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What to tell a possible new employer?

just4Brooks's picture
Posts: 988
Joined: Jun 2009

The time has come that I feel good enough that I’m looking for a new job. As all of you know I not worked this last year or so because the radiation, chemo, surgeries, and other hospital stays for various reasons I felt I couldn’t give my work 100%. My question is… What do I tell my possible new employer if they were to ask why I wasn’t employed for the last year? Do I pull the cancer card? Do you think it would put fear into them not to hire me do to health reasons?
I’m looking for some advice on what to say and what you guys would think ?


msccolon's picture
Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2004

Unfortunately, what we have out there online is telling enough regardless of what we say to potential employers. Most HR departments will look online to see what they can find regarding potential employers and most of it is stuff we would never want them to know! That's why you can't find my FB page my searching on my name, but I'm not likely to be looking for work anyhow. Maybe somebody who works in HR can help you out with this one. Good luck, Brooks! You have a lot to offer a company.

amyb15's picture
Posts: 109
Joined: Jun 2009

I would probably tell them that you had been out due to medical issues. Short, true and to the point. I wouldn't think there would be a need to elaborate,


PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

I would only say that I needed to utilize the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) to care for a family member. While the thing you and others would WANT to do is to be upfront with a potential employer, I think that laying it all out there would only cause them to say "no thank you". A person with cancer affects everyone's premium as far as I know. Once you ARE hired, you can say that family member is YOU if it comes up but again, I would not bring it up.

I was fortunate to work (as a temp) for a company that when they found out I had cancer and only limited medical coverage they put me on staff so I would be covered at Sloan Kettering. I do think they are the exception to the rule. They also paid me full pay for 2-3 months since I was not eligible for disability at the time.

So, I would say that the reason you were not working the past year was that you utilized the FMLA to care for a family member during their illness and keep it at that.
(good luck Brooks)

lizzydavis's picture
Posts: 893
Joined: May 2009

Brooks, this is one question I have been thinking about too. I feel sure that I would not be hired if I came out with it. The employers want the person who does not have a history of health issues. I'd like to hear some more responses. Thanks for posting this question.

One thought is to tell them the truth "I have been looking for a job and could not find one". That is why I have been unemployed.

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

I'd leave the cancer card in your wallet for safe keeping, Brooks.

Employers will run for cover if you disclose your health issues - nothing personal, just business - they are looking for a solid long term hire - and someone with health issues like cancer and the fallout from that, is a drain on their insurance premiums and to the bottom line of the company. You would be costing them money from the get-go.

They want no problems up front and in our cases, we cannot guarantee that, so saying you have this or that, they can just politely say "thank you for your application and we'll be getting back to you." Of course, the phone will not ring again.

Biggest thing you gotta' do is get past your 90-day probation period and become permanent. And even then, I would just keep everything to myself and keep appointments and scans confidential.

A year is a long time to explain away - Lizzy might be right, "you were just looking for work."

Whatever you do, paint the picture of all is well.

I hope you do well in Oregon - hear it's lovely.


PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

You could say "****! It's been a year already? It's not easy finding a job".

I would go with the looking for work too. Even FMLA might spook them

angelsbaby's picture
Posts: 1171
Joined: May 2008

would go with phils last statement.


Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2009

you can use poor economy where you were to better opportunity, etc where you are....but I'd hold off on mentioning cancer/illness directly if possible, esp if you "look" well on the outside.....steve

scouty's picture
Posts: 1976
Joined: Apr 2004

I too am getting ready to hit the "look for a job" pavement and think about it too. The lapse of time between jobs for me is longer then yours so I have to put something down. I have decided on family health issues since my Dad got sick and eventually died right after I started to get better.

But once in an interview if someone wants to know more, I will not lie and will tell them whatever fulfills answering their question. I have decided that I don't want to work for someone that doesn't want me just because I was lucky enough to beat cancer. I will blame the economy too since I could semi-retire if the previous administration would have taken better care of the US economy, but so be it.

I haven't tried out my strategy yet and it could come back and bite me but that's what I plan on doing for the time being. I just can't imagine not being about to talk about my journey, it's too important to who I have become.

Keep us posted on what you decide to do and how it all turns out. I wish you the best in finding joyful employment very quickly.

Lisa P.

tootsie1's picture
Posts: 5065
Joined: Feb 2008

I believe I would be honest and say that I had been dealing with health issues and state that I am now well enough to begin working again.


geotina's picture
Posts: 2123
Joined: Oct 2009

Some of the answers will depend on the job you are seeking. What kind of work do you do? Now if it is a manual labor type thing and you need to submit to a physical, then the cat is out of the bag with the scars. Also, make sure your system is clean of any mj or anything in case you have to pee in a cup. Clean up anything you have on the internet like facebook, my space, stuff like that.

If you can get a letter of recommendation from your old employer, new employers like to see that, just so it does not say why you left, i.e. cancer.

You can always say you decided to be a "stay at home dad" for a while with the bad economy but now that you have moved and are settled, you are ready to get back into the work force.

I think Craig gave you the best advise, keep that cancer card in your wallet if you can. It is business not personal, but is reality in a tough job market.

How did the kids do with the move? You living with angry teenagers?

Take care - Tina

RickMurtagh's picture
Posts: 590
Joined: Feb 2010

I keep having a running dream about a job interview that goes something like this:

HR: Hi, I am Tina a college intern here at Bumpkin Corp. After a few minutes filling out some paperwork for a background check, we will bring to Mr. Smith's office for your interview.

Me: Hi, I am Rick and I am fifty years old. I had cancer last year, went through chemo and radiation, had my colon removed, had an ileostomy and jpouch created, went through more chemo and had my ileostomy reversed. I wear Depends most of the time and still poop my pants sometimes (all in one breath).

Me: I have to take metamucil and medicine all day long or the runs and butt burn ruin my life.

Me: You are kinda cute, but don't worry, I have erectile dysfunction and have no sensation on my penis.

HR: Oh, okay. Print your full name on the first line and date and sign the consent form with your legal signature right at the bottom at the place indicated and then we will get you to Mr. Smith's office for your interview.

HR: You know, you're kind of cute.

lizzydavis's picture
Posts: 893
Joined: May 2009

If you apply for a position with the American Cancer Society, you can tell them how passionate you are about helping people with cancer! There are opportunities available under "Employment" which is on the home page at the very bottom in fine print.

mac1212's picture
Posts: 31
Joined: Jul 2009

Go with the I have been looking for work statement. I am in a similar boat as you although I have a double whammy when looking for work. I was let go from my last employer on June 5th 2009 and I was dx on July 1st 2009. I am now past all surgeries and feeling pretty good. I have not had many bites due to being in a smaller city but from a screener stand point (former retail store manager), when someone says they have been ill, most employers will file your info in the round file. I have even known of some employers who frown on FMLA. I am going with, I have been looking for work but have not found anything...
Good luck!


Posts: 372
Joined: Aug 2006

Good luck finding a job. I have over 30 years experience in the Law Enforcement as a Sergeant in patrol and Communications; a B.S. in Group Science (chemistry and biology); MBA Masters emeritus; there are few computer systems I can not run and a few I have built. My father a master plumber and electrician who taught me his skills when I was a teenager;I have more certifications and awards than space allows. In all my years I have used six sick days until cancer in 2006 when I took four weeks for surgery and in 2010 two weeks for surgery. The City eliminated many jobs and forced retirements on several people including me. I absolutely believe anyone who fights through cancer is strong and determined and would be a great hire. BUT HR's do not and will find out-cancer means forget it. Of course they won't use that excuse they will be looking for a "better fit". If you lie they will fire you and in Michigan you need to sign a medical release and get a physical/drug test. So far I am 0 for six in interviews wonder why?

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