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When you're ill on the day of your job interview, it's not a time to be a hero. Although you might dread canceling the interview that took considerable effort to get, you're not doing yourself any favors if you can't function in the interview. Cancel the interview promptly, act professionally and explain that you'd be free to meet in the near future. If, however, you feel you can still attend the interview, do so to avoid the risk of missing the job opportunity.
Reasons to Cancel
Before you decide whether to cancel the job interview or try to tough it out, think about how sick you look and feel. If your symptoms are overt, such as frequent sneezing or runny eyes, or you have something contagious, it's courteous to cancel the interview. In a 2012 CBS News article, author Heather McNab stresses that if it's apparent you're sick, the interviewer might be thinking about your illness rather than how you answer her questions. Likewise, consider how you feel. If you're sluggish and don't anticipate being lively and attentive during the interview, you might harm your chance of employment by attending.
Explain Your Reason for Canceling
As soon as you've made the decision that you shouldn't attend the job interview, call the employer to explain the situation. Say that you're under the weather and could come in for the interview if absolutely necessary, but that you'd prefer to postpone the interview until you're feeling better. Stress that you don't want to risk getting the interviewer or anyone else in the office sick. Emphasizing the care you have for others is a clear sign to the interviewer that you're being responsible. Making a phone call is another way to convey responsibility and professionalism -- don't take the shortcut of an email or text message.
When you speak to the interviewer to tell him you're sick, don't speak at great length about your illness. Doing so might suggest that you're a sickly person, and many employers aren't interested in hiring someone who could potentially miss plenty of work. Simply express that you're sick, and don't try to garner sympathy. Instead, suggest some dates and times that you'd be able to attend a make-up interview. For example, say, "I'm really sorry to cancel, but I'm sure I'll be feeling 100 percent next week. I'm free Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday all day."
When Not to Cancel
Although canceling a job interview is often the right approach if you're really ill, doing so can potentially harm your ability to get the job. Should the next candidate stand out, she might receive the job offer before you ever have a chance to sit across the desk from the interviewer. If you're only slightly sick and are able to attend the interview and carry yourself professionally, make the effort. Doing so is especially important if the interviewer has limited availability or if the interview took extensive effort to schedule.