Should You Attend an Interview if You Are Unwell?

Should You Attend an Interview if You Are Unwell?

31/07/2019 Off By pauldrury

My head is feeling a little fuzzy right now – to the point that I am typing on my keyboard and it feels like an out-of-body experience. It is starting to throb, and the couple of pills that I have just taken probably won’t kick in for another hour or so.

Yet, here I am, writing. For you and for my clients. It is my job, and much as I would rather snuggle under my duvet and watch the final episode of the excellent Chernobyl mini-series, I feel a duty to work – even when I am not feeling my best.

Just because my bed is a 30-second walk away doesn’t make it an option.

I am sure that many of you struggle into work in much the same way when you are not feeling on top form. Work forms an integral part of our life and we cannot let indiscriminate (but thankfully often fleeting) illnesses disrupt our contribution too much. Yes, our output may well be sub-optimal for a while, but everyone will understand - illness can’t help but affect our performance a little.

The main thing is that we “carry on” as best we can.

While this is an admirable and common approach in the workplace, I am not sure that it is always sensible in an interview situation.

It is a tricky situation to consider.

Your interviewer has one chance to form an impression of you, and, like it or not, you might not be able to give of your best if it feels like your head is about to explode. While in the workplace your colleagues know what you are like when you are on top form, the interviewer will only see the unwell version. Much as they might try to suspend their disbelief, there may be a bias towards more healthy and alert candidates.

Of course, there is the delicate balance of the availability of particular senior interviewers and the seriousness of your ailment, but, in my view, a decent employer should do all that they can to rearrange to allow a sick candidate time to recuperate and give of their best. If they really want to employ you, it is an investment for years to come. Surely, they can wait for a week for you to feel that you can perform?

Sadly, this is far from always the case, but I hope that there are HR professionals and hiring managers who might rethink their approach a little as they read these words.

Okay, well that is a quick-fire 400 words….

Writing is easier when it feels personal, but today I am struggling.

My head is really hurting now, and I am not sure if this blog even makes sense.

When you are feeling unwell, your judgement goes out of the window, your brain feels like mush and your words are somehow not fully under your control. You almost want to put a post-it-note on your forehead letting people know that you are feeling terrible and to ignore 50% of what you say.

But you can’t do that in an interview, you have to put on a brave face.

When you are feeling (really) ill, that isn’t always possible.

Attending an interview when you are unwell is a risk, so it is worth asking yourself how your potential employer might react if you ask to postpone it. It isn’t an easy decision, but you should know that it is often an option that is open to you.

Great employers care about their people – even those people who don’t yet work for them.

If you are feeling really unwell, it is at least worth asking the question.


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(If you post career-oriented content and would like to be included here, email: paul@outplacementwriter.com)