I'm worried about hiring a pregnant woman

It's every business owner's worst nightmare: you're about to make a star hire, but she admits she's three months pregnant. What do you do?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 28 Mar 2014

Q. I've just finished interviewing for a new account manager. One candidate was head and shoulders above the rest - but she sent me an email yesterday telling me that she's three months pregnant. I appreciate her honesty and she would make a brilliant hire but I don't want to go through the recruitment rigmarole again in six months' time. What would you do?

A: If you had two or three candidates of more or less equal promise, you probably wouldn't be asking this question. You'd almost certainly plump for one who wasn't going to disappear on maternity leave within a few months. And who could blame you?

But here you have a candidate who is 'head and shoulders above the rest' and would make 'a brilliant hire'. And she's further demonstrated her integrity by telling you that she's pregnant when she could well have kept it to herself.

So please think long and hard before opting for another, less appealing candidate. And I say this not for her sake but for yours. I believe it would be the right and entirely self-interested decision for you to take.

Brilliant hires don't come along every day. You're presumably looking for someone who will want to stay with you for some time. Exceptional people, simply through being exceptional, can raise performance standards throughout an entire department or even a company. Their influence can easily bridge the few months' absence that maternity leave entails. To her, the fact that you choose to take her on, despite the inconvenience, will be evidence of high expectation and trust on your part, trust that she'll be keen to repay.

And, finally, think it through. Suppose you decide that you just can't face the hassle and settle instead for a second best. There's every chance you'll be constantly comparing the second best's performance unfavourably with the imagined performance of the one you rejected. That not only means a state of permanent dissatisfaction on your part, but it would be really rough on the second best.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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