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Job Doc

Father’s funeral should figure in interview

Q. 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. I have been scheduled to meet with two VPs to move the process forward. After my first interview, my father died. It has all been difficult and I know I am not at my best. The funeral is in two 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 canceling jeopardize my getting this job?

A. Sharing this kind of personal information with the human resources person is very reasonable. You want to be at your best, and you need to make sure this prospective employer understands that this opportunity is a high priority to you.

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Rather than requesting to reschedule, consider calling to let your contact know of your loss. You might say, “You know I am very eager to meet the VPs. 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. Your candor and question show you are sensitive to the impact of changing the meeting. If your potential employer asks what kind of delay you’re looking for, try to make it as short as possible — no more than a week. If they can’t delay, practice responding to questions about your loss and redirecting the conversation to interview topics so you don’t get caught up in raw emotion. I am sure your interviewers will recognize the impact your loss may have on your presentation.

You may not be at your best, but you will have shown yourself as a professional. This approach strikes a balance, offering insight into the personal impact of such a loss, while not leaving everyone with too much information.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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