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What to do if you’re sick when you have a job interview

If you’ve got a cold or the flu when you have an interview scheduled, take this advice (and call us in the morning).

You know the feeling. Body aches, headache, fatigue. There’s no denying it: You’ve caught the flu.

Typically, when you're sick, you'd simply let your boss know you're taking the day off, and stay within the comfy confines of your bed watching bad movies. But it may feel like a different story when you've got a job interview scheduled.

The reality is, it isn't. Here's how to handle the situation with finesse and tact:

Stay. At. Home.

Although you may be tempted to drag yourself out of bed to meet the prospective employer out of concern that it looks unprofessional to cancel at the last minute, take my word for it that you should stay at home.

There are a small number of reasons when it's acceptable to reschedule late in the game—and this is one of them.

Sure, it's not an ideal situation since you'll probably use a sick day from your current job that you could have used towards the interview, but you should put your health and the health of others first. By staying at home, you're doing the interviewers a favor, by preventing spreading germs to them.

If that's not enough to convince you, maybe this will: You won't be at the top of your game if you go in under the weather, and could hurt your chances at getting the job.

Recruiters and hiring managers tend to get cancellations from time to time; don't stress out and over think your situation by placing too much weight on it. Candidates have asked me if it makes the prospective employer pause, wondering if you'll call out sick frequently as an employee. The answer is no—they're busy professionals who typically take it at face value: You're sick and you're postponing the interview. That's it.  Plus, I've seen interviewers stay at home, too. During flu season, you may notice when you're scheduled to meet with five interviewers, upon arrival you're told one of the interviewers isn't it. Touché!

Pick up the phone

Since you're likely to be within 24 hours of the scheduled interview when you realize you're sick, call—don't email—the person who scheduled it. Explain the situation while expressing your enthusiasm to reschedule at least one week later.

If it goes to voicemail, leave a message like, "Hi Jackie, I have an interview scheduled with you tomorrow at 10 am. Unfortunately, I'm under the weather with the flu so I'm very interested in rescheduling a week or so from now when I'll be healthier. Plus, I don't want to get any of your interviewers sick. My number is…"

The week rule is key, according to WebMD. People can spread the flu up to a day before they start feeling sick and up to seven days after.

Move on

While it may be tempting to overanalyze your situation, there's no need to go there. When candidates occasionally called me at the last minute because they were sick, it didn't alter my impression of their candidacy; and it didn't tarnish their reputation or negatively impact their job interview. If anything, it was quite the contrary! They sent a positive message by clearly putting their health (and mine) first.

So, when your rescheduled interview date arrives, be thankful you did the wise thing by delaying it. You can briefly allude to it upon the start of the interview by thanking the person for his or her flexibility. Acknowledge it, sure—but then quickly move on. Focus on acing the interview now that you're back to your healthy self.

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