It can be challenging to express our personal needs when job-hunting, especially when making a great first impression, appearing flexible and open, and articulating how you’re the best candidate for the job are often the priority during the interview process. The idea of asking for something from a potential employer is scary and can seem totally unrealistic.
Many cancer survivors experience side effects of treatment both while they’re in active treatment and in the years post-treatment. This means they may have particular needs in the workplace; so it can be necessary to share them with a potential employer. While the thought of this can be distressing, there is a law in place to help cancer survivors do just that! The Americans with Disabilities Act, referred to as the ADA, is a federal law that protects those with disabilities from discrimination in areas of public life, including transportation, school and employment. Among those protections is the right to request reasonable accommodations — i.e., job modifications that make it possible for an individual to perform the essential functions of a job. However, many people are unaware that protection also exists even before an individual is hired. This means protection is provided during the recruitment and hiring process.
Survivors often ask Cancer and Careers for help during the interview process — in particular, what they need to tell an employer about their health. While we remind survivors that disclosure is a personal choice, it is also important to be aware that an employer is legally prohibited from asking questions to reveal a disability before making a job offer. Cancer survivors are often under the mistaken impression that they are obligated to share their health status, or health history, with a prospective employer, or that omitting the information is the same as lying. This is not true — a job candidate is not required to share his or her health information with a potential or current employer. For more guidance on disclosure, check out CAC’s article on “Managing Disclosure When Looking for a Job.”
Our friends at The Muse published an article focusing on how to ask for accommodations in the workplace during the job-search process and we have highlighted a few salient points that are particularly relevant for cancer survivors.
Ask Questions About the Hiring Process. The hiring process can be long and can entail numerous steps and processes. Having a sense of what is expected from you during this time will help you determine if there are any accommodations you may need as you interview. Is the building ADA accessible? Will the company require you to take a test or assessment of some sort and, if so, will you be able to perform this if you need extra time for such tasks? Being more informed about these aspects can help ensure you’re prepared and/or will know what to ask for.
Know How Much You’re Comfortable Sharing. As mentioned, this is something we at CAC talk about often, since it is a major concern for many cancer survivors. Remembering that you need to share only the information that is absolutely necessary for you to have access to what you may need is extremely important as a means of protecting yourself during and after the job hunt. The CAC verbal technique, the Swivel, can help you stay on track and control the conversation with a potential employer to prevent oversharing.
Be Specific About What Your Needs Are. It’s important to be clear about what your needs are and how an accommodation might alleviate any concerns regarding getting the job done. Communicating effectively is something that can really help in the long run.
For more advice and recommendations on the post-cancer job search, be sure to take a look at the articles in the Looking for Work section of our website. Additionally, CAC’s Job Search Toolkit is an excellent resource for understanding what job-hunting with a cancer diagnosis looks like and tips and tools for acing everything from the resume to the interview!