Be the Boss Over Cancer

I have an interview in a few days. I'm 2/3 of the way through chemo and I have no hair! (I'll be out of a job in 3 months.) I wear hats and scarves to work, because I do not like how I look in a wig. It was a stranger looking back at me in the mirror.

Should I put the wig on for the interview, or wear my head scarf and explain why I'm wearing it? I plan on saying that I was dianogised with cancer, had chemo to give me over an 90% confidence level of being cancer free in 15 years, and that except for treatment days, I have only missed 1 1/2 days of work.

What is better, wear the wig, hopefully they won't wonder why I'm wearing it, or wear what I'm comfortable with and provide a short explanation?

I do not plan on telling them about the radiation until I get the job offer. I can do it during my lunch hour, so it will not impact work.

Thanks you for your input!


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  • Sarah Goodell

    Sarah Goodell on Jul 23, 2012

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Mel,

    I have sent your post to one of our career coaches who will get back to you soon. In the meantime, I wanted to provide you with a couple of resources to contact regarding the legal implications of disclosing your cancer status in a job interview. Generally we recommend people have a sense of the legal issues before they go on any interviews. 

    • Cancer Legal Resource Center: 
    • National Cancer Legal Services Network:



  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Jul 24, 2012

    Career Coach Comment:


     You mention you will be out of a job in 3 months.  Is it your current position that is being
    eliminated or your employment with your current employer?  Are you talking about interviewing within the
    company or for a new potential employer? 
    If you are interviewing within the company, then your current health
    status may already be known and whether or not to wear a wig shouldn’t be much
    of an issue.

     Interviewing can be stressful and cause us to be
    nervous.   So your comfort level is important.

    However, I would advise you against sharing your current health
    situation in a first interview with any new potential employer, unless you are
    asked directly whether you would need accommodations.  You want the interview to focus on your
    skills, your competencies and your experience – not on your health or current adversity.

     If you opt not
    to wear the wig, it puts the issue right on the table and could raise the
    question of what type of accommodation is needed to do the job.

     I remember very well the many months that I wore a wig.  I did so because, as you said, one doesn’t
    recognize the person staring back at us in the mirror. Even though it felt odd
    to me, I reminded myself that in the 70s many of us wore wigs on a daily basis because
    it was the fad.  It had nothing to do
    with whether we had hair or not.  Some
    people with difficult hair or hair that requires a lot of styling still do wear
    wigs, today. So, if they suspect you are wearing a wig, they won’t necessarily
    assume you have cancer. 

     The topic of cancer should not be raised with your potential
    employer and you may want to sidestep answering the question if they do ask.  Don’t lie. Instead prepare and practice
    replies to any such question that could actually be raised. Deflect the
    question with a question? An employer cannot legally ask about your health in
    an interview.

     An employer, particularly one with whom you do not have a
    track record, could be concerned about your attendance, your ability to do the
    job and your overall performance. The interviewer could have had a bad
    experience with a previous employee and may not be willing to take a chance on
    you and your health when they have the option of other candidates for the job.
    Don’t make it easy for them to screen you out.

     I hope this answers your question and is helpful to you.


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