• The Job Search... after cancer

    Asked by LeslieMaria on Monday, April 22, 2013

    The Job Search... after cancer

    To tell or not to tell what you were REALLY up to the years you weren't working...do they need to know?

    9 Answers from the Community

    9 answers
    • Clyde's Avatar

      Difficult situation. As a former HR person in the hospitality industry, I think it best to hit it on the head rather than hope they don't notice. They do, even if they don't say anything. When I saw a gap in a resume that wasn't explained, it said "prison or drug rehab." Those who would point out the gap by explaining they had taken time off to care for an ailing relative, travel or heal (or prison or rehab but they brought it up rather than tried to pretend it didn't happen) were seen more favorably. Of course, it also led to further questions which is why its better to be honest, even if it means more rejection. They will find out and with the grace period after you are hired, they will be able to let you go if you can't do the job with no recourse for you. There is also that pesky little clause in most contracts that says if you misled the company when you were hired, they can let you go without notice. A clause without an expiration date.

      Remember that every limitation you bring to the table is one more reason they don't have to hire you. If you are going to need time off for treatments, you need to apply for jobs where this isn't a problem. If you can't lift boxes, don't apply for a stock position. If you tell them you have no limitations, you better make sure you don't have any. You will have to prove yourself. It will help if you spent the down time studying or at least keeping up with developments in your field. It sucks, but that is the reality.

      Some companies will not hire you because of the cancer. Some won't have a problem because they have experience with it. Put on your armor and be ready.

      over 4 years ago
    • GregP_WN's Avatar

      Clyde, the "prison or drug rehab" statement I have run across in hiring people over the years. I once had a fellow leave a four year blank spot, when I asked what he done during that time he said, "I was with the State". I thought he meant working for the state. I kept asking for him to elaborate, and tell me what kind of work he was doing, kept saying, I was with the state. Finally he had to spell it out, I was WITH the state as in incarcerated. I still laugh about not catching that today.

      @LeslieMaria, as someone who has owned a business and hired hundreds of people over the years, I can tell you that most business owners aren't concerned so much with what you have done, or claimed you have done, good or bad in the past, allthough some larger companies that go by the numbers will actually assign a number value to your application answers to give you a number that qualifies you for future consideration, or not. For me it has always been if I thought this person could do what I needed them to do. If they had been through something in the past that I thought would affect them being able to do the job, I was probably going to overlook them. But some things a person goes through may make them a stronger person and more appreciative of the job and position. It's a touchy thing.

      You do not have to tell them you have/had cancer. But as Clyde says, if you take a job that requires you to do something, you need to be sure you can do it. Ask what the job entails, be sure you understand it, then decide if you want to divulge the information or not. We have people here that have gone both ways. I don't remember any horror stories from anyone saying about the results of either decision.

      I know this, the american business community needs GOOD HELP. If your good help, an employer will overlook some other problems to be sure they can keep you. If your not good help, your condition is going to be more fuel on the fire to get rid of you. So just be GOOD HELP.

      We wish you the best!

      over 4 years ago
    • KarenN@StF's Avatar

      Clyde and GregP both provided great insight and experience. Honesty is the best policy- doesn't mean you need to go into detail. Put your best foot forward regarding your capabilities to perform the job you are applying for and if it is meant to be it will be. good Luck!

      over 4 years ago
    • StrongSteph's Avatar

      Share..... I think honesty is a good idea...and you can bring awareness with you! Us SURVIVORS need to share the fact that life goes on after cancer!! Or, life goes on despite cancer. :)

      over 4 years ago
    • gwendolyn's Avatar

      Personally, I would not use the "C" word. I might say I was dealing with a serious family issue that has since been completely resolved. Or, you could say "medical issue" or something closer to the truth if you felt it would seem less likely to be regarded as suspicious. The point is to firmly reassure them that the issue has been resolved and won't result in future absence from work.

      over 4 years ago
    • gwendolyn's Avatar

      Section 3 in the linked article explains the legal requirement for job applicants and prospective employers: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/cancer.html

      over 4 years ago
    • Clyde's Avatar

      Thanks for the link, gwendolyn.

      I would still caution about being too vague about where you were for the missing time. Vague answers will not get you hired if the HR people think you are hiding something (or worse, lying) and, as the link points out, they can't really ask direct questions so their imagination will fill in the blanks. If you decide to go the "I was dealing with a medical issue which is now resolved." route (Which is a pretty good way to handle this, imho if you aren't going to be upfront. Its not a lie. Above all else, honesty is most important.), I would add that it wasn't an addiction problem or mental health. HR will automatically go to drug/alcohol abuse as the cause first (because it usually is), depression second if you don't tell them otherwise and being vague says to them that it is still an issue (recovering addicts are encouraged to be honest). Wouldn't it be a kick in the a s s to lose a job because they thought you were hooked on crack when the reality was you were hooked on chemo?

      Cancer is rarely the first thought about resume breaks unless it is pretty obvious (bald, wearing a head scarf etc.). Of course, it gets easier the longer you are a survivor. A resume break that ended 5 years ago (and its cause) is far less of a concern than one that has not yet finished.

      And even though the link/law promises lots of protections, there are many ways around those for potential employers. While they may not legally be able to ask certain questions, you have to be able to prove they did......if they do.....and you don't get hired.....and your cancer was the reason.....and it wasn't "We found someone we think is a better fit.".....and you can prove they are lying......and......and.....

      And.....as if that isn't enough....if you aren't going to be upfront about your cancer, I would clear any mentions of cancer from social media. Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, no mention of What Next anywhere, no blog about your journey, nothing that can give you away, etc. Almost everyone checks SM out to see if you are a guy who likes to trash the boss on line and if they see cancer there and you were mysterious about that time off.............. At that point, it won't be the cancer that keeps you from being hired, it will be the subterfuge.

      over 4 years ago
    • Nancebeth's Avatar

      I didn't miss much work during treatment andhave started looking for new jobs. I am fine where I am, just would like to make a little more money. I was offered a job after a phone interview and signed the job offer. I informed the Dept Director (also by phone) that I had cancer and was in remissionbut would need 5 days off for my partial knee replacement surgery (necrosis caused by chemo) in May, she offered the job to another candidate. I filed an EEOC claim and have stayed at my current job. I would not have even mentioned the cancer, had I not needed the days off for surgery.

      over 4 years ago
    • geekling's Avatar

      I've been out of the work force for quite some time. When I was a worker, I always tried to work for myself. It is so disheartening to read these comments. As I see it, it is nobody's business but your own that you have been through the cancer wringer. First business destroys the environment and creates poisonous products (do you really think cancer is only hereditary when it barely existed just 4-5 generations back?) to sicken you and then it penalizes you for succombing. This is sick, very sick behavior.

      I'd tell them, if asked, that I was on sebbatical for a personal research project. If someone had the nerve to inquire into something I'd already declared to be personal, I'd ask why they thought they needed to know. Companies don't own your life, you know.

      Remember, please, that you walk into a job looking for work and you leave a job in the very same condition so nothing much really changes.

      I had a friend who was a medical doctor who was fired from her group the minute they found out she had cancer. If ever government ought to stick its nose into discrimination, this would be a good time.

      What they really want to know is how you supported yourself while not working for someone else. You could have been an entrepreneur or you could have hit the lottery but you aren't a slave. In truth, Greg, you've no right or reason to ask somebody about their work history more than 5 years back. That is plenty enough time to establish continuity.

      You might recall that I asked you about work and you gave me the brush off. It hasn't stopped me from looking elsewhere. As I recall, you had minimal interest in my history.

      over 4 years ago

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