Tips for a Great Doula Interview
By Julie Olson, LCCE, CD(DONA)
Meeting with potential clients can make even seasoned doulas a little nervous, and the stress level is even higher for doulas-in-training. It may be difficult to completely eliminate the jitters, but there are things you can do to prepare for these meetings and help them go as smoothly as possible.
Offer to schedule a phone call - Many potential clients make the first contact with a doula through email or text. While this is a good starting point, electronic communication has its limits, since it tends to be brief and makes it difficult to get a feel for someone’s personality. It may be helpful to follow up the initial exchange with a brief phone call before you meet in person. Meeting together is time consuming for both you and the potential client, so it is mutually beneficial to spend a few minutes getting to know each other first. Sometimes a phone call can weed out a mis-match (and save you both time) or a great phone conversation may help you make a positive impression from the beginning. Talking on the phone can help you get a feel for the clients’ personalities, goals for birth and particular situation. The more you know, the more comfortable you are likely to feel during an in-person meeting.
Find a good location to meet - When setting up a meeting, pick a location that is mutually convenient, easy to find and will have the right atmosphere for a long chat (not too busy, too loud or too empty/quiet). Usually public spaces are the best (and safest places) to meet complete strangers. Coffee houses, parks, or libraries can be great spots. You could offer a few location suggestions and allow the potential clients to pick or just have a “designated spot” where you hold meetings. Sometimes going to a new location for every meeting is stressful. Traveling may take longer than you anticipated, you may have challenges finding parking and/or the seating or environment doesn’t work well for a personal meeting.
Some doulas will offer to meet at a potential client’s home, but this can be risky or uncomfortable. Some potential clients may not want to invite you, a stranger, to their home or you may be unknowingly walking into an unsafe situation. It is wise to speak on the phone first before agreeing to go to someone’s home to help you gauge if this is in fact a legitimate potential client. Pay attention to your instincts if the situation doesn’t feel right or insist on a neutral, public location for your first meeting.
Prepare for your interview - It doesn’t hurt to practice your interview a few times out loud before the day arrives. Ask yourself some questions as if you were a potential client and practice your answers:
- Why did you become a doula?
- How long have you been a doula?
- What is your training and experience (how many births have you done)?
- What is your philosophy about birth?
- In the births that you have attended, what role did the husband/partner have?
- When do we call you in labor, when do you typically arrive at a birth and how long do you stay after?
- What is your role should we choose or need interventions or a cesarean?
Be yourself - Potential clients will hire you when your personality, style and experience fit their expectations. There are no “perfect doulas.” Allow your unique personality to shine through and trust that the clients that are good fit for you will hire you. Some won’t be a good fit and that is okay. It doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong, it just means that they were looking for something a little different. Who knows, they may refer a friend to you or even hire you for their next birth. If they don’t hire you, ask for honest feedback about their reasons.
Keep the conversation going - A good interview will strike a balance in the conversation between all of the people. If you find yourself talking a lot, pause and ask the potential clients some questions. Be sure there is a ebb and flow and that you are not doing all of the talking. Have some open-ended questions ready to ask the potential clients:
- Why do you want a doula?
- How do you think a doula will be helpful to you and your partner?
- Describe your ideal birth.
- What are you doing to prepare for your birth (taking classes, reading books, etc)?
Bring paperwork - Have business cards and brochures available for clients so they can easily remember you and have access to your contact information. Many doulas also have a packet they give to clients that includes their doula contract, a contact sheet and/or a prenatal questionnaire. Not all doulas give out their “packet” at the first interview (because it can be costly to print copies for potential clients that do not hire you); however, it is a good idea to have everything ready to go in case clients are ready to hire you after your interview. If they hire you at a later date, you could meet again to give them the packet, email it or send it in the mail.
As you conclude your meeting, you may find it helpful to discuss what happens next. If you are a busy doula, let them know that you will hold their due date for a certain period of time (such as a week or two) to allow them time to make a decision. Then, a day or two after your meeting, follow up via email, text or phone and thank them for their time and offer to answer any additional questions they may have. If you haven’t heard back after a week or so you could casually touch base again to see if they have made a decision. Be careful to not come across as “pushy” or try too hard to sell yourself. Remember, if you are the right fit, they will hire you.
What other tips would you offer to doulas to help the first interview go smoothly?
Julie Olson is the owner of Plumtree Baby, a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and DONA Certified Labor Doula. Julie created Plumtree Baby in 2011, along with the help of her team, in order to offer childbirth educators, doulas and medical professionals modern, comprehensive and flexible teaching tools so that they may better assist their clients. Julie believes that all expectant couples should be educated about birth, in order to be prepared, confident and calm during this life-changing experience.
- Alice Turner