Be the Boss Over Cancer


I just had a phone interview for an internship, and the company wants their hire to start immediately. I have an in-person interview this Thursday, and I have chemo scheduled for next Wednesday.

 I don't want to talk about ADA accommodations until I've been offered the job, but today I was asked how soon I could start and why I couldn't start next week. I said I had something personal scheduled for next Wednesday that I couldn't get around, but I'm worried I will be asked again during an interview and look like I'm hiding something or have to open a conversation about my health that I don't want to start yet. 

I could start work next week, but I don't want to move my chemo treatment, and I won't feel well enough to work Thursday or Friday, either.  What should I say about my start date? 

I would appreciate any ideas about how to get around this gracefully without hurting my chances of being hired. Thank you. 


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  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Aug 7, 2012

    Career Coach Comment:

    Emily –

    I understand and agree that you need to put your chemo
    first.  This is about your life and your

    That said, I think you could respond comfortably to the
    question about a start date by providing a specific date such as Monday August
    20th or August 22nd, whatever makes sense depending on
    what you have been told by your Oncologist about the effect of this round of

     Tell your potential employer that you made a commitment before
    the telephone interview and that you need to support that commitment.  This will give them a bit more information
    than “a personal issue” and it will reinforce that you have a sense of loyalty
    and strong ethics. It is also the truth, without revealing too much. If you
    have to give more details you can also add that it has something to do with a health
    issue in your family. Hopefully, you don’t have to expand on your explanation.

     If your interview is this Thursday, it is somewhat presumptuous
    of any employer to assume that you could start within one workday of an
    offer.  After all, it probably took them
    a great deal longer to respond to your application and schedule your telephone screening
    and your interview.

     If on your start date, you are feeling poorly, you are
    better not reporting to work, because you won’t create a good first impression.  Call in, apologize profusely and tell them
    that you are not feeling well, that you are not sure why and that you will plan
    to be there the following day.

     I am sure that you are excited about the prospect of this
    new internship.  Verbalize that
    enthusiasm to the potential employer, assure them that you are delighted with
    the offer and that you feel confident that you can make a significant
    contribution; don’t feel guilty about not being able to show up immediately for
    the new job.

     I hope this helps.


  • Emily S.

    Emily S. on Aug 7, 2012

    Thank you for your response! Your answer sounds just right to me. 

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