Job Hunt Part 2: Even With A Small Child At Home?

On Sunday, while we were running errands in hell BabiesRUs I got a call back from a job I had applied for on a tech job listing site. The editor was calling to set up an interview for that day (Sunday, reminding you: Sunday) or on Monday. Because I am not one to turn my nose at an opportunity, regardless of how sketch it was to be getting called on the weekend, I returned the editor’s call and set up a formal interview for an hour later.

Initially it was the usual “tell me about your background” type of conversation, but then she asked me to tell her about myself – stuff that wasn’t on my resume. I started giving her more of my background, how I had graduated from grad school and then pieced together my writing career at the height of the recession, blahblah, but she stopped me and said, “No, I mean stuff that isn’t on your resume.”


So, flustered, I said I had two kids, that we had moved up to Seattle a year and a half a go when my husband got a job at Microsoft…. and she chatted amicably with me about the west coast and having kids, her only child was now 22, etc etc.

Things got weird again when she suddenly said they would like to offer me a trial job. A trial job? I said. Like a contract? I asked.

Well no, not like a contract, she said. This would be 2 articles a day for 2 weeks to make sure I would be a good fit, that I could keep up with the work… especially with having a small child at home.

With having a small child at home, would I, professional me, with a masters degree and 5 years of this particular experience under my belt, not to mention the bajillion other jobs I’ve held down, even during grad school, even during undergrad, even while also TAing….. be able to complete my work?

I let the comment slide, but stuck it in my back pocket just in case, because my next question was: And what would the rate be for this?

Oh, this would not be paid. Two weeks of part time work, getting 20ish articles out of me, for freebies.

No thanks, I said, that would not be acceptable. She gave me her email address (which I pretended to copy down) just in case I changed my mind, and that was that.

Even with a small child at home, even with the cost of 2 daycares looming, even with our house savings completely halted while I am scrambling for work and taking phone interviews covered in spit up…. Even with all of that, I know I’m worth more than that and I’ll wait for it.

26 thoughts on “Job Hunt Part 2: Even With A Small Child At Home?”

  1. That is ridiculous. Would that offer ever be made to a man? Sorry, this just really heats me up. How rude to presume that you wouldn’t be able to handle Personal Lauren and Professional Lauren. Ugh. I’m sorry.

  2. OMG what bullshit. They just wanted 20 free articles. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no intent to ever offer any of the interviewees a paid position. And “tell me stuff that isn’t on your resume” sounds like code for “tell me stuff I am not legally allowed to ask you about.” Good for you for turning her down flat.

    1. >>And “tell me stuff that isn’t on your resume” sounds like code for “tell me stuff I am not legally allowed to ask you about.”

      It totally was. What a piece of shit.


    This makes me so angry. Writers, designers, photographers, illustrators — we are professionals who work hard at our craft. We, like other professionals, need to pay bills. Would you tell an accountant, “Oh yeah we want you to do this work for free for a couple months, but it’s good exposure for you!” In NO OTHER INDUSTRY is this considered acceptable. (At least none that I know of — and if it is, I’m outraged on your behalf, fellow professional!)

    (Side note: this is also partly why I hate the term “creative” to describe a person/job. Saying “I’m a creative” instead of “I’m a writer” makes your job sound like some mystical thing that doesn’t require technical skill. It also makes other people think — “Hey, I’M creative! I could design this/write this myself!” and devalues the profession.)

    Also: as a hiring manager, I would never ever ask someone about their kids and how that might affect their professional life. You can get sued for that shit. But maybe if you’re not offering to PAY the person.

    Obviously I have ALL THE FEELS on this topic.

    1. An interesting observation from the legal world: over the last eight years since I entered this field, I’ve been surprised at the number times I’ve seen people soliciting lawyers/would-be-lawyers to do what essentially amounts to unpaid legal work. I’m talking unpaid federal judicial clerkships, attorney volunteer positions at established non-profits that higher-ups promise will turn into paid positions but somehow never do, corporate clients asking multiple law firms to pitch their best legal strategies for a specific case so they can pick the best one (or take all the ideas and hire no one), etc. Although this is an increasing trend, I know we don’t experience it to anywhere near the degree that people with creative jobs do, and we get loads more professional respect generally, so I’m not really complaining, just observing that the value of the American worker is going down even in more traditional fields.

  4. So basically she was asking you to do charity work for her company, under the guise of a job. She didn’t offer you anything, even though she would like to pretend that that’s what she was doing. The fact that they called you on a Sunday, and got you to agree to an interview probably made them think you were desperate. Throw in the having two small children and she probably figured she had hit the jackpot. Free labor! Little did she know that she was dealing with a woman that has self respect, and a sense of self worth. Even while covered in baby vomit. Fuck yes for you.

  5. Wow, that seems super sketch! Even if it was a different rate you should get paid… I mean… SOMETHING for doing 2 weeks worth of work!! Are you kidding me? Do people say yes to that? (I mean, I don’t totally know this field so maybe people say yes to get a foot in the door but…. it seems like a recipe for getting screwed over!)

  6. I once went for a job as a photographer.
    At the time I had no kids, but we were not far off starting trying.
    They openly asked me “you aren’t planning on having kids, are you?”.
    When I wasn’t willing to say “hahaha, no, dont be silly” they strung me along, wanting me to work (read: volunteer) two days a weekend as an assistant (not allowed to touch a camera, or the expensive equipment, or talk to the clients, dont be silly), for as long as they deemed necessary, to prove I really wanted the job – in the guise of “we dont want to lose the opportunity to work with you, because we think you are excellent, but we aren’t able to offer you paid work yet”. While offering a permanent, paid position to a bloke.
    Thankfully, I had an excellent excuse to nope on out of there after a couple of weekends in the form of a trip to Europe. I never bothered contacting them again when I got home.

  7. The more I’ve thought about this, the angrier I’ve gotten. What kind of crap is “tell me stuff that’s not on your resume”?! I like to think I would say, what kinds of things, my interests? My hobbies? And purposefully not mention kids.

    In Sociology we talk about the well-established “Motherhood Penalty” where mothers are seen as less committed, less compentent and are offered lower starting salaries than nonmothers. Fathers, on the other hand, receive a BOOST – being a father is seen as an advantage. Fathers are perceived as more stable, responsible, and deserving of a higher starting salary. With the differences in who handles urgent childcare (which is a form of gender inequity that has to be addressed at the couple level) the perception that mothers are less committed to their jobs might have a kernel of truth (but not in all cases and not be sheer virtue of being a mother) but less COMPETENT?! Come on, are you kidding me? I’m not as a good of a writer because I have a kid?! Anyway, here’s a link to the academic article about the Motherhood Penalty: and here’s a link to a 3 minute video of Shelley Correll talking about her research. The Motherhood Penalty is real and it’s some bullshit. Keep fighting the good fight! Good luck!

  8. That’s shocking. I’m sorry she wasted your time. Good job getting the hell out of there. Curious whether this is going to affect the way you interview in the future or not (i.e., resisting any invitation to discuss your personal life)?

  9. That sounds…not legal. On top of being completely not OK on several other levels. I’m not an employment attorney or anything, but I’m pretty sure you cannot make people work for you for no money and no school credit. That is theft! UGHHHHH.

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