Job-searching can be a drag. It’s filled with ups and downs, time and energy, and can often feel like a job in itself. So much so, that getting to the interview stage can feel like a real win. But that doesn’t mean it’s the easy part. While getting a foot in the door is a great step, knowing how to sell yourself while you’re there is critical. For those diagnosed with cancer, there is the added challenge of needing to be prepared to answer certain questions in a way that protects your privacy and enables you to share only what is necessary.
Our friends at The Muse published an article outlining tips for addressing the “Tell me about yourself” question. We’ve highlighted some that are particularly salient for those who are actively dealing with, or have weathered, a diagnosis.
Tailor your answer to the role and company. This is important for all questions asked during an interview. How can you illustrate that you would be a great fit for the organization? Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the job description, then determine how you, personally, would be able to fulfill each requirement and meet their objectives.
Keep it professional. This can be particularly challenging for cancer survivors, many of whom are constantly thinking about how their disease/treatment might impact them as they re-enter the workforce. What’s important to remember is that while cancer might be at the forefront of your mind, that’s not the case for the interviewer, since he/she doesn’t have that information. The “Tell me about yourself” request is more of an attempt to find out about you as a professional. So even if you think you’d like to disclose your diagnosis to a potential employer, a first interview is not really the time to do so, since that isn’t the information the interviewer is asking for.
Practice (but don’t memorize). Another thing we at CAC encourage before an interview is to practice, practice, practice! Not only does this make you sound informed and prepared, but it can help you avoid inadvertently sharing information that you hadn’t planned on disclosing. When put on the spot, it can be easy to get flustered and say something you didn’t mean to say. By practicing ahead of time, you’re formulating language that will sound natural and authentic, which can prevent you from oversharing under pressure.
Cancer and Careers understands the stress related to interviewing for a new position. To help you feel empowered (and minimize any potential anxiety), we offer a number of useful publications and programs.
Our Job Search Toolkit provides tips and tools for all aspects of the job hunt, including best practices for interviewing and examples of language you might use.
Our Ask a Career Coach forum can be helpful for testing out how some answers and language might come across during an interview.
The CAC website has an entire section dedicated to interviewing, so be sure to check it out for methods and tips as well as how to use our verbal technique, The Swivel, during an interview.
Finally, the schedule for our 2020 Balancing Work & Cancer Webinar Series will be released soon, so stay tuned for sessions focusing on job-searching and disclosure!