Work: The Job Interview
A job interview can be unsettling for anyone. You have a recipe for added stress when you add fears and or anxiety about a chronic or serious illness, explaining gaps in a resume due to being unable to work, and worrying about whether or not the interviewer will ask you health questions.
As you think about an interview, it is helpful to keep in mind the protections provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar state laws. Essentially, any employer covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and its state counterparts may not ask questions about your health, unless the questions are about your ability to perform the essential functions of the job for which you’re applying. A prospective employer cannot ask about your health history or condition in general until after a job offer has been made. Even then, an employer can only ask about your health and require a physical exam if the same information is asked of all employees in a similar job.
TO TELL OR NOT TELL ABOUT YOUR HEALTH CONDITION/HISTORY
The following ideas may be helpful in making your decision whether to tell about your health condition before a job offer is made:
Reasons some people tell about their health condition before receiving a job offer:
- Helps weed out those interviewers or employers who will be unable to deal with your health history and evaluate you based on your credentials fairly because of their reaction to your health condition.
- Helps you not waste your time trying to alter the perceptions of the interviewer.
- Deals with the situation right way. It prevents the interviewer or employer from being surprised or uncomfortable later on if you need an accommodation to let you do your work. Surprise could create a lasting barrier to long-term career success.
- Allows you to feel honest, open and fair.
On the other hand, reasons not to tell include the following
- It may mean you don’t get a chance to interview and present your qualifications.
- Disclosure makes your health a relevant part of looking for a job, instead of your abilities to do the job, with or without an accommodation.
- It keeps your health condition totally separate from your ability to do your job.
- It gives an employer the opportunity to discriminate based on your health condition while being aware that discrimination is difficult to prove.
WHEN COMPLETING THE APPLICATION
As you answer questions on the application, keep in mind that the purpose of the application is to get you an interview for the job. Give enough information to give the prospective employer a reason to meet you. Avoid information that could eliminate you from the interview.
To the general question: “Why did you leave your last job?” : if you left because of health reasons, you can use a general answer such as “career change,” “try working on my own” “improve my skills,” or, if nothing else seems to fit, “will discuss.”
Whatever you do, do not lie. A lie on your application could be a ticking bomb because while a lie can help get you the job, it is cause for termination after you have the job. It may be dormant for a long time, but you never know when it will explode..
TIPS FOR ACING A JOB INTERVIEW
For a list of tips for acing a job interview, cick here.