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Candor Makes Stronger Candidates

Q. I don't know if you can help me in time. I am in the middle of an interview process for a job I really want. I had an initial meeting with human resources, which went well enough that I have been scheduled to meet with two VPs to move the process forward. After my first interview, my father died. This wasn't a shock, but the timing was unexpected. It has all been difficult and I know I am not at my best. The funeral is in 2 days, and my interviews are supposed to be next week. Is it appropriate to ask to reschedule, or would you encourage me to go on the interview? Will cancelling jeopardize my getting this job?

A. I am very sorry for your loss. Dealing with the loss of a parent is an emotional time and I am sure your thinking is impacted in many ways.

Sharing this kind of personal information with the human resources person is very reasonable. You do want to be at your best, and you need to make sure they understand that this opportunity is a high priority to you. Rather than cancel, or requesting to reschedule, consider calling to let your contact know of your loss. You might say, "I appreciate our meeting, and you know I am very eager to meet the VP's you have arranged for me to interview with. This week my father died, and the funeral will be later this week. I have a number of personal issues to deal with as a result, and wonder if there is some flexibility in their availability?"

Most reasonable people understand that significant life events take precedence over business activity. Your candor and question show that you are sensitive to the impact changing the meeting may have on them, and you don't open your own vulnerability more than you need to.

If your potential employer looks to you for what type of delay you hope for, try to make it as short as possible - no more than a week. If they can't delay and you have to interview as scheduled, practice responding to questions about your loss and redirecting the conversation quickly; redirect to interview topics so you don’t get caught up in raw emotion. I am sure your interviewers will recognize and allow for the impact your loss may have on your presentation.

You may not be at your best, but you will have shown yourself to be professional, considerate of the company schedule and willing to share personal information.

This approach can serve you well. Often employees and candidates go to one extreme or another. They choose to try to hide a situation and offer no insight to the employer or over share the personal impact, which may leave everyone with too much information.

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