about this but my childcare fell through at the last minute. The baby is sleeping now but we may get interrupted before we are done.”
      “So sorry about this – I was hoping she’d sleep all the way through the interview. My regular babysitter was supposed to come over but is stuck in traffic/called in sick/whatever.”

      By the end of that interview, OP had 3 interactions with Misty all of which were interrupted by the baby and never once did Misty address it other than an apology about the interruption. Now I think OP and her team should have been a bit more up front that it wasn’t actually ok and taken that opening to address it but I understand the impulse to appease to go the “oh its ok” route when dealing with crying babies.

      1. oranges*

        Yeah, THREE interactions over multiple days, all very interrupted by a baby, is too many. I hope that lady was able to figure something out to interview where that she could focus and shine, but I don’t fault LW’s company for moving on.

      2. Shan*

        Yes, I agree with this – I’m seeing a lot of comments saying OP should have asked, but I guess I lean towards thinking it’s on the interviewee herself to recognise that this is something she should be proactively addressing as part of presenting herself as a great candidate.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          . . . especially for a job of this type. If she doesn’t address this will she be proactive about interacting with clients?

          I work in an academic library so research interviews are a thing. If I’m too disorganized or don’t have the confidence to ask questions or suggest workarounds, I can’t do my job. This would have been a problem in an interview with my department not because of the baby specifically but because the applicant didn’t ask about or offer any other options. I once had a researcher who had called in cancel and call back later because his neighbors’ renovation contractor showed up and started running some loud machine and it was too distracting/he couldn’t hear me well enough. Fine; no problem.

        2. mf*

          I agree with this.

          It’s exactly the same as if the interview were interrupted by something like a wifi outage. The onus is on the interviewee to say, “I’m so sorry. My internet is much less reliable than usual today. Is it OK if I call you back on my phone? I can also reschedule if needed.”

      3. Susie Q*

        Agreed. I had to keep my baby home with me for a month when I went back to work because despite being on the waitlist when i was 3 months pregnant, too many people were quitting and there weren’t enough workers to cover the number of infants. But I explained this to everyone. I was upfront and very clear. I was also prepared by dressing up and doing my work and being prepared to occupy the baby so I could work.

        OP did none of those things.

  7. Wildcat*

    The problem is the clients need someone who’s focused on their case and someone juggling a baby isn’t it. I think it would have been good to nail down some questions on her child care situation, but an interview really is something you should have childcare for, particularly as they offered to reschedule. Neighbor, friend, anyone.

    I’m a mom, so I’m familiar with the challenges of having a newborn and COVID childcare challenges, but ultimately you just can’t work with those circumstances in a client-facing role.

    The thing about hiring is you have to make decisions on the limited information you have and so the interviewee really should be presenting their very best. If she’d raised some information herself about circumstances and that this didn’t represent her planned work environment that might have helped. But she was given a lifeline in the opportunity to reschedule and didn’t take it.

  8. CatCat*

    This isn’t for OP to solve, but my heart goes out to the candidate and the millions of women pushed out of the paying workforce as unpaid labor is disproportionately heaped upon them.

    I hope she gets the offer if she’s otherwise the best candidate. And OP, please give time for her to get childcare in place if it’s in your power to do so.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I was just watching a webinar that talked about declining labor force participation and how many women haven’t been able to return to work, after being disproportionately forced to leave. It’s so frustrating.

    2. OyHiOh*

      I just heard at a city council meeting last night, a statistic about the number of unfilled jobs in our community, and the number of people who are officially unemployed. They’re pretty close to the same number.

      First thought: Yes, but how many people are not working, and not filing for unemployement every week? Followed quickly by how many of those jobs are low wage, no guaranteed hours service sector jobs? and how many of the people officially or unofficially unemployed women?

      Sadly, the woman giving the presentation was remarkably unprepared and did not have the most relevant statistics available, and seemed annoyed that 2 city council people might possibly want to know.

      1. The OTHER Othe*

        “how many people are not working, and not filing for unemployement every week?”

        This is the major flaw in our unemployment numbers. People who stop looking for work are no longer counted, and we don’t have any accurate numbers for them. I don’t know a good solution for how to count them but at times it’s likely that the true number of unemployed is many millions larger than the official figure. And this is not a partisan issue, the figures have been calculated the same way for many years.

        Not to hijack the thread, but IMO there might be an interesting correlation with the vast but seldom talked about underground economy. People working under the table, and in the many “vice” industries don’t show up in the figures either, and what isn’t quantified may as well not exist.

        1. Former Gifted Kid*

          People who are no longer looking for work are definitely counted and people who work under the table are also counted. I think you might be falling for the misconception that the unemployment rate comes from people filing for unemployment. It absolutely does not.

          The unemployment rate is one of the many statistics that comes out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey. People count as “employed,” if they report in the survey that they were paid or made a profit during the survey period. It doesn’t matter if they are “officially” employed or not.

          They also keep detailed statistics about people who are not in the labor force, how long they’ve been out of the labor force, and why they aren’t in the labor force. You can find all of that data on the BLS’s website. I’ll link to it in a separate comment.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          IIRC, the usual numbers cited for “official” unemployment are the U3 numbers – the people collecting unemployment.

          The actual people out of work, including those who have dropped off of the unemployment radar, is the U6 number.

          Here is the BLS site that gives those various numbers:

          1. Former Gifted Kid*

            The U3 does not come from people collecting unemployment. U1-6 all come from the BLS Current Population Survey.

        3. Koala dreams*

          Yes, this creates the weird dynamic that when the economy makes a turn for the better, unemployment rates often go up at first as many people now start looking for a job while before they weren’t.

    3. MeepMeep02*

      Yup. This could have been me, except that I pretty much left the workforce when my baby was that age, because my partner expected that all the baby-related disruptions were my job, and daycare and nannies were unreliable enough that I could not work. My career took a hit from that and never recovered.

  9. Dark Macadamia*

    At any point did you address this with her directly? When you rescheduled you say you assumed she would have someone else watching the baby at that point, but did you actually say “will someone be there to take the baby by then?” or “let’s give you a chance to find a babysitter” or whatever?

    Since the job sounds like it’s specifically “Zoom with babies” it makes sense that she might think this is acceptable even when her baby gets really distracting, so it would’ve been kind after the first incident to clarify that while of course you understand childcare is difficult right now you would expect her to be fully focused on clients during the job and need to see what that would look like reflected in the interview. It kind of feels like you just kept saying “it’s fine, don’t worry about it” while quietly rejecting her for not reading between the lines – which, yeah, maybe she should’ve known, but you did keep letting her move forward in the process anyway.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah — I’m so confused. It seems like the most natural next step here is to ask her about childcare plans or get a snese of wht sort of support she would need?

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Agree 100%.

      There would have been nothing wrong with bringing it up during the interview as in: “We’d expect your full attention on the job. Can you tell us what childcare provisions you’d be able to arrange?” Then go from whatever her response is.

    3. CoveredinBees*

      I had the same reaction. I am guessing that the interviewer meant “it’s fine” in the sense of “we won’t penalize you for what has already happened”. However, it is vague and could easily come off as “It’s ok to continue as things are currently.”

    4. Chris*

      I am also confused why the candidate didn’t speak up. I don’t think they need to apologize for the situation, but it seems a little weird to not address at all to explain how they will handle this moving forward. In WFH meetings and interviews, it has become more normal for people to have interruptions (kids and pets), but most people address it directly.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, this is something that obviously went wrong, and if I am hiring someone who will be giving advice to people on their own, I would expect an acknowledgement of that.

        OP is not hiring for a starter / teen job where never having had a job / interview is a reasonable thing to accommodate.

    5. GrooveBat*

      I don’t think the job is “Zoom with babies.” At least not the way it’s described. It’s providing telehealth services to families who have recently had babies. That’s not the same thing at all. While people who are also new parents might be willing to cut the provider a little more slack, at the end of the day they still have needs that have to be met during those calls, and if the provider isn’t focused on that conversation (which I would assume is time limited) then the provider has failed that client.

  10. Smithy*

    As a non-child haver – one thing that’s I have noticed a lot during the pandemic is that short term child care (i.e. a baby sitter for an afternoon/evening) is particularly difficult.

    With that in mind, I wonder if it might have been a possibility to give her the offer a much later interview time when the infant would have a greater chance of being asleep – perhaps 8pm? I know that might not have been ideal for others on the interviewing panel, and obviously the child might have still woken up. But perhaps thinking a bit further outside the bounds of traditional working hours might have been helpful, either for another parent or friend working traditional hours to help. And while 8pm might be more than what most need, I do think offering candidates time slots like 6 or 7pm can expand the options they have for family and friends to help out as well as those who struggle to take time off of traditional 9-5’s.

    1. quill*

      Yeah, that would probably be a good solution – much more likely after 5 that the kid’s other parent, if they have one, would be home and free. Though it could easily run into competing access needs for the interview panel.

      My question is: how many days in advance is the interview scheduled for? It’s much easier to get 90 minutes of availability from anyone to look after the kid five days in advance, vs. three, vs “can we interview tomorrow?” That might be another thing for OP to consider when scheduling.

      1. quill*

        It could easily explain the phone screening problems, because god knows nobody is at their best if they’re interrupted from dealing with a cranky baby by an unexpected potential job.

        1. CoveredinBees*

          Yes. In general, you have to lower expectations when springing a phone screen on someone. Even if they weren’t “busy” it can be tough to suddenly move into interview mode especially if you’ve applied to a bunch of jobs and don’t remember the specifics of that one off the top of your head. I once did an unscheduled phone screen while nursing because the person who called was not clear that it was basically a short interview and not “clarifying a few things”. Luckily, my baby stayed occupied the whole time and usually fell asleep after, but it certainly wasn’t a given and I was not in interview mode in the least.

          1. quill*

            My worst phone interviews always started by not telling me what position they were calling about, just assuming that if they said “I’m Adam from Teapots Inc.” I’ll instantly recall the whole job listing. It’s rare, or it was when I was doing contract work, for people to both inform you of the job title AND the company.

    2. Rananculus*

      I think that if one wants to be in the workforce, one should be prepared to cope with workplace norms, including standard office hours.

      If she were interviewing for a graveyard shift nursing job, or an overnight stocking job at an Amazon warehouse, perhaps interviewing during that shift’s hours would make sense.

      But if she can’t pull it together with a week’s notice to interview for a standard day job sometime between 8-5, she may not be a great fit for the job. Asking prospective employers/managers/colleagues to jump through hoops — when other qualified candidates DO make the interview process work — isn’t attractive in a candidate.

  11. ElleKay*

    I’m concerned that there doesn’t seem to have been a discussion of what you’re seeing/your concerns/why this is an issue. I agree that this *was* distracting but, unless you actually mention it & why it’s an issue you can’t really make any assessment for the future.
    Particularly given that Misty had the best responses I’m shocked that you didn’t bring up your concerns, clarify that she’d need childcare during the job and/or, at the very least, explicitly ask her to reschedule when she would have childcare.
    (I’m also surprised that Misty didn’t mention this in some way- “My child is in the next room but I’ll have reliable childcare once I have a set work schedule”, “My childcare today fell through, I apologize for any disruptions” OR “since this role is about new parents I think it would be a great ice-breaker for my child to be here too!” <- to which you could say "No.")

  12. Antilles*

    I wouldn’t hold the phone screening against her at all, because in my experience, those are usually very short-notice things – either completely out of the blue cold-calls (weirdly common) or at most a day of notice. That’s not really feasible to arrange child care on that kind of turnaround.
    But the fact that the interview was scheduled a week in advance, she didn’t have child care, and showed up totally unprepared? Then you gave her the option to re-schedule for the following week and she declined? That would make me a lot more worried about whether this is going to be a consistent issue.

    1. Viki*

      That’s where I come down on this. The distractions of the baby themselves? Annoying, frustrating but pandemic understanding.

      The prescheduled interview, not remembering, refusing the initial offer to reschedule? That’s harder to understand. Yes, the interviewer could have said “This isn’t working, let’s try next week.” but I tend to go with take people at their word. She was asked if she wanted to reschedule, she said no–and this is the result of the interview.

      1. Rolly*

        Yes – separate the interview process (some distraction acceptable) from the job itself: on the job the level of focus has to be higher, including arranging child care. The OP should be explicit about both sides of this.

    2. MsM*

      Yeah, set aside the baby for the moment: she didn’t even seem to remember that there *was* an interview, or have her call-in information straight. In any other circumstances, I think that’d be considered enough of a red flag on its own to move forward with a more organized candidate.

    3. Dona Florinda*

      I agree. Misty had three separate opportunities to assure them childcare wouldn’t be a problem under different circunstances, yet every single one of these interactions were interrupted by her baby and she failed to address it.
      Adding the disheveled look and the mix up with the interview link, I understand OP not wanting to move further with her if they had other good candidates.

    4. Valerie*

      I haven’t seen anybody mention this, but a lot of jobs have moved to a prescreening sort of model where the first “interview” isn’t live with a real person, but some other kind of evaluation or recording answers to set questions. I’m wondering if the candidate in this instance assumed for some reason that this was one of those instances, or mixed this interview up with another job’s prescreen and was too embarrassed to say so.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, I do think *some* amount of leeway for childcare distractions should ideally be more normal than it used to be, but this sounds like it was a lot and pretty pervasive and reasonable to decide is an issue. Though if you really liked her otherwise I think it may have been worth discussing what it could look like if she had child-care during the work day. But if you had other good candidates I think it wasn’t terribly unreasonable not to move forward with her.

  13. The Lexus Lawyer*

    As someone with a toddler who was very recently a baby, you’re being much more understanding than the average employer.

    I do think some of this falls on the applicant to make sure her baby isn’t a distraction during an interview or during work.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      If you have a Lexus and are a lawyer you might have more resources than a majority of working mothers, though. Maybe she’s going to need the income from a job before she can obtain paid childcare.

      1. Calliope*

        It’s probably just a play on the Lincoln Lawyer rather than actual biographical details.

      2. IEanon*

        It’s a play on the Lincoln Lawyer, the novels turned movie.

        I don’t see why so many people are assuming the interviewee doesn’t already have a job. The fact that she went into the interview thinking it was another meeting makes me think that she must have had a current role that she was working without childcare. That’s understandable during the pandemic, but would be another data point for OP, if it wasn’t addressed by the applicant.

      3. Noblepower*

        I don’t think that’s fair. Whether I own a Lexus (definitely don’t) or take the bus to work due to my current financial situation, I should have the self-awareness that I want to present myself in the best light in an interview, and that includes stating that I am dealing with a situation that is, for instance, unexpected or suboptimal, such as child care that has fallen through at the last minute. Just like I would wear clean clothes to an interview, even if those clothes aren’t bespoke, and if I had a last-minute wardrobe issue, I’d mention it rather than have them assume that I think it’s acceptable to wear stained or torn clothing to work.

    2. hola my peeps*

      At the risk of seeming cold and heartless, it all falls on the applicant. Even during times of COVID, we need to make a professional and good impression if we are being interviewed. No one thinks that’s going to happen with a baby in your lap.

    3. Biscotti*

      I was thinking this too. Currently being in interview mode with a 2 year old at home with no child care at the moment, Every zoom interview I do I am risking putting my child in a sugar coma or tanking my interview. I have so much sympathy for Misty, but I wouldn’t have hired her and I would have told her it was OK when it wasn’t.

    1. Public Sector Manager*

      This article breaks my heart. The OP says that the candidate was strong when the baby was down, but when the baby woke up, everything went downhill. The OP doesn’t know about any circumstances the candidate was facing–is the candidate a single parent? Do they have family close by? Neighbors they can rely on? What resources do they have? Are they on SNAP? Medicaid?

      The candidate probably needed that job more than most. Just heartbreaking.

      1. This is a name, I guess*

        “The candidate probably needed that job more than most. Just heartbreaking.”

        We don’t know that.

        1. Rananculus*

          And the business or agency doesn’t exist to bail people out. They were interviewing to fill their need, not to ameliorate a candidate’s personal issues.

          Also I don’t think it’s fair to assume that someone who is disheveled, disorganized and the parent of a young child is necessarily poor or on public assistance. That happens at all socioeconomic levels.

        2. Wildcat*

          And the reality is, the interviewer’s duty is to the families who need the services, not someone being interviewed.

      2. Coconutty*

        That’s a big leap, we have no idea if any of that is true — might just be a harried parent who is doing fine financially and looking for a different job. Even if it is, it’s not the interviewer’s responsibility (or need) to know every detail of an interviewee’s circumstances. That’s no way to hire. The simple truth here is that what they saw during the interview was someone who seemed qualified and capable, but wasn’t in a situation where they would have been able to do the job to the best of the clients’ needs.

      3. Wot, no sugar?*

        If that were the case, the candidate certainly had an odd way of showing that she reaaly wanted/needed the job. Why should childcare issues impede one’s choice of wardrobe for an interview? At my most desperate. I couldve sprung for a decent outfit at Goodwill.

  14. Veryanon*

    I’ve got mixed feelings about this letter. On the one hand, yes, candidates should do their best to make sure they are in a quiet and distraction-free area during an interview. On the other hand, maybe this candidate just didn’t have any childcare options, and even rescheduling the interview wouldn’t have made a difference. It’s hard to say.

    I think we, as a society, need to re-examine the whole model of work (including interviewing) as being completely separate from one’s personal life. Early in my career, I used to do a lot of hiring, and I’d often have mothers show up for interviews with their minor children in tow, because they didn’t have anyone to watch them. On one memorable occasion, a lady had come in for an interview on a very hot summer day, and the security guard for our office brought it to my attention that she had left her two little boys in her car in the parking lot (presumably because she didn’t have anyone to watch them). Not the best decision, obviously, but I understand why she did it. We brought the boys into the office, got them something cold to drink, and the receptionist hung out with them in the lobby while the mom was interviewing. I don’t remember if we hired the mom or not, but I always felt so badly for her that she thought she had to pretend she didn’t have kids in order to get the job.

    Remote interviewing has solved some of these problems, but you still hear about a lot of cases like the one in this letter. Maybe extend the candidate some grace, and just have the conversation with them about what their plans are for child care should they receive the job.

    1. Don*

      Remote interviewing has also made it worse, at least based on my observations, by making companies much more willing to ask applicants to commit to time before the hiring org has done as much/any initial weeding out. Computer based testing is the worst offender, since it doesn’t ask the company to even invest their own labor time, but there’s still an asymmetry of investment when the company can have someone scheduled to do blocks of interviews in their workday but each individual candidate has to accommodate the one-off encounter in their own day… potentially also requiring paying for child care.

    2. SoloKid*

      I went with my single mom to work in the late 80’s (jobs like delivery and housecleaning), and I think the difference is whether or not childcare will get in the way of the job. Like I was old enough to sit at a clients table and do homework while mom cleaned, or old enough to hold the food my mom delivered. I’ve had my share of being the kid waiting at reception for mom to do be done with something.

      Being distracted by an infant while others depend on you for a telehealth call doesn’t seem doable. It’s one thing for employers to have grace, but asking clients (who in this specific case will also be frazzled parents) is another.

  15. My own boss*

    I relate to the interviewee so much. I’m currently at home with an infant. We don’t have consistent childcare because the amount of work I’m doing doesn’t justify the cost, but I can’t bring in more work without child care. As much as I try to schedule meetings around when I have someone to take care of the baby, it’s still 50/50 that I’ll get interrupted. My kid is pretty good at client meetings, but she can still totally destroy a conversation.

    1. Rananculus*

      I think in your shoes I’d look at the cost of child care as in investment in your future earning capacity. Even if you have to charge it to a credit card or otherwise borrow to finance it.

      1. Claire*

        Credit card interest rates are really high and lots of people don’t have the sort of income growth potential to make up for 12% APR on a growing balance every month. Please do not put childcare on a credit card without doing some serious and clear-eyed financial planning ahead of time.

    2. GrooveBat*

      I wonder whether it’s ever possible to think of child care as a loss leader? Currently, the income doesn’t justify the cost, but investing a bit now to build your client base and get a bigger return later might change the equation.

      Of course, I also realize that that just may not be financially feasible for a lot of families, but I have seen so many women compromise their professional development in the short term (day care eats up all or most of the extra income so they put their careers on hold and never get caught up).

    3. Susie Q*

      Yes but you would be smart enough to explain. The interviewee said absolutely nothing and made no apologies. I worked from home with my now toddler for a year and just spent over a month working with my baby until a spot opened up for him at daycare. I would always apologize initially and caveat the reason why I would have distractions. I still managed to get dressed appropriately and be prepared for meetings even I had to work after my kids went to bed. The interviewee did not do any of these things.

  16. Don*

    Well let’s get something on the table and clear here – it was entirely reasonable for Misty, given the feedback she was getting from the LW, to be concerned that accepting this offer to reschedule would result in her being crossed off from consideration. I doubt I’m remotely unusual in having gotten the cultural message that once we’ve started the interview that it’s incumbent on me to Make It Work. It’s also possible that she didn’t accept an offer to reschedule because she had no reason to believe things would be any better in the future if what had been previously offered were times when she didn’t have coverage.

    Cubone comments about this being why interviews should be paid and Alison stops short of outright saying this but I will: folks doing hiring would do well to remember that they’re asking candidates for their unpaid time. That’s a very different thing when someone is a final candidate versus an early screening where they assume they’re one of a large pool. Child care isn’t free even if it’s done for you as a favor by a family member or even a spouse. That’s time spent making arrangements and altering schedules and lost opportunity to be doing other things, and employers ought to be mindful of that.

    Having now been in an active search for a half year I’m growing pretty disgruntled about how blasé so many companies are about using my time. Amazon was the worst, asking me to invest 90 minutes of my life (and encouraging a WEEK of preperation) into a testing scheme before they’d put thirty minutes of actual human interaction into the relationship. But plenty of others seem to think nothing of scheduling a half hour of my life before bothering to actually look at my resume.

    Hiring folks should be mindful of what they’re putting out there. Maybe Misty goofed significantly. Maybe she had no better options. Maybe she was reading between the lines and figured this was as much graceful accommodation she was gonna get from LW’s organization and figured she may as well just let the chips fall where they may.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      Yeah, it’s really true. Maybe Misty thought “this is another employer who’s wasting my time and probably going to ghost me if I don’t get the job, why should I bother making an effort.”

      I do feel like Misty should have said “I want to acknowledge that I have my baby with me, but I’ll have child care once I start work.” Something quite simple like that could have gone a long way.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Misty was offered a reschedule and didn’t take it, so she didn’t even avail herself of the grace that the OP would have given her, and there are few faster ways to get passed over than to not make an effort in the first place.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Completely agree with you. When you have a baby, there really is NO good time when you can say for certain that it will be convenient to do anything. And the candidate was likely quite right that rescheduling would have knocked her off the interview list.

      One starts to realize why parents in the 1800s gave their young children laudanum to sedate them while they worked. (And also why infant versions of cold medications are no longer available.)

    4. Rananculus*

      “folks doing hiring would do well to remember that they’re asking candidates for their unpaid time.”

      Tbh if someone presented this notion to me, as the hiring manager, I’d likely respond “in that case I’ll retract my request for your unpaid time. Good day.”

      No one is entitled to a job, and it is customary to expect to invest one’s own resources — time, wardrobe expense, research effort, technology, networking, etc. — into jobseeking.

      1. Firm Believer*

        Thank you. I can’t even believe I’m seeing this perspective. If you get the job, then you get paid. An interview is not a job. I wish all the best to anyone thinking an employer will pay them for an interview. That should bode well.

        1. cubone*

          Lol, it’s not a perspective – it’s a reality. Companies are doing this and it’s going well for them.

          Your lack of creative imagination isn’t justification for maintaining systemic issues in the status quo.

      2. Don*

        I wouldn’t be real heartbroken to lose out on a chance to work for someone who takes offense at being respectful of others’ time, so that works out well.

        1. Firm Believer*

          Being respectful of other people’s time is not the same as paying them for a conversation. I can tell you don’t work in business development. If I got paid for every dead end conversation I had or proposal I prepared I wouldn’t even need to land anything. It’s an investment in yourself.

  17. Snaffanie*

    I work from home and I have Jr high aged children that KNOW not to interrupt me during calls unless it’s a true emergency, and still, they sneak by my defenses from time to time. Sometimes it is pressing, sometimes not. My cats and dog, in spite of being locked out of my working space, sometimes barge their way in and create havoc. One actually jumped up on my chair and proceeded to eat my hair during a team meeting With. My. Boss. And I was presenting . I try my best to control all of this, and really control none of it. I don’t think it’s fair to expect a home interview to have the controls of an in-person interview. They’ll always be more messy and prone to the unexpected. I know people should be polished, but some days that polish lacks a little luster. And as a new parent, I truly remember getting confused and flustered with appointments some days. It happens. I wish the interviewing process would allow us to extend a little more grace to candidates. If I see the pearl beneath the sand, then I’m willing to keep the conversation going.

    1. KateM*

      My kids are generally good at keeping away, but there was this one lesson where I had 1-1 with a 7yo and his mother came to help with computer and then at some point his little brother climbed on mother’s lap… and THEN when my own toddler came and saw me chatting with two other kids, one of them her own age, just… didn’t believe it counts as working, I guess? “Mom says she is working and not to disturb her and actually sneaks to talk to other children – not fair!”.

    2. Veryanon*

      Ha, my kids are young adults (college students) and they know better, but still interrupt me throughout the day even when I have explained for the 1,000th time why Mom working at home doesn’t mean that Mom is available to make snacks, etc.

      1. Night Shift for the win!*

        I don’t think your college aged kids actually do know better? I know my college aged child knew enough to not bother me when they were home and I was working night shift/sleeping during the day.

  18. Katie*

    So my heart wants to give the her some grace with the crying baby. I just don’t know if I would have.
    I know of way to many people who are caring for a young baby and working. So the question is, are you willing to have someone who may be distracted often?

    I say this hypocritically while my 3 kids are home for spring break. I would love them to have child care though and am looking. Two are disabled though, so it makes it much harder.

  19. Lucia Pacciola*

    In the Before Times, it would probably have been an instant fail to show up to an interview with baby in tow. I’m not sure how I feel about the prospect of “I’m doing this from my living room so anything goes” becoming the new normal for professionalism.

    1. mf*

      I think we need to find a middle ground. Employees/interviewees need to make an effort to present themselves with professionalism and be proactive about addressing unavoidable distractions. Employers/interviewers need to offer a little grace to people for whom the pandemic has been difficult (i.e. people with small kids, who are caretakers for the sick/elderly, etc.) and be understanding that some amount of distractions is perfectly normal.

  20. CupcakeCounter*

    Honestly I’m not sure I would have given Misty another chance either. I feel for her but she had innumerable chances to address the baby care situation head on and just didn’t. Yes, OP could have asked or been a bit more clear in their wording when talking about rescheduling but from what I can see never once did Misty say “I’m having childcare issues so will have the baby with me, she usually naps at X time so can we schedule for then?” or “I don’t have childcare at the moment due to baby’s age/daycare waitlist/closures/cost prohibitive until working but if offered the job I have X, Y, and Z in place so I can focus on the job” or even “Child care isn’t an option so I will have to work around the baby until my partner gets home so my work hours would need to be flexible”.

    3 interactions and all 3 interrupted by the baby (not the baby’s fault obviously) with essentially no acknowledgement from Misty about the impact it had on the interviews or how it would impact the job. That’s the real kicker for me – not acknowledging the elephant in the room. OP should have said something but I really think the onus here was on Misty to address it once it became an issue in the video interview.

    1. Susie Q*

      Agree with this 10000000% as a mom with a baby and toddler. I think Misty making these statements would have worked immensely well in her favor.

  21. Justin*

    This is hard. I was working from home with a baby for 18 months, but there are two of us, and had we been interviewing it really would have taken a lot of juggling. My wife did get a new job (mostly out of the home) but after he was firmly ensconced in daycare (which did close for omicron but only for a week).

    That said, the issue for me is more not remembering things and so forth. That is something to which I’m sympathetic (as a person with ADHD especially), but those sorts of things can be more of an issue.

    Frankly, it just seems tough all around, thougb you probably could have been more direct with her and asked questions about it rather than saying it was okay when it wasn’t (which is not necessarily unreasonable).

    1. Dust Bunny*

      But she had a week to figure out how to remind herself. And, again–that’s a hiccup that shouldn’t be a dealbreaker itself but will not go away once she’s on the job, so she needs to demonstrate that she has some kind of coping mechanism.

  22. WellRed*

    Do we know for sure that she DOESNT currently have a paying job? I’ve read it twice and see no indication either way.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      No, but to give the best advice we’re interpreting the circumstances in the way that is as generous as possible to the interviewee, because the LW is asking about how to give people in this situation their best chance. The people who will be most vulnerable in this situation and who the answer to that question will benefit the most are going to be without childcare resources, be that money or family or whatever the case may be.

      1. WellRed*

        It matters because Alison’s first sentence seems to assume that’s part of the issue. Ultimately, Misty was unprepared and distracted and I wish both sides would have been more straightforward.

    2. MsM*

      Her excuse for not being interview-ready was that she thought it was a different meeting link. That suggests work meeting to me.

      1. FridayFriyay*

        Or a telehealth therapy or doctor’s appointment, her monthly book club meeting, or the link for a midday virtual SAHP group with other parents of babies, an online questionnaire for another job she is applying to or….

        Meetings aren’t exclusive to the workplace.

  23. Pidgeot*

    This poor woman – she must have been having such a rough time trying to interview with her child. My heart goes out to her, most of all.

  24. Avril Ludgateau*

    I’m not the only one noticing the bitter coincidence, am I?

    Last year we were looking to hire someone who can conduct telehealth meetings with families who just had a baby as a part of a federal program.

    But we are annoyed by somebody who freshly had a baby, having a baby, during a virtual meeting.

    I get that distractions – any distractions – during an important meeting, like an interview, are annoying and disruptive, but talk about being misaligned with your own mission, eh?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      The problem is that Misty may not be able to perform this mission if she’s too distracted. Their mission is to help parents. If Misty can’t help those parents, how is she accomplishing their mission?

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Not at all. The focus in the job needs to be on the families, and Misty didn’t demonstrate that she could do that.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I mean, if I were your kids’ English teacher and my “qualifications” were that I speak English, would you be satisfied, or would you want someone who had an actual English degree and teaching qualifications?

      2. Attractive Nuisance*

        I had a therapist once who constantly told me how much she related to my problems. It sucked so much. I don’t care if your problems are the same as my problems! I’m not here to talk about you!

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Not at all, actually. The mission is to provide support, which requires a lot of attention to the meeting. Misty’s not interviewing to be a client. It’s a very, very different role.

    4. GrooveBat*

      I don’t see a lot of *annoyance* in either the original letter or in the responses. It appears the interviewer bent over backward to accommodate Misty, and folks here are expressing a lot of sympathy for her and her situation. No one, in this environment, should get bent out of shape because a baby cries during an online meeting or a pet jumps up on the desk or whatever. But I think it’s fair to acknowledge that the baby was a distraction, and I also think it’s fair to evaluate a candidate based on how she handles disruptions during an online meeting.

      And, as others have pointed out, telehealth appointments are fraught with all kinds of stresses and emotions, There is a lot to pack in within a very limited amount of time. It’s not fair to shortchange the people who participate in these programs; they have a right to a provider who is focused on them and their families’ needs in that moment.

    5. londonedit*

      There’s no reason why the OP’s company can’t be/wouldn’t be supportive of the parents they have working for them, but I don’t think ‘you can’t have distractions in the background while you’re doing your job interviewing new parents for a health programme’ is too much of an expectation. I can imagine the parents in these telehealth interviews are already feeling stressed and worried, or at least suffering from a lack of sleep and general befuddlement, and what they need is support and to feel like the person they’re speaking to is fully engaged with their case. They don’t want to be speaking to someone who keeps being distracted and focusing on something else. That wouldn’t give me any confidence that my needs would be listened to and met.

      1. GrooveBat*

        Well, plus, I’d probably end up feeling really discouraged about my own ability to balance work and new parenthood.

    6. Cat Tree*

      No. I had a baby recently and during the newborn stage I had several visits from health care providers. All of those were extremely valuable to me. None of those were interrupted by the provider’s outside life. I would be rightfully upset if I had an hour appointment and lost 10 minutes of that for the provider to care for their own child, especially since that would likely mean that we didn’t get through everything I needed from the appointment. I would absolutely be sympathetic to an emergency and would expect to reschedule the appointment. I would be less sympathetic if that’s just normal for the provider and I couldn’t expect a full session at a later time.

      1. GrooveBat*

        This right here. These slots are likely time constrained and limited, and there is a LOT to cover. It’s not fair to shortchange the client.

      2. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes. This is it exactly. When you are providing a service to clients those clients deserve your complete attention.

    7. Oxford Comma*

      From the perspective of a client though, the client is going to want to be helped by someone who is focused on them and their situation.

  25. learnedthehardway*

    Given that we were in the thick of COVID last year, I would cut her a lot of slack. It was undoubtedly very hard to find childcare, and frankly, a huge amount of the burden of childcare fell on working women. I conducted a lot of meetings where a child or two or more were in the background – and these were with senior executives who had spouses who could manage the kids while they worked.

    You might make it a condition of employment that the candidate have proper childcare arrangements, now that COVID measures are being relaxed, but I wouldn’t make your hiring decision for the job based on the candidate having to provide care for an infant during the interview.

  26. Violet*

    I just started with a life coach today and her dog started barking half-way through. (The mail was being delivered.) She muted and I don’t think it was as consistent as a problem as the OP here described. But was just a first meeting so I don’t know. I still have a good feeling about it. My point: it could happen on either end. Can’t we give each other grace?

    For a candidate, I might give her one more chance being clear to arrange for childcare. A lot of folks are just hanging on. I also read on LinkedIn lately, how a woman brought both her kids to an in-person interview a few years ago and became one of the interviewer’s best employees. Sure, her kids weren’t on the job but I think she couldn’t afford childcare for them until she had a job.

    So you never know. If it really bothers OP their company might not be the match for this mother. And that’s okay. Somewhere like where the LinkedIn boss worked might be better.

  27. AnotherLibrarian*

    A few months ago, I was interviewing folks for a position. During our Zoom interviews, three of our five candidates had small children interrupt them- two toddlers and one baby. Two of the candidates proactively addressed the issue, apologized, assured us they would have childcare, and one didn’t. The two who proactively mentioned childcare ended up being our top two candidates, because they seemed engaged and they addressed the distractions professionally and graciously. The candidate who just apologized, but didn’t give us any indication they would have childcare when the job started made us all uncomfortable. My point is that people do know to address this when interviewing and having seen two people do so professionally and graciously tells me that Misty could have done the same and didn’t. The other factor here is that she showed up disorganized to the first interview which would have been a huge red flag for me as an interviewer. I think OP made a reasonable choice with the information presented.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        The way our interviews are structured, we can’t ask candidates any questions which are not pre-approved by HR and childcare was not a question we had submitted to HR prior to beginning the hiring process. So, we couldn’t ask directly about it. It’s a bad way to do interviews, but that’s a whole different issue.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          And if it’s a public library, you have to ask all candidates the exact same slate of questions anyway, so you can’t just ask people who obviously have children, you’d have to ask everyone.

  28. LMB*

    This interview was last year. I did not have childcare for a baby in March of 2021 either, a LOT of people I worked with didn’t. But I had family help by April when everyone was vaccinated and a daycare spot lined up for June. The expectations for the job probably should have been explained during the screening call so the candidate could decide whether she was able to move forward on the appropriate timeline. Without explicitly discussing the requirements of the job, I think not hiring someone based on assumptions about their status as a new mother really does amount to discrimination. Obviously she wasn’t well prepared for her interview, but to me everyone should have been cut some major slack during peak pandemic if there was to be equity.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      But you can’t cut people so much slack that they get a job that they can’t actually do. If this was representative of her ability to handle a call, it wasn’t adequate and would not be fair to her clients. The point here isn’t to employ people no matter how minimally they can fulfill the position–the point here is to hire people who can, in this case, provide a service and support to families in need.

      1. Rananculus*

        “But you can’t cut people so much slack that they get a job that they can’t actually do.”

        That’s a really good point.

      2. LMB*

        The point is they had no idea if it was representative of her ability to do they job, because they never addressed it. Many companies have requirements for working remotely, for example having a private distraction-free workspace and outside childcare for young children. She also may have assumed that *obviously* she would have childcare and be professional while doing the job. But you never know if you don’t talk about it.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          It’s true, they didn’t ask. But the interview is where you put your best foot forward. If it didn’t occur to her that she’d need childcare* and a professional appearance for the interview, why would I give her the benefit of the doubt that she’d know she needed it for the job?

          *I understand that current circumstances could easily prevent her from arranging for childcare for an interview. But as you said, we’ll never know if she doesn’t talk about it.

      3. Boof*

        Agree, but they could have asked the candidate directly if they would be able to arrange for child care during working hours or not.

  29. Social Worker Shocked*

    I understand the need for professionalism in an interview but am I the only one who is shocked by this employers lack of understanding about a mother as a primary caregivers difficulty obtaining child care during the pandemic? Also, you are interviewing for someone “who can conduct telehealth meetings with families who just had a baby as a part of a federal program.” YOU are the people who is working mothers so why is there little to no understanding of what the mother is going through? This leads me to believe that you are a non-social work administrator with little to no understanding of the micro impact your macro level company approach is having. You state that she had great insight but the presence of an infant was troublesome, what happens if an employees child care falls through and they WFH, does your macro level approach as a human service organization support this?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Because these are not the same thing! They need someone who can conduct an effective telehealth interview, not somebody to chat about being a new mom.

      If Misty had been distracted by rowdy dogs or the contractors working on her house or whatever the problem would have been the same–that she was unprepared and didn’t address distractions that would have affected her ability to do the job.

      1. Social Worker Shocked*

        If the person was employed they would have the funds to pay for daycare. They may not now. As someone who works in social work I can with almost full certainty say that this is a contract position that does not pay a living wage. Also when the employer works in human services I am baffled that they do not understand the problems that the very population they work with is facing.

        1. Colette*

          The fact that the candidate’s behaviour affected whether or not she got the job doesn’t mean that the company didn’t understand. I can understand that childcare is expensive and difficult to find; that doesn’t mean I would be OK with a professional I had limited time with spending half my time caring for her own child.

        2. A Library Person*

          It’s interesting to me that you would assume that anyone with current employment would actually have enough funds to pay for daycare, particularly given the middle sentence in your comment. I can understand (and in fact share) your frustration with the way that these situations often play out, but sometimes jobs do genuinely require an environment free of distractions. Providing telehealth services certainly seems like one of those situations.

    2. Casper Lives*

      They might have understood, but that doesn’t mean they should put her forward for the job. Would you be cool as a client when your case needs aren’t met? Is it all okay because your caseworker is struggling, so you should accept your family getting shortchanged on telehealth?

      Too bad for those people that qualify for a federal program. Feds set a too high bar for social net entry.

      1. Social Worker Shocked*

        I am absolutely shocked by this statement (I know I shouldn’t be). Again, this woman was not working, she may not have the means to afford daycare, during a pandemic, when her infant is not able to be vaccinated and could die if they catch COVID for a JOB INTERVIEW. Is everyone outside of social work totally without empathy for the human condition? Is the bottom line the do all and end all? LW who claims to work with the very population that this woman is a part of has no understanding of the hurdles she is facing?
        SHOULD she have daycare for an interview? Yes. Is there any reason LW couldn’t talk directly to her like a professional adult about why she doesn’t (something that is going to be part of the clinical interview as learning social supports)? No. Is it a weird situation but I lay this clearly at the feet of the LW who made it weirder.

        1. Lucy Honeychurch*

          I don’t fault her for not having child care during the interview, but I do think she should have acknowledged the multiple interruptions and addressed her plan for getting her work done. “I’m so sorry about all the interruptions with the baby today, but when I do get a job, having reliable child care will be a high priority. I’m very interested in this position and didn’t realize interviewing would be quite so tricky.”

        2. Casper Lives*

          “ Is everyone outside of social work totally without empathy for the human condition?”

          I see there’s no point continuing this discussion. Are all social workers prone to fits of hyperbole and exhausting rhetoric?

        3. LMB*

          Even if she had the money to pay for a babysitter, this was winter 2021, before most adults were eligible for vaccination. My baby was born at the beginning of the pandemic and we did not even let family members near her unless they stayed home for two weeks prior before they were vaccinated. It’s a baby, possibly one under 6 months. The vast majority of other new parents I knew at the time had the same rules around their infants. I also know lot of people who waited until February or March of 2021 to start making plans for childcare and going back to work, once it became clear that people would be vaccinated by the spring and cases started to fall. My child was born in March 2020 and we waited until February 2021 to start looking for childcare because everything was too uncertain before then.

          1. Kiwiapple*

            Huh? I live in NZ, which is one of the countries that had their vax programme late on and the majority of adults still had 2 Vax before the end of 2021 – and some had been boosted by then also.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            The LW says “late last year,” which would be November/December 2021 and not January/February 2021. All adults were eligible for vaccination at that point.

            (I still think it’s very possible she simply didn’t have anyone available who could watch the baby, but it wouldn’t be because most people weren’t vaccinated.)

        4. Colette*

          I don’t think the fact that it was a job interview makes childcare riskier than if it’s for a job itself, so the risk of COVID isn’t really relevant if she’s going to put her child in daycare for the job.

          I understand that it’s a hard situation. The OP should have been clearer that childcare was a requirement. And childcare is riskier than pre-pandemic, expensive, and hard to find.

          But the candidate wasn’t owed the job, and her choice to try to interview while tending her child cost her the job.

        5. Calliope*

          Yes, obviously everyone who’s not a social worker has zero empathy. Come on. I had a baby in November 2020 and went back to work in the very early days of the Pandemic and also did job interviews then and it was beyond horrible. I would not penalize a mom for not having reliable childcare for interviews during that period or even now. But I would penalize a candidate for not communicating effectively in a job that sounds like it’s primarily about communication. You don’t have a lot to go off or when you’re interviewing people and if the job is conducting telehealth appointments, you need someone who knows how to communicate effectively via video call. She should have acknowledged the distraction, explained why it wouldn’t have been a permanent issue, and either taken them up on the offer to reschedule or explained why it wouldn’t help.

          And I’m not sure why you assume whoever did get the job didn’t need it as much and also do a better job of demonstrating their fitness.

          1. Casper Lives*

            Your response is much better than mine. I thank you. I shouldn’t have responded at all, really, but I got burned out from being a public defender. It certainly wasn’t a lack of empathy that caused it.

        6. Rusty Shackelford*

          All she had to do was say “I’m sorry, I don’t have childcare right now, but I will absolutely have that in place before starting the job.”

          And how about some empathy for her would-be clients? Don’t they deserve the most this organization has to offer?

          (Also? SHE WASN’T EVEN WEARING A CLEAN SHIRT. Are you going to loudly insist she probably couldn’t afford that either?)

        7. Susie Q*

          Okay, babies (I have one) are much more likely to die from the Flu or RSV than from covid.

          The interviewee should have addressed the childcare issues and such. I say this as someone who worked from home with babies before.

        8. GrooveBat*

          What about empathy for the people who are relying on this federal program for their health services? Is it fair to them for a provider to shortchange their care because that provider is busy, distracted, not paying attention, not focused on their needs?

        9. Allonge*

          It’s a job. OP is not offering social assistance, OP needs someone who can do a job.

          Are there societal issues intervening? Of course. OP cannot fix them by giving a job to someone who could not demontrate she can do it. If Misty is not capable / willing to send an apologetic email or avail herself of the rescheduling that was offered, she cannot do this job right now, just like a billion other people.

        10. Noblepower*

          First of all, I don’t think we know that the woman wasn’t working, in fact the comment about thinking the interview was a different meeting may indicate that she does in fact have a current job of some sort. Secondly, I think there’s quite a bit of hyperbole here. The LW may not have had the most clear communication regarding the lack of child care during these three interactions, but they seemed to me to be trying, by offering a chance to reschedule. Interviews are a two-way street, and I think that the woman would have been much better served if they had addressed the lack of child care during the interview. Accusing them of being inhumane is inaccurate at best.

    3. Parakeet*

      I work in human services – not as an admin – and I don’t find this shocking, no (and who in social work/human services refers to their org or agency as a company, anyway?). Many of the people who work at my org have personal experience with the kind of situation that my org deals with. Some of them have experience with it while they’re employees. Employees of my org are allowed to receive services from the org, subject to certain guidelines. There’s generous paid leave and other benefits in recognition of the fact that either that kind of situation, or other situations, might disrupt someone’s life and their ability to do the job. But the worker still has to actually be able to do the job, focus on their clients. It would have been better if the LW had asked the candidate directly about the situation, as many commenters have pointed out. But I don’t think that the fact that the role is for new-parent telehealth, makes this somehow shocking. It’s not particularly odd to be concerned that if someone keeps having the same disruption come up during interviews, it’s going to negatively impact their ability to do the job.

  30. Jean*

    It doesn’t seem like expectations were communicated very well by the interviewer/employer here; but this candidate also showed really bad judgment when she insisted on continuing to try to complete an interview under these circumstances. Maybe her sitter was a last minute no show or something, but that would be a pretty obvious reason to reach out, apologize for the unexpected change in circumstances, and ask to reschedule.

    Being hopelessly unprepared for an interview and just winging it/hoping everyone just ignores the elephant in the room is not, and will never be, the new normal. And I say this as a single working parent with all the empathy in the world for pandemic-related parenting/work struggles.

    1. MsM*

      I gotta say, I’m a little baffled by “the interviewer didn’t communicate expectations” comments. This doesn’t sound like an entry-level position. “Know when the interview’s happening, make sure you look put together, and minimize potential distractions” seem like pretty basic things to expect a candidate to know.

      1. Lucy Honeychurch*

        Right? I mean, that is Job Interviewing Basics 101.

        While the interviewer/ LW made some errors (don’t say “it’s okay” when it’s clearly not is a big one), I think the onus of this is really on the job candidate to addresss. “I’m so sorry about the multiple interruptions today. I thought this would be a little easier to manage interviewing. I want to assure you that I’m very interested in this position and will be making sure that reliable child care for the baby will be a high priority.”

        BOOM, done.

        1. mf*

          Yep, it’s not that complicated. And add to that: this is a client-facing role, and often in those kinds of jobs, it’s expected that you have the ability to proactively address issues like this with grace.

          If Misty can’t do that during an interview, I’d be concerned about letting her conduct client meetings.

      2. Social Worker Shocked*

        It likely is, it is likely a contract position that the company has bid for and is hiring people to do while paying them a reduced salary as 1099 employees with no benefits. Jobs like this popped up all over during the pandemic as WFH options for social workers.

        1. BlueStarGirl*

          I think Social Worker Shocked is making a lot of assumptions about Misty, OP, OPs company, and the role being offered. We don’t know that Misty is an unemployed masters-level behavior health provider who cannot afford child care and is desperate for a job. We also don’t know any thing about OP, or that OP’s company was hiring for an entry level, no-benefits role with a large number of applicants.

          The issue is how much grace to give someone who was unprepared for three separate interviews, wasn’t proactive in acknowledging their future childcare plans, and declined to make alternative arrangements by accepting a rescheduled interview.

          (As an aside, jobs like this existed for social workers before the pandemic, but the public in general was not all that interested in telehealth until the first lockdown proved its value. And, interestingly, as the world has opened up – whether or not that’s a wise course of action – telehealth visits are declining with many patients preferring in-person treatment.)

      3. Jean*

        No, I agree with what you’re saying. I was really referring more to the fact that the interviewers told the candidate in the moment that it was OK when it obviously wasn’t. I didn’t mean that the interviewers should have to communicate basic interviewing norms to every candidate – that’s the candidate’s responsibility.

        1. MsM*

          I mean, I feel like Misty knew it wasn’t 100% okay, or she wouldn’t be apologizing. Like Allison says, in future, OP could throw in a question like “I should mention, we expect employees to have reliable childcare during working hours; is that something you’re going to be able to accommodate?” But if you’re looking at potentially rescheduling for a second time because a candidate who hasn’t managed to give you their full focus twice (and once for seemingly non-baby-related reasons) already needs to be explicitly told they should find a way to do that, I really feel like there’s a point at which it’s okay to just politely wrap up the interview and move on to the next person.

      4. Boof*

        I think it’s totally understandable for the interviewer to move on with the candidate being repeatedly unprepared (I am sympathetic to new moms but agree it’s concerning about how they’d communicate/ handle distractions on the job if they aren’t handling them well in the interview). Still, it wouldn’t hurt if lw explicitly spelled it out ie “we will need you to have childcare while working, can you do that?” Then “can we schedule an interview while you have childcare” (if needed because they are having a hard time deciding).

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      If I were the LW i would have pro-actively rescheduled, given the interviewees strong performance in the phone screen and their strong performance in the first part of the panel interview.. However it may also be the case that the new mom wasn’t really into the job and so didn’t care about rescheudling or looking great or the baby crying..

      Given the market today she may have had lots of options. Nobody really did anything wrong here as far as I can tell

  31. KWu*

    I’m definitely biased here, but I gotta say I’m a little annoyed that interviewer is focused on how it was awkward and annoying for them to have a crying baby on the other end of an interview, as compared to, you know, having to do job interviews while prepared for the content (“the most detailed and gave great insights”) but not having childcare and not being able to present her best foot forward in staying clean and groomed while caring for a baby. Plus not being direct about the ability to talk being compromised and instead “telling her that it was okay” through the whole time, when it wasn’t! Hopefully there’s more empathy for the clients of the nonprofit at least, even if there isn’t much for job candidates.

    1. LMB*

      Agree 100%. If this candidate was so knowledgeable about the work itself I doubt she was clueless as to how an interview is supposed to work. She was probably mortified but realized it was just out of her control. But for many us who had babies in the first year of the pandemic, you just had to do what you had to do a lot of times. I give this person props for even attempting to interview in those circumstances. I interviewed internally once when I was 10 weeks pregnant and it was an unmitigated disaster (to start I was 10 minutes late because I was off vomiting). But I had no way of knowing I would be so far off my game when I applied, and I still had to give it a shot. I think that must be something like what this candidate was feeling.

    2. Susie Q*

      I disagree. Misty should have acknowledged the situation and apologized. She didn’t do that.

    3. tessa*

      That the interview panel decided not to move forward with Misty does show empathy for the clients. Also, saying “That’s okay” is just normal politeness in an unexpected scenario.

      If Misty is going to believe interviewers are going to overlook her lack of preparedness, like clicking a link she thought was for a different conversation thus forgetting that she had an interview scheduled at that time, Misty likely would expect clients to also overlook her potential disheveled appearance and distractions. Why should clients have to abide that?

  32. Lucy Honeychurch*

    I feel for the mother, but add me to the team that finds it odd she didn’t address the issue that kept happening and happening. Three times is a lot. I am also a working mom, and have been working remotely for over a decade now. I paid for part time childcare when the kids were little because it was just too much to be distracted non-stop. The mom really should have addressed her plan for childcare. I have a ton of empathy for the challenges of working moms, but you do still need to do your job and have a plan on how you will get things done.

    A ton of folks overestimate how much they can get done during naps (then you have a kid like mine who decides they are done napping at age 1.5 hahaha) or in the evening. Also, the child care shortage and amount of $$ aside, many, many parents simply don’t want their kid in childcare because they don’t want a “stranger” watching them. This argument sucks, and is in itself, full of privilege.

    1. MeepMeep02*

      During COVID, depending on a parent’s risk level, having a kid in childcare may be risky for the parent (or both parents).

      I am a working mom, working part-time hours, and the only reason I am able to work is because my parents are in our COVID bubble and watch my daughter while I work. Trying to share childcare with my spouse was impossible on any sort of reliable basis. Outside childcare is an impossibility for COVID risk reasons.

      It’s basically an impossible bind, and it will get even more impossible as society “moves on” from COVID and leaves the high-risk folks behind.

  33. sugarplum*

    This is super hard. Several years ago when I started working for my current company, I was called in to complete some HR paperwork. The individual who called did not give me much in the way of options as far as what time I should come in – I seem to recall him simply stating that I should come like the very next day at 1:00 or something. I already had the job – although I suppose I could have lost it had I not been able to submit these forms – but was not scheduled to start for about another two weeks.

    We had just moved to the area. We had no family nearby. We had no friends nearby. I did have childcare lined up for my then-toddler, scheduled to begin the FOLLOWING week, closer to when this job was actually starting, because what am I paying for this childcare WITH if not the money generated… by a job? I asked the Not Particularly Flexible HR guy if we could schedule this appointment for later in the day, like 4 or 5:00, so my husband (who would still have to leave work early even to make that happen) could take over kid-wrangling. Finally after some back and forth I snapped and said that if that was the only time he had available, I’d have to bring my daughter with me. This person, who I have to this day never met, chastised me and asked if I were not aware that I would need to have daycare in order to do this job.

    Um. Sir.

    I (maybe politely, maybe not, who can recall at this point) informed him that I did indeed have daycare arranged but that this job had NOT ACTUALLY BEGUN YET and so at the moment I have LITERALLY NO ONE to watch this child and it is PRETTY PRESUMPTOUS OF HIM to assume that I could drop everything on VERY LITTLE NOTICE to come IN PERSON to take care of this task and that OF COURSE I could arrange for childcare out of like THIN AIR. Also, what if I were still working another job right now? What if I had not moved anywhere nearby yet? I still have two weeks! I could be living thousands of miles away, what on earth would you have done then?!

    Strangely enough he was able to find me a time in the late afternoon.

  34. LaFramboise*

    LW, was this Misty’s first baby? As a first-time parent, I remember being very confused and scared and exhausted, and also not trusting anyone else to take care of the baby. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have a baby in the pandemic with little to no help from family or friends, so I can see where Misty might not have made the best choices in regards to how she conducted the interview.

    But if she had a great interview in the time you did have that wasn’t interrupted–well, good candidates aren’t necessarily everywhere, so maybe you could reach out if a position opens up.

    And for all the Mistys out there–good for you for perservering, especially in a time that has been made that much harder. You’ve been brave, and I wish you all the best.

  35. KellifromCanada*

    I realize that childcare has been a challenge throughout COVID, but if you can’t pull yourself together long enough to participate in a job interview (being unprepared, disheveled, distracted and wearing dirty clothes!), then I don’t think you’re a strong candidate. Surely the child’s father, another relative, a friend, a neighbour, a childcare centre or the teenager down the street could have been enlisted to look after the baby so that Mom could at least comb her hair, put on clean clothes and pay attention during the interview. Especially since they offered to reschedule at a time that was convenient for her! I wouldn’t have moved this candidate forward in the process. Maybe for another competition in the future, if she can get it together.

    1. Rananculus*

      Agree. Even if I didn’t know someone well — a neighbor one just waves to, for example, or a member of a mother’s group or a friend of a friend or some such — I’d happily sit with the child so Mom could interview undistracted. Especially since there was a week to make arrangements.

      Lack of that sort of resourcefulness on the part of a candidate would not be impressive.

        1. Allonge*

          Yes, sure, the lesser known the better. /s

          No. You are supposed to either find a solution for childcare or assume that lack thereof will be an issue and proactively communicate with the interviewer about it. Especially on the second / third round. People around you may be willing to be part of the solution.

          1. Rananculus*

            Exactly, that’s what I meant. If one has cultivated zero benign acquaintances, a job interview is probably the least of one’s problems.

            1. K*

              A benign acquaintance who is not used to being with infants, especially your infant, will be useless because your baby will scream their head off the entire time the acquaintance is trying to watch them. That wouldn’t make the interviewer very happy either, I bet. And if you can convince the benign acquaintance to take the baby to their house (where there are no baby related props), the “fun” of watching the stress inducing screaming baby will be enough to sever that acquaintanceship.

    2. Who the eff is Hank?*

      Of all the options you mentioned (the child’s father, another relative, a friend, a neighbour, a childcare centre or the teenager down the street), literally one of them would be potentially feasible for me. I do not have friends here, I do not have family members who do not work full time, I do not know any of my neighbors or know of any teenagers in the area, and no childcare centers in my area take drop-ins. My husband, maybe, would be able to take time off work for me to attend an interview. But even that’s not guaranteed.

      Don’t assume that things that are options for you are options for everyone, because that’s simply not the case. They may not have been options for Misty, either.

      1. Lucy Honeychurch*

        That’s true that none of those may have been options for that day of the interview, but it should still be addressed that should she get the job, she will be working on getting child care so she can focus on her job, and not give the impression that working in this manner will be her norm.

      2. Rananculus*

        Well, nothing personal to you of course, but I happen to firmly believe that it’s Parenting 101 to work to establish those networks. Get to know the neighbors, form a mother’s group, make friends, search for a variety of baby sitters, formal and informal. To try to exist in a vacuum and then want the employer/co-workers to absorb the effects of parenting-related disruptions, because one didn’t exert oneself to have a support system in place, is not on.

        “Options” don’t fall into our laps out of the clear blue sky; they are the result of choices and efforts we make, in preparation for need, instead of waiting to the last minute and expecting grace from others.

        I do more to ensure I have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Plan D — plus provisions in my will incase of untimely death — for my dog. Surely parents should do it to facilitate their employability and their children’s wellbeing in case of parental accident or illness.

        1. Calliope*

          Agreed and honestly, people will probably be more receptive than you think. Id take a neighbor’s baby for an hour under those circumstances no questions asked if I didn’t have an unmovable appointment at that time. Building that community can be quicker than you think even if you don’t immediately make life long friends.

        2. Who the eff is Hank?*

          Yes, because building that community has been so easy when moving to a new city and then immediately having the entire social support network shut down due to a contagious deadly virus while also raising humans who are dependent on you 24/7.

          1. Calliope*

            I personally have found it a lot easier to build community while having a small human dependent on me 24/7 (born right before the pandemic) to be honest. Other people with small children are also desperate for that community. Obviously different communities are different but it’s something that can be possible.

            But at the end of the day, not everything is possible for everyone – but yeah, you probably do need either the ability to access some form of paid support OR the ability to access some form of unpaid support or you’re putting yourself in a really vulnerable position. Obviously some people have no choice but to put themselves in a really vulnerable position and we need much better social safety nets to address it. . But I guess I also don’t think joining some FB groups and scoping out potential babysitters in advance or getting to know some neighbors with similar age children at the playground is an insurmountable lift for most people to the extent we need to assume that most job candidates can’t find any sort of care even with notice.

            1. K*

              I agree with you, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this candidate had care and it fell through last minute. Not sure what your experience has been, but my childcare arrangements (I have a regular nanny and two babysitters who I call on for backup care) always happen to back out the morning of my most important days. Or, there is a Covid related incident and everyone is quarantined with no possibility of childcare for two weeks right at the time I have to give a big presentation. Murphy’s law?

              I did interview for a lot of jobs in exactly the two weeks my nanny had to go back home for an emergency, had both backup babysitters be unavailable, scrambled on, and got a new babysitter who happened to be between jobs, which helped me make it through the interviews , but it was stressful. I could very well not have found that one sitter.

              I couldn’t have used my “network” because in my field (tech), interviews are 8 hours long and I don’t have such a friendly network that they’d be willing to watch my child as a favor all day. If anyone has suggestions on how to build such a network, I’m sincerely all years.

              I wouldn’t have attempted the interviews without the last minute sitter, of course; I’d have cancelled. This candidate’s interview seems like a short “soft skills” one (not involving solving technical problems on the fly), so I don’t think it’s so weird in that light that she elected to go ahead. I probably would have, to be honest.

        3. K*

          Do you realize that in the last two years, people have not been meeting each other in person? I would love to know my neighbors and acquaintances well enough that I can drop off my child for backup care, but they certainly wouldn’t love that.

          And even in the dense urban area I live in, finding a trustworthy babysitter who I can pay over the table and who can drop everything and show up at short notice is 99% impossible. It is 100% impossible in more rural areas without large immigrant or college student populations.

        4. MeepMeep02*

          During COVID? Yeah right. I’m supposed to somehow “get to know” the neighbors, whose vaccination status I do not know and whose COVID risk behaviors I do not know, and trust them with an unvaccinated baby, who will undoubtedly infect me immediately afterwards?

      3. anon lawyer*

        And some people can’t eat sandwiches, either.

        Look, there are things that are reasonable to expect of job candidates, and “prepared for the interview and not managing a baby during it” are pretty basic. At a certain point it’s on you to figure out, not the interviewer to fix for you. Mothers of young children are not children ourselves; expecting that we should be treated as incapable of meeting even *basic* professional norms is, frankly, offensive. And by the way, I had a baby and started a new job during peak COVID, so I’ve dealt with WFH with a young child, childcare issues, etc. I needed some flexibility from people, but this is beyond a reasonable expectation of flexibility or understanding.

        1. Allonge*

          Mothers of young children are not children ourselves; expecting that we should be treated as incapable of meeting even *basic* professional norms is, frankly, offensive.

          Thank you.

          Assuming that Misty is incapable of comprehending that a childcare solution might be needed, that she would need to remember the interview time and date, that she should avail herself of rescheduling offers and that she is obviously unaware that she needs to address things that went less-than-ideal in the interview, is treating her as incapable of having not just this job but any job.

      4. KellifromCanada*

        I work full-time, but if I had a family member who was utterly desperate for an hour of childcare so they could attend a job interview, I’d take an hour or two of vacation to help them out. There is always a solution, especially given that the employer was willing to give her a week to make a plan. If you literally know no one, then perhaps it’s time to start reaching out to make some connections … maybe something like a local mom and baby group. We all need people in our lives.

        1. Who the eff is Hank?*

          Agreed, we do all need people in our lives. But Covid has made that nearly impossible to achieve. I am immunocompromised. We moved to a new city right before all this happened, and I was pregnant at the time. I cannot attend mom and baby groups at this time without risking my health and safety. I look forward to the day when I can.

          1. K*

            Exactly. I’m not even scared of Covid myself — you’ll find me in other threads advocating for the removal of mask mandates — but pretty much everyone in my network is. I can’t just call on them to take care of my child in a small closed space. It would be tone-deaf.

        2. Claire*

          “There is always a solution” is patently false when it comes to childcare. People lose jobs and fall into poverty because of an inability to find childcare. It’s a huge mess.

    3. Claire*

      To borrow from a previous AAM thread, surely the parents can just call on the Magical Childcare Fairy!

      Since LW says that Misty’s answers were quite good, it seems silly and self-defeating to me for them to not ask about childcare, especially given how difficult everything has been during the pandemic. Maybe she would have had a plan, maybe she wouldn’t, but at least then LW would know. But either way, assuming there is a magical childcare fairy who will *of course* bestow childcare on the parent is pretty unrealistic and privileged.

      1. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        But they’re not talking about the childcare fairy. They’re pointing out that if the panoply of options most people would think of all won’t work (dad can’t take time off work or isn’t in the picture, no nearby friends or relatives at all, no babysitter found for just one hour), the candidate should make that clear and/or take the offer to reschedule for a time when one of those will work.

        It seems like with the inability to even change her shirt and talk about her baby situation, she’s (understandably, sympathetically) just not in a space where this kind of job will work right now.

    4. missy*

      Yeah. Removing the baby from it totally, if I popped up on screen for an interview in stained clothes saying “oh man, that was you guys? I thought this was a different meeting where I wasn’t on camera” it would not be good. Like, you can’t accidentally walk into an interview in person you forgot about but it is possible on zoom when you saved it to your calendar and just get a pop up. It would make me have serious questions about the organizational abilities of someone who we’d be hiring to conduct zoom screenings if they forgot they were having a zoom screening.

      If anything Misty probably got more sympathy because the interviewers new there was a baby. Otherwise they probably would have been much harsher on Misty for not being prepared for the interview.

      1. K*

        We had a candidate with no kids show up confused and in PJs after clearly just waking up on a Zoom phone screen. Some of us, including me, commented on this during our roundtable, and the HR rep explicitly told us we were not allowed to factor that in to the performance eval.

  36. ApollosTorso*

    You’re right, it’s not reasonable to assume either way. It’s a lesson learned for the LW and team to have that conversation so that any assumptions are unnecessary and a good reminder for the rest of us. The conversation might still lean toward a lack of fit. Still they’d have the certainty that they’re looking for now

  37. Small town problems*

    Just wanted to point out that sometimes childcare, especially in rural or remote areas, does not exist. It isn’t necessarily some willful disregard for societal norms.

    Gotta give her props for not knowing she was in an interview, having an inconsolable baby, and still managing to give the best answers. That’s a candidate that can handle curveballs, be flexible, and handle stress. (Also an empathetic one as she held her baby and didn’t put her in the basement or something).

    Is she a mess? Yes. My heart goes out to her though. Imagine interviewing for a job that you are passionate about, that says it’s work from home and is specifically looking for new mothers, and you blow it because your kid is cutting teeth or fill in the blank and you probably mixed up the interview link with any number of telehealth appointments? Ugh. Sad.

    1. Colette*

      If childcare doesn’t exist, then she’s not able to take this job, which requires that she have childcare. (I also don’t see anything in the letter about the job being work from home or that they are looking for new mothers.)

    2. Shan*

      I think you might have gotten a main point confused – the job was to be conducting telehealth appointments with families with new babies, they weren’t specifically looking to employ new mothers.

      Also, she may have had good answers, but she in no way indicated she could handle curveballs, be flexible, and handle stress – in fact, I’d argue she communicated the opposite.

  38. Monkey Fracas Jr.*

    Dang, this one really makes me sad. This poor woman. According to the LW, she did everything right except for looking and acting like a “lady.” Women: Have babies, it’s your job! But don’t let me see or hear those babies, ever! Put in the extremely hard emotional and physical labor involved with raising a baby! But look flawless and put together at all times, no matter what! Have and excel at a career! But don’t let that damn baby get in the way! Do all of this during a global pandemic! But don’t expect any physical, emotional, or financial help!

    Is this unfair to the LW? Maybe, but I don’t care. I’m tired of this. I don’t have babies–hell, I don’t even like babies–but I think this woman got a raw deal and she deserved better. In the LW’s own words, she was the most qualified candidate and actually did well in the interview, “the most detailed and gave great insights.” She should have gotten this job. She shouldn’t have been dismissed because she didn’t have the social or financial support system to hide her baby during an interview.

    Does it cross no one’s mind that if she had gotten a salary out of this job, she would have been able to afford a babysitter or daycare? Why is the LW and why are some of the commenters here assuming that she is stupid and doesn’t understand how work works? This is infuriating. I hope she finds a high paying job as soon as possible.

    1. Lucy Honeychurch*

      A lot of parents don’t plan on getting child care though, they view working from home as a way to be with the kid at the same time as doing their job.

      I think you’re really conflating things. Not one time did someone say she needed to look ‘flawless.’ There is a big difference between looking flawless vs. looking disheveled with spit-up all over you, unprepared over and over again.

      And AGAIN…Misty did not address any of the interruptions nor her plans for childcare. She had more than one opportunity to say, “I’m so sorry about the multiple interruptions today. I thought this would be a little easier to manage interviewing. I want to assure you that I’m very interested in this position and will be making sure that reliable child care for the baby will be a high priority.”

      She may not have said this because there IS no plans for childcare. And that is a big mistake (imo) that many working parents make. I’m not talking about cancellations, emergencies, and similar…They just don’t want to do that.

    2. MsM*

      I feel like there’s *considerable* middle ground in terms of expecting a candidate – especially one who’s going to be on a lot of public-facing calls – to present themselves professionally between “flawless” and “couldn’t take one minute to throw on a clean shirt they’ve been saving up for this call they’ve supposedly known about for a week.”

    3. Social Worker Shocked*

      Here here, these were my sentiments exactly. Not to mention LW stated that the company “works with new mothers”, the hypocrisy astounded me.

      1. Cat Lover*

        … it’s hypocritical for someone to be prepared for an interview?

        There is middle ground here.

        1. Cheap Ass Rolex*

          Exactly. There’s a qualitative difference between, say, a rumpled dress shirt vs. not changing out of a stained tshirt.

      2. anon lawyer*

        I’m a new mother. I’m also a grown adult, not a child who can’t meet basic professional expectations.

        1. Calliope*

          Right? Some of these comments really seem to be edging into “oh well the poor dears can be expected to act like real professionals”.

            1. K*

              All you fully functioning adult moms seem to have lucked out on either living near family and neighbors who are willing to drop all plans for the day and help, or finding babysitters who are available on an hour’s notice.

              (Where do you live that there are such guaranteed babysitters during a pandemic? Like I’ve said in another thread, I am in an urban area, and it’s still hair raisingly stressful when you find yourself without childcare, because you can basically assume you won’t find a backup. People who are available with a few hour’s notice are generally unemployed with no obligations, and those are usually not the people who tend to make trustworthy babysitters, unless they’re just between jobs.)

              I agree that Misty should plan to have regular childcare while working. I’ll be the first to say that if she planned to take the interview without childcare, she made an unprofessional decision. I’m assuming it was an unexpected falling through and that she didn’t want to reschedule for whatever reason.

              All these comments smugly talking about how professional women should be expected to have 100% guaranteed childcare every single day of the year while there are still Covid constraints in place — you’re not living in my reality.

    4. Cat Lover*

      Huh? This interview was a mess from the start. She apparently didn’t know she had one/ mixed it up with another meeting, for one. She was offered a reschedule, declined it, and didn’t address the issue.

      I’m not saying LW did everything right, but it seems like you are reading a different letter.

    5. Colette*

      She did everything right except realizing she was going into an interview (and putting on a clean shirt, or at least angling the camera so the interviewer couldn’t see what she was wearing) and splitting her time and attention between her interview and her child. Those aren’t small things, especially in a job that requires contact with the public.

      If you went to see your doctor and she asked you questions and, while you were answering, told her child to be quiet or rattled through her bag looking for a snack or opened the door and yelled at her child in the hall to stop running, would you feel like that was a good use of your appointment time?

      1. Monkey Fracas Jr.*

        “Does it cross no one’s mind that if she had gotten a salary out of this job, she would have been able to afford a babysitter or daycare? Why is the LW and why are some of the commenters here assuming that she is stupid and doesn’t understand how work works?”

        1. Lucy Honeychurch*

          Nobody said she was stupid, but you ignored my post where I (and a few others) have said we know of many working parents who have no such plan. They don’t WANT to have child care.

          We only have to go by what was written in the letter that Allison posted. And nowhere did Misty address this. You are making giant assumptions that Misty is going to use a babysitter or daycare. If she was, it would behoove someone who is interviewing a job that involves communications (!!!) to communicate and address this very, very important point.

        2. Colette*

          You don’t seem to be replying to anything I said, but I’ll answer anyway.

          Her chance to demonstrate that she knows how work works was the interview – and she didn’t succeed in doing that.

          I’ve worked with people who thought “working from home” meant “being paid to care for my child”. Maybe this candidate doesn’t think that – but she didn’t demonstrate that on the interview (by either having childcare or by acknowledging that she wasn’t able to get childcare but she would do so while on the job).

        3. MsM*

          We *are* giving her the benefit of the doubt that she at least understands how interviews work. That’s why we’re not making excuses for her. Again, nobody’s asking her to show up in a perfectly pressed suit with salon-fresh hair. “No visible stains” isn’t too much to ask of a tech bro, and it’s not too much to ask here, either. (Unless the baby threw up on her literally right before she turned on the camera, but it doesn’t sound like that was the case.) If she can’t navigate a situation that she’s going to be dealing with frequently in this role while meeting a bare minimum standard in terms of looking prepared, or without finding ways to defuse distractions before they become overly distracting, she’s not the most qualified candidate no matter how good her answers on paper look. The fact that OP had to go back and review what she said because that impression didn’t come through in the interview itself is a problem when the people she’s going to be dealing with probably aren’t going to be that meticulous in their notetaking.

    6. BigHairNoHeart*

      There is room to be sympathetic to the woman being interviewed while also acknowledging the realities of interviewing. You’re totally right, she might be able to afford a babysitter/daycare with the salary of this job, making the interviewer’s concerns unfounded. But I honestly think that for most of us who have child care responsibilities, if we were in this situation (obviously caring for a child during an interview), we’d realize that we need to be upfront with the interviewers that this wouldn’t happen if we got the job. I don’t think she’s stupid for not saying it, I’m guessing she was so stressed that it didn’t occur to her. But she also had 3 separate chances to step away from the interview and collect her thoughts, so… I don’t know. I’m very sympathetic to her, but it does seem quite odd.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Given that I have interviewed multiple people who go interrupted by children during the interview in the last two years, my observation has been that the strongest candidates address it directly. I don’t mean that makes them stronger, I mean they are nearly always stronger in other ways as well. So, I think you’re 100% right BigHairNoHeart.

    7. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Remember all the guff Kate Middleton got for wearing a dress that showed her still-existent baby bump on her ACTUAL day of delivery as she was leaving the hospital? Despite high heels and perfect hair/makeup? Like the distended internal organ doesn’t pop back into its normal size in mere hours like a freaky rubber band? So women still look kinda pregnant a few hours after giving birth. So shocking!

    8. GrooveBat*

      She did not “do well in the interview.” She was confused and distracted but did provide some good answers. But being good in a job isn’t simply about knowing the subject matter. It’s about being prepared and focused (PARTICULARLY in a job that requires interacting with vulnerable populations). I honestly couldn’t care less about whether someone is wearing a clean shirt (for all we know, the baby spat up on her right before she got on the call). But I expect someone to show up for a call to know what meeting it was (I mean, would it be acceptable for a telehealth provider to get on a call with a client and not realize they were talking to a completely different client?) and to be able to focus on the conversation.

    9. Schuyler*

      I guess I should have read ALL the comments before adding my own. I agree with every word you’ve typed!

    10. Blueberry Girl*

      I 100% agree that mothers are currently getting a super raw deal and that I feel bad for Misty. It sounds stressful and difficult. However, I don’t think you are accurately representing what was in the letter. No where does the OP say Misty was the most qualified, just that she was “the most detailed and gave great insights and passion for the role”. I’ve had people also do that and still not be the most qualified, nor the person I moved forward. Additionally, you seem to be ignoring the parts of the letter where Misty was obviously not prepared and declined the offer from the panel to reschedule for another week. Instead, opting to reschedule for later that day where the obvious distraction of the screaming baby wasn’t avoidable.

  39. Boof*

    Op ideally would have addressed it directly; asked if the candidate would be able to find childcare if offered the job, and if yes request an interview without the baby (if needed, if they already liked them enough based on what they already had maybe skip that).
    Yes ideally the candidate would have raised it themselves but they didn’t and no reason for op not to.
    i’m currently on leave with a 6 week old but still sometimes want to work on things at a relaxed pace, or take an occasional short consulting call – for all meetings i ask up front if the baby’s ok, except for ones i don’t think it’s appropriate for (ie, consulting meetings where i am being paid a high hourly rate) in which case i arrange for someone else to watch the baby for that time

  40. Claire*

    I think it is best to ask the candidate proactively about childcare if they’re otherwise a strong candidate and that’s what is holding you back. I think a lot of the norms around work and parenting are in flux and people are used to presenting themselves as work-only to employers (particularly mothers, since we are discriminated against) and so they may not bring up childcare for fear of looking unprofessional. Obviously, when your baby is in the interview it’s fairly clear you’re a parent, but it’s a new enough (and difficult enough) situation that I don’t think it’s intuitive how to handle on the candidate’s end. Think about questions we’ve had about how to handle virtual interviews and tech problems or how early to sign into a meeting, for example!

    An employer who is willing to proactively lay out expectations about childcare for the position can only help themselves, as both sides get more information.

    1. K*

      This! If I was in Misty’s situation — and I’m not justifying her; I don’t think I’d put myself in that situation — I’d be so stressed about the impression I was giving with the chaos that I may not proactively bring up childcare myself in case it added fuel to the fire. I would be much more relieved if the interviewer brought it up so I could explain the situation.

  41. BigHairNoHeart*

    So one detail stood out to me: “When we finally had the interview a week later, it was obvious that she wasn’t prepared. She looked disheveled and she had on a faded t-shirt with obvious baby stains. She apologized and said she didn’t know that this was her interview link, which didn’t make sense, but she tried to explain that she thought she was logging onto another meeting.” I’m inclined to be very sympathetic to the woman being interviewed for everything except this. It’s such an obvious red flag for most interviewers when they’re interviewing someone who is so unprepared that they seemed to have forgotten the interview was taking place at all. If we completely ignore the baby stuff, I know plenty of hiring managers who would say this kind of mistake is an automatic disqualifier (maybe that’s harsh? but there’s a lot who would), so…I get why the OP didn’t want to move forward with this candidate. I also completely agree with others who’ve already pointed out that saying “it’s okay” when it’s not is confusing. I’ve done this myself and it seems like the right thing to say in the moment, but only if it’s true! It’s not good to say that if you’re actually going to hold the behavior in question against the candidate. Good lesson for the OP to take forward in the future.

  42. FeelForMom*

    I think the Hiring Manager did the right thing by not moving forward with the candidate. As much as my heart goes out to Mom, if she can’t arrange a spouse, a neighbor, a friend, a relative (anyone!) to sit with the child for a couple of hours, she will most likely not be able to arrange childcare for 40 hours a week. At the very least, she should have had a foresight to re-schedule the interview for a time when the baby was more likely to be less of a disruption.

    My coworkers have bragged that they love working from home because it means they don’t have to pay for childcare. Sounds good in theory until the childless coworkers have to pick up the slack and resent not being able to get things done during normal business hours because coworker’s baby is hungry/needs a diaper change/threw up/etc and meetings are full of disruptions and awkward delays waiting for worker to come back after tending to the baby. How would Mom be able to get anything done during her meetings with the families if she has to constantly shift her focus between her baby’s needs and the families she’s working with? As much as I feel for her (she most likely needs the money), the Hiring Manager is not doing her any favors by asking her to stretch herself too thin and do two jobs at a time.

    If there is another opening and the Hiring Manager feels really guilty, she can reach out to Mom and offer her a second chance with the caveat that she must arrange for childcare.

    1. Lady Kelvin*

      That’s not true at all. I have literally no one I could call on for non-life threatening emergency childcare. I have full time daycare, but if my kids are home all of my friends also work full time. They could handle childcare in the evenings/weekends if I needed it, but during the workweek? If my kids are off then I’m working while taking care of them/during naps/after bedtime. If she’s not currently working she probably can’t afford full time childcare, but since she’s looking for a job she may have childcare arranged. And the only way to know this is to ask the candidate and make it clear that childcare is necessary for the job.

      1. FeelForMom*

        I agree that the Hiring Manager should have bluntly asked during the interview whether Mom would arrange for childcare if she was hired and provided a clear timeline “must have childcare by X numbers days after start date”.

        However, we don’t know Mom’s circumstances. It might have been a case of wrong timing (everything that could go wrong went wrong that day), we can’t assume she’s completely isolated from the world and forgive all her mistakes during the interview process. It looks like her big fault was lack of self-awareness. She should’ve rescheduled to a time when she could focus and have someone take care of the baby. Mom didn’t need to pay for expensive daycare but I’m sure Mom could’ve driven / walked / bused to busy Friend’s / Relative’s home or work for an hour before work / after work / lunch break so Friend/Relative can take care of the baby while Mom took the call in her car / friend’s/relative’s porch / friend’s/relative’s work courtyard / etc.

        If Mom is completely isolated and has *no one* to call upon for help, this is also a flag. Her childcare will fail after hiring (life happens) and the Hiring Manager already knows she doesn’t have a backup. So every time her baby is sent home from daycare or her sitter doesn’t make it, she will have to call out. The Hiring Manager would have to decide if they have the capacity to make accommodations when the inevitable will happen.

  43. AthenaC*

    I feel awful saying this as a former young mom who was, let’s say, unapologetic about the needs of my children(*), but what you describe is not acceptable. It’s not even about being professional or not – when I read the title but before I read the details I was prepared to say that having her baby might help her bond a little better with the population you serve and it might be a good thing … but with what you describe, the people you serve deserve to have someone who they know is 100% focused on them and their needs.

    If you really feel strongly about her as a candidate, maybe it makes sense to have one more conversation with her and be transparent about her strength as a candidate, but also give her the feedback you gave us, letting her know that what you saw in the interview can’t happen. If you go that route, I absolutely would have another interview where you give her a chance to demonstrate her reliability.

    (*) True story, I brought a sleeping baby in a carrier into an exam when I was in college. She slept the whole time, thankfully.

    1. Blueberry Girl*

      Yes, I do tons of Telehealth appointments due to a rare condition and living in an isolated place, I have carved out that 45 minutes to talk about my concerns with a professional and I need that professional to be giving mw 100% of their attention- that’s what I pay for. It’s weird the number of people who seem to not be concerned if this candidate would be able to do that.

  44. Schuyler*

    I wonder what’s going to change, and when, to allow women (because this predominantly affects women) to be able to participate fully in the workplace. Even during a time when there is widely known shortages in child care, women are still being judged and/or missing opportunities because of their childcare responsibilities. And that’s not even taking into consideration whether this person can afford childcare (many can’t, it’s so expensive), or is a single parent, etc.

    I wonder what workplaces that say they’re family friendly really mean by that, and if they really are. And this is an agency where the entire business revolves around children and families! I’d really hoped that the last two years had shown us that parents can do work, but may need some flexibility. I just don’t know how women are supposed to get ahead if there continue to be actual barriers (they need child care they can’t afford/etc.) or perceived barriers (this person has a young child, they’re going to be unreliable/etc.) in them pursuing their careers. I don’t understand how this is rarely/never as a discriminatory issue since it disproportionately affects women.

    And I say this as someone who does not have children, if that matters in giving my opinion.

    1. GrooveBat*

      I have a whole soapbox speech about this, but my feeling is that as long as we treat the work/life/childcare balance as a “woman’s” problem, versus a “human” problem nothing will change. We shouldn’t be focused on shuffling things around to make it easier for *women* to carry the lion’s share of family responsibilities; we need to focus on making it easier for *people in general* to have lives and responsibilities outside of work.

    2. Colette*

      I don’t think this is a problem for workplaces to solve. They are hiring someone to do a job; they are not hiring someone to care for a child while trying to do the job.

      Governments may have a role in making childcare affordable – and ideally funding it to the point where it pays enough to attract workers.

    3. Rananculus*

      I think people need to get over the “you can have it all” mentality, especially if they expect others to sacrifice.

      We all have the same 24 hours in the day, and allocate them according to our values. If Person A chooses to allocate most of hers to her career, and Person B splits hers between the voluntary state of parenthood and her career, it stands to reason that Person A’s career is going to flourish more. Presumably the joys of parenthood will compensate Person B for a tepid showing in the career marketplace.

      No one is forced to be a parent, and on a planet teeming with 8 billion humans, to the detriment of all of our ecological and social systems, producing offspring is not a societal good. Expecting endless accommodations from employers, co-workers, clients, etc., to support a personal lifestyle choice is misguided, to say the least. As the current pushback shows.

      Be a parent. Be a career star. Be both if you can do it under your own steam, without burdening others.

      1. K*

        Person A allocates 60% of her day to her career and 40% to reading for fun and watching TV and going to restaurants and — importantly — sleeping, while Person B allocates 50% to her career and 40% to her kids and maaaaybe 10% to sleeping, and gets punished for giving 50% instead of 60%. Even if Person B is actually working a full 40 hours a week and doing the job well.

        Look, I get your point, but in reality, I have not seen anyone make “endless accommodations” for parents, nor have I seen anyone expect them. What I see are people nitpicking on the most pointless inconveniences, like babies crying while Person B is doing an excellent job, or Person B not staying for happy hour, or not traveling 6 hours for a marginally important meeting. You may worry about the state of ecology, but the human instinct to reproduce is never going to go away. We may as well accept the reality that we’re mammals, not just corporation-obsessed drones, and figure out how to help the team be productive within the constraints of real life.

    4. MeepMeep02*

      The real problem is that the normal work hours (8 hours a day not counting commute time) are so damn long that there is no way that two parents can split childcare responsibilities in any sort of normal way without outside assistance. Until that changes, there is basically no way to combine parenting and a job without some sort of outside childcare, which disappears in a pandemic (and is unavailable to the poor).

  45. Hiring Mgr*

    Alot of this often just comes down to how deep your candidate pool is. If I was the hiring manager and had ten qualified candidates besides the woman with the baby, i’d probably do as OP did.

    If however I was in the situation I was a few months ago (desperate to hire and hard to find people), a crying baby would be a blip on the radar (in the interview process at least) – I’d probably fork over the child care $ myself for that matter

  46. JustAnotherAnon*

    I’ve been working from home for quite awhile now, including with an infant, and I’ve always been aware of the requirement for childcare for very young kids who can/do require more hands-on caregiving than an older and somewhat more self-sufficient kiddo especially in roles where there’s heavy customer interaction. It seems strange that Misty didn’t address it, but I wonder if given the job description, she perhaps assumed there would be a degree of flexibility about the job and her ability to work from home with an infant that wasn’t actually a possibility. I just think there were missed opportunities on both sides to clarify expectations, but at least LW has asked for better ways to address this in the future if it should come up.

  47. Too tired*

    I feel bad for her. I have a 2 year and do most of the childcare. Even when my dad watches my kid so I can do trainings from home, I’m still the one who gets her dressed and prepares snacks/meals. I get up with her in the morning while my husband rolls out of bed and goes to work. I feel for the mom interviewing because the pandemic has really made the unbalanced division of labor even more so.

    All the comments about how a doctor wouldn’t be without childcare. Yes, doctors can afford it. Even when I worked at a highly ranked children’s hospital, doctors got first dibs on childcare openings and also got paid leave while the rest of us did not. I hope this mom gets an eventual break.

  48. Lady Kelvin*

    Right now I feel like you should be giving a lot of leeway to people with young kids because there is just no good solution to childcare.

    I have 2 kids, 3 years and 4 months. I also have reliable daycare, but because it is winter and their strict COVID policies right now it feels like they are home more than they are in school. In December, before my littlest went to daycare my oldest was in school for 10 days, because he got sick twice with a fever, neither time COVID but he can’t go back to school until 72 hours after his fever ends. My youngest was in daycare for 11 days in February because he had a cough, which prompted the 72 hour requirement, and they called on a Wednesday afternoon and said, pick up your kid in an hour and he can’t come back until Monday. When things like that happen I’m stuck. Both my husband and I work high paying jobs but we pay 3K a month for daycare and can’t afford to have backup on call constantly so the kids are home with us trying to work and tag team toddler and baby care. Oh and neither of us have enough sick leave to just take all that time off so we’re stuck.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Right now I feel like you should be giving a lot of leeway to people with young kids because there is just no good solution to childcare.

      I agree, but I feel like they *did* give her leeway. They ignored her being distracted by the baby during the initial screening call (which really they should have, since it was probably unscheduled), and when the baby was disruptive during the first interview, they pushed it back. They also offered to let her reschedule when the baby was disruptive during the second interview. Other than sending someone over there to watch the baby, what could they have done?

      1. Lady Kelvin*

        Not penalize her for the fact that the baby was there? Ask about her childcare arrangements and explain what they will need from her in regards to regular childcare and what they expect when she has emergencies?

        “We also assumed that since she didn’t take our offer to reschedule for the following week, she must have someone else that would take care of her baby. […] Once we were done, we decided not to move forward with her, because we were concerned that she wouldn’t be able to handle having clients and taking calls while working from home.”

        I just got the impression that they were just assuming that she was being irresponsible and/or was planning on having the baby at home while she was working without even talking to her about it. I understand being concerned about the current situation, but having a conversation is always better than making assumptions.

        They also repeated several times that it was ok that the baby was crying/distracted. If it wasn’t actually ok, they could have said, “hey we can’t have a conversation with this many interruptions, so we will need to reschedule for a day you have alternative childcare if you think it is still worthwhile to move forward.”

  49. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

    This just kind of shows the struggle of what some women face. In which some can’t find somebody to watch their child or little baby yet they’re not making enough money to where they can just focus on raising their child. It makes you kind of wonder if the OP would have been more sympathetic to a man trying to take care of a baby while doing an interview or not. I think the interviewer should have made things clear to her about obtaining child care would be required for this role. But on the perspective as a job Seeker it’s hard enough trying to get a job for yourself let alone trying to take care of a baby. I think people need to be more sympathetic to the situation. I think that’s why women have been underrepresented in certain job roles. Also think about it this woman is doing a full-time job taking care of her baby and she would also be doing a full-time job with this company. Of course she would be exhausted at her interview . That would be like working 3 part time jobs and going for an interview.

    1. tessa*


      The OP gave her a chance to reschedule and she chose not to. Also, is it really so hard to not wear a stained shirt?

      It seems poor planning on the part of the applicant, and nothing more.

      1. K*

        Yes, it’s sometimes pretty hard to not wear a stained shirt with a baby because the baby just created the stain before the interview, and all your other shirts are in the laundry.

  50. tessa*

    OMG, this! Because what about the possibility of at least one other applicant who also has a baby but didn’t show up disheveled and unprepared, or who did accept the invitation to reschedule because baby’s needs happened to torpedo the timing of the interview? The applicant who returned from a devastating funeral the day before but showed up ready to interview anyway? And so on.

    The world moves on regardless. The applicant should have prepared better or rescheduled, and it is perfectly reasonable for OP to have doubts and bypass further contact with the applicant. Excuses like hers are a dime a dozen, and it is okay to acknowledge that.

  51. Clueless #26*

    Perhaps her babysitter canceled. I had an employee who’s daycare enter was closed for 2 weeks! Had she asked to reschedule you might be asking if shes reliable? Sometime you cant win for loosing.

  52. Julia K.*

    Witnessing how the candidate interacts with her baby (Respectfully? Compassionately? Joyfully? Perfunctorily? Begrudgingly?) provides relevant information for whether you’d want to hire her for this job working with new parents. They will be looking to her for inspiration, reassurance, and solidarity. Her attitude toward her baby and style of mothering will come through in how she talks about babies to them, in a more organic way than prepared interview material will. So the interviewer should be grateful for the opportunity to gain this extra information.

    Of course, if ten minutes of the interview is taken up entirely by trying to calm a crying baby, that’s more time than is needed to assess the candidate on that front, and takes time away from other topics. If the interview can’t go long, rescheduling is the best decision.

    And, as many have noted, it’s a good idea to ask the candidate what her childcare plans are should she get the job, and to factor that into the hiring decision.

    Nevertheless, for this particular field, getting to witness at least some mother-baby interaction seems like a bonus.

  53. K*

    I got rejected from a job because my cat was mewing and asking for my attention during the interview. That’s what the recruiter told me. To be fair, it’s a loud mew, and the interviewer initially mistook it for a baby. But I clarified it wasn’t a baby, just a cat, and I continued the conversation with no interruptions.

    The cat kept wailing but I didn’t want to get up and move to another room because my laptop was all set up with an external monitor and keyboard, and disconnecting and moving would have taken time, not to mention no other room in my house has both a closed door (to keep out my kid who is watched by a babysitter) and enough light for Zoom calls. And I didn’t want to lock the cat out because my office room has the food, water, and litterbox (yeah).

    The cat was no distracting me at all, because I’m used to her, but the interviewer was clearly annoyed. I get it to an extent, but it felt petty anyway.

    Part of the LW’s letter sounds like annoyance. It’s a different situation than mine because the baby actually did interrupt the conversation, but if they performed well otherwise, it seems to be annoyance primarily — projected onto “what will clients think?”

Comments are closed.