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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

September 12, 2018

Should I cancel an important interview if I am sick or should I just gut it out? I’m on vacation the following week and I’m worried I’ll get rejected if I cancel. What should I do?

Julie Q. Brush

Anybody who has been really sick with the flu or other like virus appreciates the sheer misery of it. And during the Cold and Flu Season, the severities of our bug afflictions vary from the sniffles to an all out war on our system. As we get older, getting sick hits us harder and involves a longer recovery until we feel human again.

Unfortunately, we have little control over when…or whether we get sick. And many professionals find themselves battling their ailments smack dab in the middle of their job interviews. When feeling lousy, it’s near impossible to be at your best, which can compromise a candidacy. In these scenarios, candidates find themselves torn between postponing their meetings and running through the cramps.

So what is the right decision when you’re feeling miserable, but have important interviews to ace?

It depends.

If you are sick – fever, chills, respiratory issues, fatigue (you get the gist), and find it challenging to get out of bed or if you move around the house like Eeyore, it is best to reschedule – even if you won’t be in town or available the following week. There is simply no way your brain will be the well-oiled machine you will need it to be for the interview. And that typical twinkle in your eye or spring in your step? Forget about it. These issues will compromise your candidacy as well as the impression you will make to employers. In addition, people get seriously irritated if a sick person elects to come in to the office. Why? Because it escalates the chance that they will get sick too. How’s that for a first impression? So if you decide to reschedule, the key will be to send an email as early as possible to either the interviewer or the person who is scheduling the interviews. Below is one example:

“Barbara, I wanted to write to let you know that for the past few days I have been ill and in bed with the flu. We are scheduled to meet tomorrow afternoon and I have been torn about whether to move forward with the meeting or to reschedule. I do not want to pass this flu on to you or others in the office – and would prefer to be at my best when we meet. I will be out of town the following week so it would be great to reschedule for the week of the 14th. Let me know what works best with your schedule. I hope this isn’t terribly inconvenient – as I know that your schedule is very booked. But given how sick I am, I think this is the best path to take and hope you agree. I look forward to hearing from you – Best, Paul “

If you are not at the severity level of being on death’s door, but could go either way and don’t want the responsibility of making the decision, reach out to the employer and notify them of your compromised state of being. And ask what they would prefer. Example below:

“Hi Robert, I wanted to reach out to give you a heads up that I’m recovering from a pretty bad flu. I have a full day of interviews scheduled for Thursday that I still plan to attend. With this said, I do not want to get anyone sick or put anyone off by arriving sick. So let me know with the team prefers. Rescheduling would be no problem at all if the execs decide to postpone. Let me know your thoughts – All the best, Julie”

The response above is professionally courteous and reflects an understanding that people in the office are not thrilled when a sick person enters the building. In this situation, if the executives want to proceed with the interviews, they do so with the knowledge that you have been under the weather. In addition, your outreach and inquiry about it will make a positive impression and demonstrate your higher EQ.

If you are in a situation where you are feeling really awful, but must make the meetings (or risk elimination from the process) – you will have to persevere. The best way to give it your best shot is to do the following: get a good night’s sleep, take a heavy dose of medication first thing in the morning to relieve your symptoms (natural, OTC or prescribed), take a long shower and eat a healthy breakfast. Include a blazer with your interview attire to address the sweats or the chills should they arise. Stock your handbag or briefcase with tissue and hand sanitizer. And when you begin your interviews, if there is a natural on-ramp for the comment, mention that you have been feeling under the weather and appreciate their understanding for your occasional sniffle or two. After the interviews, don’t forget the thank you notes. It will be the last thing you’ll want to manage given your compromised state, but it’s a must if you want to maintain the high quality of your candidacy.

As we head into the cold and flu season, many of you seeking greener pastures will find yourselves facing similar choices in similar circumstances: Feeling lousy with an important job interview that could determine the fate of your career. One answer does not fit all  – and determining whether to proceed or reschedule will depend on the situation, how badly you are hurting, what’s on the line and the consequences. I hope this information is helpful and when the situation arises, it leads you to make a healthy and happy decision.

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