One of the biggest quandaries for anyone seeking a job is how much to really reveal during an interview. Health issues pose a potential landmine for job seekers. Should you tell your interviewer that your partner was just diagnosed with cancer? Do you have to tell them you have lived with lupus for 10 years? What about your child’s struggle with drug addiction?

Despite all the protections in place to safeguard against any discrimination from health problems and despite your hope that a prospective interviewer would be understanding, revealing too much can certainly cost you a job. But where is the balance?

Most experts suggest not revealing too much too soon. If you’re only on your first round of interviews, spilling your health history could certainly scare them away. A prospective interviewer is focused on how you can help the company get the job done. By telling them that you suffer from chronic pain or deal with depression, they might find other reasons to determine you aren’t the best candidate. The first interview is a get-to-know-you part of the process and not the time to let it all hang out.

But ethically, what should you do if you know your health issues could impact your job?

1. Present Your Best Self

Right from the start, you are applying for the job because you know you’re an excellent candidate. Focus on the qualities that will make your skills shine. Talk about your dedication, your ability to get the job done, or your proficiency with technology before introducing anything about limitations.

2. Try to Understand the Culture

You can ask questions about the culture of the organization and if you’re lucky enough to know anyone in the company, ask them a few informal questions. Are supervisors flexible in family emergencies? Do employees ever work flextime schedules or can they opt for shortened shifts for a time?

3. Know Your Rights

Legally, employers are not allowed to ask about your health history or conditions during a job interview. So as long as your answers are truthful, you don’t have to reveal anything as long as you can do the job.

4. Make It a Strength

If you have an obvious physical impairment or health problem, you can certainly turn your difficulty into a positive during the interview process. Whatever your condition, it was probably harder for you to land in that interview seat, so expand on whatever qualities you can that will make your skills, abilities, and determination shine.

5. It’s Your Decision

Ultimately, it’s up to you what you want to reveal about your health issues. If you have medical treatments scheduled for when the new job schedule has you traveling around the country for presentations or trainings, you might need to be a little more upfront about what’s going on. If you don’t, you risk making your potential supervisor feel misled right from the start, or it could cause a disruption that results in interpersonal friction.

6. Know You’re Not Alone

Employees and employers are human, and we all have things fall apart sometimes. If this interview doesn’t go in your favor, use it as a learning experience so the next one goes even better.

With each step of the job hunting process, you’ll learn what works best for you.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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