People ask me frequently how to get doula jobs and specifically how to seal the interview. These are capable people with skills; they just really want to know how to shine during a time of high anxiety in anticipation of getting a job (or not)!
I also frequently hear the “You’re not the doula for everyone” speech, and I will admit that can be true. You can’t please everyone. But I also see this followed up with, “You be you. They will have to take it or leave it.” This, I disagree with. I believe the nature of doula work is to be a servant—and I like to add that we are also highly trained and highly paid servants, but we are “servants” nonetheless. And, servants get chosen or hired, not usually the other way around.
Now, if you are a doula (or educator, or other birth worker) that has jobs lined up for months in advance and never worries for steady work, this isn’t for you. You have earned the position to be choosy. To screen your clients as much as they are screening you. Or if you are a doula who only wants to work sporadically, then this also isn’t for you. I want to share this specifically for those who are hustling, trying to fill up a schedule with clients and work to make a living wage, maybe support their kids, or put a child through school.
Here are my 5 tips for winning interviews:
1. Be the doula they need you to be.
I’m not talking about compromising your integrity here. What I am suggesting is to highlight what is important to them, even if it isn’t your passion. Listen to what they tell you (or imply) that matters to them. Be THAT. It is their birth, their baby, their experience. It is ok if they choose things you think are crazy. You don’t have to choose to support it. (We know this is possible; we do after all fall in love with people that are our complete opposites and somehow still love and support them even when they do seemingly crazy things, right?) You can be the person they need you to be in the moment they need someone. And the flexibility to be that person might be all they need to hire you. (And who knows, they might change their minds later and not do the ‘crazy’ thing anyway, right?)
2. Lead the conversation a little.
Ask your own questions at the interview. Make sure they know you have something to give by offering them enough infrastructures to the conversation that helps them not feel lost. Many people have never interviewed a helper in their home or for their birth; they appreciate someone familiar enough with the process to answer the questions they might only be guessing at being able to ask. Bring paper and something to write with, maybe even a list of questions you like to ask each family. Even if you only make a couple notes, it will give you something to reference if you get stuck, and it will show them you are not only sensitive and caring, but also a professional that respects their time and their input.
3. Let them show you around.
If you will be laboring at home with them, or if you are their postpartum doula, have them walk you through the house to show you where they will be laboring or caring for the baby. This gives you GOBS of information about their choices, their expressions, and their philosophy. You can also help them figure out how to efficiently use their space to labor or comfort baby. Talk about gear they might benefit from (you know they love talking about stuff they can buy!) and tell them about what you can provide in their space. This walk through can be crucial to increasing communication, and it becomes so valuable once you begin working with the family. Make sure to compliment their choices—but only sincerely. Show interest in their home. Be accepting of their ideas about the way they want to live. This goes a long way to helping them fall in love with their future doula.
4. Include some teaching in the interview.
Even if this doesn’t end up the family for you, don’t be afraid to offer a little education. You don’t need to give away your trade secrets to share a bit about what is coming for them. Give them some reference points that can help with their preparation for birth or baby. Make suggestions on gear they can prepare. Leave them with some ideas for connection as a couple. Tell them you are hopeful and excited for them. They might walk away wanting something different, but you have offered them some valuable ideas that will help them respect you and your service. This gives you a chance to get a referral, even if they hire someone else. We have received several recommendations from families that used other doulas, but still recommended us to their friends and family. That’s winning at the long game.
5. Leave the door open.
I know it hurts to not be chosen. Rejection is no bueno—for the heart and the business. However, sometimes families just aren’t sure what they need prenatally and when things get more real, they change their mind. So, don’t burn the bridge if they say they picked someone else. Many families have called to tell me they had a change of heart, and asked if we still have openings because they had a good experience with our interview. Some of these families have wanted a tremendous amount of care and have worked out really well for us in the end—and I was extra thankful to have left things positively with them in our last interaction. I have also had families hire us based on the fact that we supported their choice to hire or interview someone else because we respect their decisions (when others spoke negatively of their fellow doulas). Try not to let the disappointment get to you, as it might be short-lived.
Don’t forget to make the interview a good experience for them. As an extrovert, I usually go into interviews excited and looking forward to meeting new friends! However, I know that is not the case for everyone—especially those who struggle with anxiety in new situations. Don’t be afraid to get a list of interview questions and practice out loud answering them. I know it feels silly, but it really helps you to think on your feet when you have practiced in safety. Sometimes your answers come out like pure gold! Try it. You might be surprised at how much different you feel as you walk into your next opportunity to snag a future client. Happy interviewing!
CAPPA Faculty, IBCLC, CPD, CLE®, CNPE
Kimberly has been serving breastfeeding families since 2001, first as a postpartum doula, then as a hospital educator, then as a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC since 2011). She founded a ABC Doula Service in Portland, OR in 2001 and has seen it grow to serve over 1800 families within the first 15 years. She has a passion for newborns and their families, as well as new doulas and educators launching into their own businesses. She has been Faculty for CAPPA since 2005 and now trains postpartum doulas, lactation educators, and her own advanced program for working with multiples. Kimberly is the mother to two lively school aged kids, and enjoys the collaboration at home and work with her husband of over 20 years. She also teaches breastfeeding, newborn care, and twin/triplet classes as within the Providence Health System. Kimberly has also produced 2 instructional videos for educators and new parents about newborn care. Her joy is in really making a difference for new parents and new doulas, and changing the world one family at a time.