Many cancer survivors who are looking to re-enter the workforce or change jobs are concerned that during an interview, they may be asked about their health history or a gap on their resume.
While asking a job candidate about breaks in their work history is not only legal but legitimate, asking if the gap was due to an illness is not. The challenge, of course, is that just because an interviewer isn’t supposed to ask such questions, it doesn’t mean he/she won’t.
A recent article from FlexJobs offers these options for responding to questions that really shouldn’t be posed in the first place:
- “Consider answering the question.” One option is to offer some sort of response — and while Cancer and Careers would never recommend lying during an interview, there are ways to acknowledge a question, answer it vaguely and move the conversation forward. This option may help keep you in the running for the job while still preserving your rights. See more about how to do this, below.
- “File a claim.” If you’re certain that the interviewer has overstepped his/her bounds, you may want to consider filing a claim through your local branch of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There were 874 cancer discrimination claims filed with the EEOC last year. It is important to remember that this process can be time consuming and discrimination is hard to prove, especially during the interview phase. However, for some people, reporting a company is their attempt to protect the next person from having a similar experience; and the feeling that it can provide of taking back control can be invaluable. You’ll need to think through what matters most to you.
- “Point out to the interviewer that the question is illegal.” One way to handle the situation is to inform the person conducting the interview that you know the question is inappropriate. But as the article points out, this will need to be done with finesse. And, not everyone feels it is his/her responsibility to take on a teachable moment such as this, especially when a much-needed job is on the line.
If you do opt to answer the question, we recommend using The Swivel. Your goal with The Swivel is to acknowledge and address what is asked and then redirect — or swivel — the conversation toward something more productive that focuses on your actual goals and desire for the job.
For example, if an employer asks a cancer-related question, you could say, “As with most people these days, I have friends and family who have been impacted by cancer, AND I am thrilled to discuss how my management skills can build the team and grow your business.”