I got scolded for coming to an interview with a cold

A reader writes:

I have a question about an interview experience that I was hoping you could share your thoughts on. I recently was given the chance to interview at an organization. The interview was scheduled about two weeks in advance. A few days beforehand, I started feeling a bit under the weather and ended up having a cold.

By the day of the interview I was feeling much better but still had some mild congestion. I went into the interview with my own water, tissues, and cough drops. When I arrived, I declined handshakes and told them I was recovering from a cold and even apologized if my voice was a bit off and if I coughed. I thought the interview went well. I had to cough and drink water a few times, but I didn’t think it was distracting. Nothing felt off about the interview.

When I arrived home, I was surprised to see a rejection email already sent to me, which was time-stamped for about 10 minutes after I had left the interview. It was a generic form letter, but at the very end was this note:

“A note to you for your future job searching. If you are sick, do not show up for an interview. You are demonstrating that you don’t care about the well-being of your potential coworkers. Did you consider if someone was recovering from cancer or had a compromised immune system? You demonstrated to us that you would not show careful thought or consideration for your coworkers and that is a quality you should consider addressing.”

I didn’t respond, since I wasn’t sure if an apology would be warranted here. Should I have rescheduled? I feel like if I looked horrible, could barely talk, or had something very contagious, rescheduling seemed like the best bet. I thought if I could go to work with this cold (which I did the day before and after), then I was okay to attend the interview. Is there a general protocol for this type of thing?

Well, I wouldn’t be thrilled if a candidate showed up with an active cold, even though I understand that people of course go to work with colds all the time.

But I wouldn’t send an obnoxious note about it either.

I do wonder if you inadvertently made the cold seem more full-blown than it actually was. You said you were just mildly congested at that point, but the tissues and the cough drops may have made it seem like more.

In general, you shouldn’t interview with something contagious — both for altruistic reasons (you shouldn’t knowingly expose people to the illness) and for self-interested ones (a lot of interviewers are going to be irked that you exposed them, and won’t think well of you for it — and plus you’re not likely to perform at your best if you’re sick).

It’s not clear to me if you felt you were still contagious or not, but if you were only a few days into the cold, you probably were. Ideally you would have contacted them ahead of time, explained you were sick, and asked to reschedule. I get that can feel risky — what if they say can’t reschedule, or if they say they’ll get back to you and never do? But there are enough interviewers who will strongly prefer that, and be put off if you don’t, that’s the right thing to do.

In any case, though, their note was over-the-top. I’m quite sure that they have employees come into work with colds, because colds can last weeks and people aren’t taking weeks off for colds. Their snooty lecture was misplaced.

{ 460 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber Rose*

    Talk about getting the… cold shoulder.

    Sorry. I’m done. LW, just brush it off. Some interviewers get hung up on the strangest of things. Admittedly I’d be a little unhappy to interview someone sick, and next time you should probably reschedule, but it’s not like you committed some appalling faux pas. Yeesh.

    1. No Name Poster*

      If I had a cold-ridden person showed up for a job interview, I’d be very angry. My husband has a compromised immune system and if I brought cold germs home and he caught my cold, he could die.

      Yes, it’s a faux pas for some people. And it could be fatal.

      1. Snowberry Kitten Foster, Inc.*

        Same here. I have a compromised immune system. If my hubby brings home a cold, it may not kill me, but I’d likely be sick for a month or longer. Ugh.

          1. Snowberry Kitten Foster, Inc.*

            Just as bad. I’m lucky that my husband rarely gets sick because most of his office worked sick last winter.

            1. Kathlynn*

              Sadly that’s not the norm. Heck last calendar year, AAM commenters looked down on me for taking “up to 5 sick days in 12 months” (in this case over 3 separate incidents). And called it excessive absences, and said they thought it cancelled out my claim of being a reliable employee.

                1. Sunshine*

                  Its not a matter of ‘maturity’. If employers don’t offer sick pay / work from home then people *will* come into work sick. I’m sympathetic as I caught bronchitis from a co-worker, which is worse for me as I have asthma. But ultimately I also know this co-worker simply could not afford to take three weeks off unpaid.

              1. CK*

                Most places I’ve worked over the years, and most places I’ve ever heard about, you’d be considered completely incompetent for NOT coming in sick w/ flu or cold.
                Including hospitals.
                I’ve always noticed it’s expected that you work sick. I’ve always thought it was crazy, but the only place my employer actually agreed with that was at ONE small business I worked at.
                It’s universally very frowned upon if you called off for a mere cold. And people who worked sick always commended for showing up. And if you weren’t willing to work sick, no matter what, that’s what was considered inconsiderate.
                I would have been surprised if somebody tried to reschedule an interview because of a cold, the employer might be MORE likely to write a note saying “If you can’t come to an interview because of a cold we don’t think you’ll be very reliable about getting to work.”

                Even in workplaces where people are not explicitly expected to work sick, often there is not enough authorized sick time (paid or unpaid) available for an employee to take off sick for every case of the flu or cold even if they wanted to.
                You can’t get an FMLA coverage for the flu or a contagious temporarily illness.
                So if you’re option is to lose your job or work with a cold, even if it might effect a coworker or coworker’s family, what are you supposed to do about feeding your own family and hanging onto your own health insurance?

                This is life or death for a lot of people who don’t have the luxury of imagining all the people it might effect, when they’re focused on putting food on the table next week or hanging onto the health insurance that’s paying for their spouse’s cancer treatments.

                Anyone who thinks most workers have the luxury to stay home with a cold are very privileged people indeed. If you’re one of those people, please make sure to count your blessings tonight.

                1. Same.*

                  It’s hard to say without really understanding how sick the OP was/seemed and how she acted during the interview. But I would tend to feel like CK – you’re just as likely to be written off for trying to reschedule. (And I don’t think the comment I saw below of “OP wanted the job so bad they didn’t consider anyone else” is really fair.)

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Very much in agreement, CK, and as usual I am furious and disgusted by the privileged bubble mentality of large segments of the AAM commentariat. Many people don’t have any paid sick leave at all. Some are likely to be fired if they call in sick. This is especially true in lower-paid, lower-prestige occupations and among part-time, temporary, and contract workers. And these people make up a large segment of the workforce. But to the affluent, benefited white-collar desk jockeys of the AAM world, people with jobs unlike theirs don’t count.

                  I wish Alison would push back on these assumptions, but unfortunately her only serious flaw as an advisor is that she doesn’t- and all too often perpetuates them. I hate to tell her how to run her site, since she puts so much effort and care into it, but this is a really significant shortcoming.

                3. Sunshine*

                  Yes, and double yes on the privilege bubble comment. The other day I saw someone on here seriously argue that owning two houses didn’t mean someone was wealthy. JFC what *does* qualify as wealth to some people? Are they even remotely aware that the average wage in the U.K. is £25k and that there are people in the Western world literally starving to death for lack of money? For most people owning *one* property is an unattainable dream and the luxury of taking a week off for a sniffle is laughable.

                4. Maggie*

                  Yes to all you’ve said, CK, and also… I wonder what industry this was in? I work in a public high school. There’s a basic expectation that more than half a dozen children will come to school sick 180 days of the 180 day year. Preschools, daycares, cashiers, receptionists at large places all experience the same. The mere concept of ‘needing to avoid’ bringing home germs is a laughable luxury. My poor 3. 5 year old daughter has had RSV once and pneumonia three times in her life already. But I never once questioned whether I was a bad mother for surely exposing her to germs, because I was too busy putting a roof over our heads and parenting AND teaching other people’s (wonderful, deserving! Read no resentment into this, not one scrap!) kids.

                5. media monkey*

                  i’m in the UK so almost unlimited reasonable paid sick leave. i was off one day last week with a cold and felt terrible. annoying boss gave me such a hard time about it that i ended up coming in ill the following day to get a report out and collect my laptop. i did have a small smirk when annoying boss was out with in the following day…

                6. Turtlewings*

                  THIS!! The vast majority of people can’t let their lives come to a halt because of a cold, and in the LW’s place I would have been terrified of losing the job opportunity entirely if I tried to reschedule. I’m unlucky in that I get frequent colds, and they always linger forever; if I waited until I had no symptoms, the position would be filled and the new employee’s probation over before I was fit to interview. For a period of last year (admittedly unusual even for me), I had back-to-back colds from March to July. Should I have missed four months of work? Yeah, right.

                7. Vicky Austin*

                  I had the exact opposite problem at my old job. We were explicitly told to stay home if we were sick, because we had an open office plan. I suppose it was a privilege in the sense that we had sick days, but there were also times when we were actually sent home for coming to work with a cold.
                  A good friend of mine is a teacher, and she doesn’t have the privilege of staying home from work unless she’s REALLY sick (i.e., throwing up ). She would often encourage me to try to toughen up and go in anyway, but I explained that it wasn’t how my office worked.

                8. TardyTardis*

                  The place I work at now is the *first* place to not want me to come in if I’m sick. Everywhere else, don’t cough on the customer, but shelve those books…and at the longest ExJob, don’t call in sick at month-end, don’t call in dead at year-end.

              2. C*

                Wow that’s some serious bootlicking. God forbid we stay home to protect ourselves and our coworkers instead of working ourselves to death for the man!

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  C, that’s what this sub-thread is about. Media Monkey can’t afford to be fired, so they came to work sick. It’s not “bootlicking”, it’s survival. If you have the luxury of risking unemployment to stay home with a cold, you are the privileged one.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I’m pregnant right now and can’t fight colds as well – I just had one last 3 weeks and the cough is still lingering.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        “And it could be fatal.”

        This. Sure we can’t wrap ourselves up in bubble wrap and no matter our best efforts, sometimes shit happens. This however seems like … inconsiderate behavior. OP wants the job badly enough (I get it) that she didn’t think about anyone else.

        1. Quickbeam*

          I interview for my company a fair amount. If someone came in with tissues, cough drops and a water bottle I’d find it off-putting.

          1. Allonge*

            And that is fair enough – what do you do about making sure they know they can reschedule / skype in etc.?

      3. Safetykats*

        This. My daughter has leukemia, and my next door neighbor recently had a kidney transplant. If I had a candidate show up with an active cold, I would simply decline to interview them – they would have to reschedule. It was inconsiderate at best for OP not to reschedule – and if “a few days” means around 3, it’s likely OP was still contagious. Bad judgement clearly displayed, not only by the OP but by the interviewers for subjecting themselves to an hour in a conference room with them.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I’m immune compromised as well (taking anti-rejection drugs)…but I get why OP did what she did. So many employers are unreasonable that I can easily see another employer giving her a hard time if she tried to reschedule. Almost every employer I’ve ever had has expected people to come to work sick unless they were literally dying. Heck, I had a heart attack and only missed two days of work–and even then, I worked from my hospital bed.

        2. Wes*

          The messed up thing though, is that a lot of companies would refuse to interview her for rescheduling. I’ve heard MANY people say “if you have to reschedule an interview for any reason, you’re a slacker”.

        3. Sunshine*

          Oh for goodness sake. If she had rescheduled she’d likely have been taken out of the running. And I’ve seen this exact commentariat rail against people for calling in sick with a cold. Some of y’all have even defended refusing to vaccinate as a ‘personal choice’. It was an end stage cold, not the damn plague.

        4. EventPlannerGal*

          Then in that situation, the onus should be on you to both decline to interview the candidate and to ensure they actually do get offered another slot and not have the reschedule held against them. Your situation sounds very difficult and I’m sorry you’re going through that, but you cannot punish people for not planning job interviews with “I have a head cold and what if someone interviewing me has a family member with leukaemia?” as their first priority. That’s not reasonable.

          1. That One Person*

            After reading a variety of responses it does leave me to wonder how to go about this in a way that’s not going to off-put the interviewer, but at the same time be respectful of it. Like do you let them know with a call/email “Hey I’m getting over a cold, I’m doing better but not 100% do you need to reschedule the interview?” Put it in their corner? So then this way if they have a reason such as a need to protect family/neighbors then they’re given an early out to reschedule? Or does it sound weird like it’ll be the interviewer’s fault for not wanting to deal with someone else’s germs? I mean you’re not going to please everyone so there’s always going to be someone who takes offense for no good reason, I’m just wondering if there’s a way to sort of cater to both sides of the coin, or is it always going to require the brief explanation, “I know some people need to avoid germs as much as possible.”

      4. Yorick*

        What about the grocery store and every other place you go? I’m not trying to minimize your husband’s condition and the importance of keeping him healthy, but you are absolutely exposed to lots of germs every day, regardless of whether you refuse to interview someone with the sniffles.

      5. JerryLarryTerryGarry*

        That’s pretty unreasonable. I have colds that last for a few weeks. I can’t avoid life for that long. A heads up to the interviewer is nice, but asking people to sequester themselves because those they run into may be or a degree removed from an immuncompromised person is not practical.

      6. Kayla*

        I wouldn’t give it a second thought if an interviewee had mild cold symptoms, as long as they declined to shake my hand. I mean, 50% of all humans I interact with in the winter are probably carrying a cold virus. It’s unavoidable. Life can’t stop for people with colds who feel well enough to go about their business.

        My husband is an ER doctor and he would be laughed at (or reprimanded) for NOT showing up to work with a cold. Unless you are actively puking or have a fever over 101, you pop meds and show up to the hospital for your shift.

  2. Gaia*

    I totally get why you went and their note was obnoxious but I think ideally you’d have been able to reschedule.

    And in a backwards way I’m glad to see a company not encouraging people to come in when sick (although they went about it in a crappy and rude way)

    1. Emily K*

      Yeah, it’s great if they walk the walk and create an environment where people can avoid coming in while sick.

      But rejecting someone on the spot over this seems OTT. Among other things, you’re going to be screening people out for “poor judgment” who may be behaving in exactly the way their current job expects them to behave, and has no way of knowing if or how this company is different. Just because they’ve adapted to an employer who expects them to come in when sick doesn’t mean they haven’t considered the downsides to it–they have just accepted the message from their employer that the downsides aren’t important enough to reschedule over–nor does it mean that they would be determined to continue that behavior in a new workplace with a different policy. You’re essentially punishing people for adapting to bad employers while trying their best to get out.

      1. BookCocoon*

        That was my thought as well. You don’t know if a candidate is coming from a work culture where people are expected to come in unless they’re literally hospitalized. If the person was otherwise my best candidate I would do nothing more than make a note to tell them when onboarding that we encourage people to stay home when they’re sick.

        1. Lyra Silvertongue*

          Yes, I was thinking that too. I personally (and many others, I would suspect) have never worked in an environment where taking sick days is encouraged, and I also would expect to lose a job that I tried to reschedule last minute. I would not miss out on a job opportunity if I felt well enough to go and didn’t look like death. I actually didn’t think taking in tissues and a water bottle was overkill, but that’s just me.

        2. D'Arcy*

          I wouldn’t drop a clearcut best candidate over coming in sick, but I’d still count it as a significant ding and it would definitely boot an unimpressive candidate out of the pool.

      2. Works in IT*

        I would have probably gone to the interview as well, simply because of all the experience I’ve had with trying to reschedule an interview indicates that employers don’t like it when you do that, and that it could be an automatic rejection that takes you out of consideration. Aggressively washing one’s hands before the interview and conscientiously making sure you don’t touch your face during the interview, and bringing tissues to cover your nose/mouth if you sneeze, reduces the chances of getting other people sick, and doesn’t normally carry the chance of being automatically rejected for not being able to interview soon enough.

        Would the interviewer have been as understanding if the OP had said “I’m sorry, could I come in next week instead? I’m sick”? I rather doubt it.

        1. Fluffer Nutter*

          Yup, bingo. to this and Jaz’s comment below. I work in criminal justice and government interview panels just don’t tend to have leeway. Top candidate or not, if you can’t make that day they usually have lots of other smart, qualified people who do. Heck, you don’t even get a choice of the date and/or time normally- they send you the info and you make it work. They’re really good jobs so if you don’t someone else will. I feel for the OP as I’d never have even thought to try and reschedule for a cold. The flu, yes, although you know you probably missed the opportunity then.
          Good luck OP- try not to take their snotty nose, I mean note, personally! :-)

      3. Jaz*

        Those also tend to be environments without a lot of leave, so if you’ve already taken the day of the interview off, rescheduling can be a major challenge.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      I am conflicted about this letter and the advice given. While I wouldn’t have enjoyed going to an interview with a cold, my colds always last at least 2 weeks so at a couple of days in, it’s only going to get worse for a long time. I wouldn’t expect them to want to reschedule an interview for a week later at minimum, especially when I likely wouldn’t be over it by then (still using tissues and cough drops).

      I think I’d have definitely gone to the interview and behaved just as the OP did (avoiding handshakes, using tissues to not be sniffing the whole time, and cough drops to avoid coughing all over everyone, thus being more contagious).

      1. kittymommy*

        Colds can last a long freaking time. I generally linger with a mild cough (my asthma is aggravated) and sometimes a runny nose (I also have allergies) for easily a month or two. I would have gone ahead with the interview as well, minus at least the cough drops.

        1. Reliant*

          Exactly. No company is going to be ok with an employee taking 2 months of sick leave for what is only a discomfort that is managed by over-the-counters medications. And who is qualified to determine whether one is over being comtagious? Is there some sign that I haven’t heard about? The reality is that sick people come to work if their symptoms are manageable.

      2. MLB*

        Yeah its tough. I can get a cough at the end of a head cold that lasts for weeks. I think the best thing to do in a situation like this is to call a day or two before the scheduled interview and explain the situation. That way they can decide what they want you to do. There’s a small risk that they won’t consider a reschedule and you miss out on the job, but most reasonable people understand that things beyond your control come up. Based on the scolding in the email, she’s probably better off that it didn’t work out.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Yup. They could’ve responded to the info with an option to Skype instead. I think taking them out of the decision process is actually what nailed the rejection for the OP.

      3. Blue*

        If I were just sniffly, my instinct would be to go in, if I’m honest. But it’s sounding like the answer may be to email, explain the situation, and leave it up to them to decide whether you should reschedule. Good to know for the future…

      4. angrywithnumbers*

        I got sick on 1/31 I still have some sniffles and a cough even though I’ve felt fine otherwise for several days at this point. The cough is probably going to linger until at least the weekend. I can see an employer being ok with postponing an interview 2 + weeks.

        1. Allonge*

          This. And how am I supposed to know how long I will be sick? I usually have colds for a few days. I have now had one for 3 weeks. Reschedule to when, exactly?

    3. SignalLost*

      I mean, that’s the big issue – what is the OP (or any job-seeker) to do? Try to reschedule stating they have a mild cold? There are a lot of workplaces where a cold wouldn’t be an acceptable issue to request rescheduling, and a lot of places where rescheduling wouldn’t be possible. I think this is a situation where the onus is on the employer to be transparent that they are happy to reschedule due to illness, especially if they are hiring at a time when illness is more common.

      To be clear, I don’t think it would be reasonable to go to an interview with raging pneumonia or a stomach bug, but colds are a fact of life that we all face and that most employers don’t respect as a reason to call out for, despite all the evidence on productivity and the risk to other employees. Partly that’s because they can linger so long, and partly it’s because they’re so minimal and common as an illness. Frankly, I think these people are convinced that they can have total control over their environment and prevent all illnesses, and that’s not reasonable.

      It would not have been possible to refrain from sending a snarky reply. I commend the OP for being more adult than I am.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        The last industry I worked in, we had one guy who flew out for a three-day client meeting, went to nonstop meetings, client meetings, evening events and drinks – all with a 103 fever and influenza so bad he could barely stand. He got pats on the back for a month. People told stories about it like he was a hero of legend. Another woman came in with norovirus, and her boss bragged for days about how badass she was and how discretely she would excuse herself to throw up (in the one-stall toilet that was also the pumping room, but I digress) while still looking fabulous for clients. I myself worked through early labor.

        Those are not made-up stories.

        If someone had tried to postpone an interview for a head cold, they would have been blackballed from the entire industry. Not even joking.

        Okay – I recognize that that particular culture was insane and somewhat toxic, but I’ve worked in (literally) a dozen very different industries – construction, retail, tax audit, academia, banking, manufacturing, and more. In absolutely none of those industries would it be considered okay to postpone an interview for a cold. The flu, sure. Getting hit by a bus, sure. But a cold? That would be judged pretty harshly.

        1. your favorite person*

          Somewhat toxic? I hope none of those people in the places you work ever end up working with in a immuno-compromised person. The flu and noro virus can literally kill people. A cold can turn into a lung infection that can hospitalize people who don’t have well working immune systems (Ask me how I know).

          1. Sunshine*

            One of your examples is not like the others. Flu and norovirus are serious illnesses that are always dangerous to others. While I am extremely sympathetic to people with compromised immune systems, colds are not in the same league.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I had a coach in high school who lauded one of my teammates for participating in a swim meet with a concussion. Her doctor had written a note prohibiting physical activity for several weeks but she didn’t hand it to the nurse until after the Big Meet.

          Now mind you this was 15-20 years ago when doctors only treated serious concussions.

          Girl was the Hero of the Team in the coach’s eyes, it was all we heard about for the rest of the season. I was horrified.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            Yeah – this attitude is everywhere. I once knocked myself out for just shy of a minute while stacking hay bales (add farming to the above list of industries), barfed, shook it off, and worked a full day after that. My boss respected me much more after that, and she said so.

            My spouse has worked in restaurants for years, and you earn the respect of your fellow cooks by working through serious lacerations and burns. People’s hands in that industry are, like, 78% scar tissue.

            America is weird.

          1. LGC*

            Not only that:

            (in the one-stall toilet that was also the pumping room, but I digress)

            This woman was lauded for possibly spreading her highly contagious disease to not only her entire office, but also any breastfeeding children. This company expected mothers to feed their children in a toilet. I CANNOT.

            Like, I’m literally trying not to scream in horror right now. Apologies for the derail but seriously WHAT THE FUDGE.

        3. Eukomos*

          Oh my god, I can’t imagine cancelling an academic interview. They’ve usually bought you plane tickets if it’s a faculty position. If you’re cancelling you’d better be in the hospital!

        4. Bedorah*

          A woman I went to med school with went to interview for a general surgery residency position, and at the end of the interview had to say to them, “If you wouldn’t mind, I need to go to the ER now as I think I have appendicitis.” She’d been discreetly running to the bathroom to throw up all through the interview day. She was understandably terrified that she might NOT have appendicitis, but since she did, she had not only shown her grit, but her diagnostic acumen.

        5. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Absolutely no pun intended–that attitude is plain sick. Employers need to be realistic, even though many aren’t. We had a long-term temp who got sick her first week and called out. People were criticizing her like mad. When I stuck up for her and said people can’t control when they get sick, it was “When you’re a temp, by golly you make every effort to be there every day no matter how sick you are!” Yeah sure. And if she’d come in and coughed her germs all over the place, I bet these same people would have said, “Call her agency and get her out of here, she’s a health hazard.”

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            YES. Blame the people with the power: the employers who enforce this behavior.

            Temps and other non-benefited workers are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We exist. Some of us even read AAM, and all these comments about how awful we are for sometimes working sick (so we don’t, say, get fired) are a kick in the teeth.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Exactly. My current job is the first job I’ve ever had where I even had the OPTION of paid sick days. I was a temp for several years before I got this job and I got lucky – the one time I was sick badly enough to need to take time off, I was working for a very kind supervisor who was happy to fake my timesheet so that I could go home and rest without sacrificing several days’ worth of pay. But the only reason I found out she was willing to do that was because I came in sick and she asked why I didn’t stay home, so I had to explain that I’m going to be sick either way so the choice is to be sick but financially okay, or sick and maybe not make rent. At which point she said “Oh my god go home, I’ll fix your timesheet so you get paid.”

              It’s a whole other world for a lot of folks who either don’t get sick time at all, or who are penalized harshly for using it if they get any. Don’t get mad at people coming in sick, get mad at companies and managers who make people feel like they have to come in sick.

        6. Newbee*

          I have been in the same culture. Back before wireless, we had a Project Manager whose wife had a baby. While she was in the hospital, he unplugged the phone in her room so he could plug in his laptop. That story was told at every big meeting as a shining example of going above and beyond. What they didn’t was that the families on both sides were freaking out because no one could reach them by phone.

          1. ababao1o1*

            for millennials here, the unplugging refers to the phone connector of the landline in the hospital room and plugging in the modem of the laptop. Not their power cables, since batteries

            1. Jadelyn*

              …you do know that fully half of millennials are over 30, and definitely old enough to remember phone-line-based modems, right? I didn’t get access to non-phone internet until I was in college, ffs.

            2. ValkyrAmy*

              I had a personal land line until 2006 AND I work in a job where my phone is plugged into a wall. All of my jobs have had that function, in fact. Why are you being snarky? Making fun of millennials is very 2018. (Not a millennial, but my office mate has the same kind of phone on her desk, and she is one of the younger ones.)

      2. Susie*

        When sending that email, applicants might want to offer to meet on Skype as an alternative to rescheduling the interview. We recently interviewed someone (she got the job, yay!) who had been in a bike accident a couple of days before. She was OK, and we were able to reschedule some of the interviews, and we moved the one we couldn’t reschedule to Skype.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        The correct response is to engage the employer in a conversation. You phone them up, tell them you have a cold, and ask them how to handle it. That way BOTH sides get to participate in the decision making process.
        The OP demonstrated that they were only considering their own wants and needs. That shows poor judgement.
        They also showed poor problem solving skills.
        This isn’t about the cold as much as it’s about forcing their own wants on others.

          1. Sunshine*

            I’m sorry but you are both being extremely myopic on this situation. It’s adorable that you both think this is how employment works and I’m sure it’s based in the fact that you work white collar roles at senior levels. In the real world, calling up a potential employer to have ‘a dialogue’ about the fact that you have a mild cold won’t get you praised for your problem solving skills, it’ll get you taken out of the candidate pool.

            I’m actually pretty disgusted by how much hate OP is getting for behaving completely normally.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              I certainly worked my share of food service roles “in the real world” when I was young. That’s how I worked my way through university (paid for it myself). So yes I know how it works.
              You can still call someone up and offer to come in if they wish. That shows that you’re not trying to get out of it.

              1. Sunshine*

                I’m not talking about food service, I’m talking about regular 9-5 jobs, which are competitive and medium skilled and the sort of job most people outside of AAM have.

                While ‘ phone them up, tell them you have a cold, and ask them how to handle it.’ is a good solution, suggesting that OP is some sort of selfish moral monster with poor judgement / problem solving skills because they **went to a job interview with a mild cold** is absurd.

                1. No Mas Pantalones*

                  Also, interviews are generally set within a tight schedule, especially with recruiters. Rescheduling generally means dropping out of contention. It was at the end stages. She likely wasn’t contagious.

                  Either way, the response she got was totally dickish.

                2. Engineer Girl*

                  I’m pretty sure I never said that and would appreciate it if you did not put such words in my mouth

                  And food service jobsare even lower on the totem pole than 9-5 jobs. They have less negotiating power.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          But the wants and needs of a huge number of employers on this topic are very straightforward: they want you to show that you’ll turn up for your interview/meeting/work day when they tell you to, and your head cold is neither here nor there. Even raising the question in some workplaces would reflect poorly on you. The OP took a pretty good guess at what the interviewer would want her to do, and in most situations she would have been right. She just happened to run into one of the few companies where not only do they NOT want her to turn up but would reject her offhand for doing so. That’s not bad judgement or bad problem-solving, that’s bad luck.

        2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Seriously–I would stop short of making OP sound like a monster of selfishness for wanting a job.

          Now that I think of it, what if OP had arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and found the interviewer hacking into a tissue and chomping cough drops? How does that alter the dynamics? Just wondering…

          1. Engineer Girl*

            No one said she was a monster of selfishness. I would appreciate it if you did not put such words in my mouth. It’s really disrespectful to claim someone said something that they did not.

  3. Huxley*

    I think bringing the tissues, cough drops, and making a big deal about it was your mistake here unfortunately

    1. GoBlue!*

      Yeah, I agree. It would make OP look more sick (though perhaps she was still contagious? that’s not clear… being contagious in an interview is certainly bad). The letter is a bit much, and I do think says something about them too because it is a bit rude… even if you’re in the right, you don’t have to be rude about it.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Yeah, I feel like if you’re still needing tissues frequently then it’s best to ask them about rescheduling and give them the choice. The cough drops, eh, coughs sometimes linger for weeks, or the cough could just be an allergy. I think if the cold had been the previous week, it would have been fine to go. But if it has only been a few days since onset, that’s usually when colds are at their worst.

    3. Perpal*

      I get the cough drops as I tend to get a really easily irritated throat when speaking for a week+ after a cold and cough drops are vital if I’m planning for a lot of talking. That being said I usually try to be subtle about it.
      I guess in 50/50 hindsight the best way to handle this situation is to email a day or two in advance and let them know what is going on, ask how they would like to proceed “I think I’ll be feeling better then but would you prefer to reschedule?” etc.

    4. Oxford Comma*

      OP: did you have a few tissues with you? Or did you show up with a box? Same thing for the cough drops?

      If you came with a tissue box and a bag of cough drops, I think my inclination would be to think that your cold was more severe than you said it was and while it wouldn’t have been enough to kill your candidacy, it wouldn’t have made the best impression.

      If it’s the latter, though, you may be better off not working for them.

      1. Brandy*

        This reminds me of me. My heartburn is real bad with stress being a trigger, and so we used to have dept meetings and i went once without my antacids and died the whole time so after that I started just carrying my bottle just in case i needed them. I now work remotely but everyone always chuckled with how bad did i think the meetings were gonna be. But i never suffered again in the office.

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Yes – if you came in with your own ‘sick kit’ it would make it seem like the cold was a bad one.

      How bad was the cough? If it was hacking or wet or deep, then that would seem very bad, even if it didn’t feel bad to you. Listening to someone else with a hacking or wet cough just makes it feel like germs are crawling over you. I went to dinner with some friends and their kid last night and the kid kept coughing this wet cough and I was desperately trying to figure out a nice way to ask them to move the kid further down the table from me.

      1. OG Karyn*

        Unfortunately, though, some of us have a wet sounding/hacking cough even if they aren’t sick with anything. If my allergies are aggravated at all, because I have major lung damage, my cough ALWAYS sounds like bronchitis. My boyfriend’s late wife had lung cancer and had the same issue. It’s not always indicative of illness; however, coming in with a sick kit would make it seem that way even if the case was otherwise.

        1. Janie*

          My lungs get too cold and I sound like I’m dying when I cough lol.

          And for a while I was occasionally coughing up blood but I wasn’t contageous. Definitely carried tissues though.

    6. KK*

      I have to agree here. It’s one thing to show up w/ a bottle of water, explaining a scratchy throat after recovering from a cold. But to show up w/ the water, tissues and cough drops makes the focus more on the illness than on the interview. I don’ think I could’ve concentrated long enough to hear you out.

      That being said, their rejection email was pretty callous. And unnecessary.

    7. Delphine*

      It sounds like those things we’re probably in the LW’s bag. How would the interviewers know about them? The LW says she declined handshakes, said she was recovering, and drank water a few times. She didn’t lay out her arsenal of tissues and cough drops.

      I think her point was that she didn’t request anything from the interviewers and went in prepared.

    8. LetterWritter*

      (Original letter writer)

      Yeah, I realize now it might have been a bit overkill. They didn’t see the cough drops (I didn’t use them) but they did see the tissues. I guess I was thinking it was better to be prepared, then going in with nothing and starting to cough and have to ask for water. I felt like that would come across a bit off too!

      1. wittyrepartee*

        If it ever happens again- neti pot before you go in, cough suppressant an hour before, wash your hands so you can shake, and carry a hot drink that could be coffee, but might actually just be hot water with you.

        This is how I’ve gotten through choir.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I flinch at the continued suggestion of using a neti pot, it doesn’t work with all nasal passages :|

          1. CastIrony*

            I had to stop using the neti squeeze bottle early because I got a bloody nose the last time I had a cold in the winter.

          2. Cercis*

            I had to stop using it when I was in a conference with a client regarding her will and something shifted (probably a nasal polyp, I get them) and a bunch of nasty water suddenly poured out of my nose. From the night before. It was … yeah. I’ve never quite gotten over the mortification of that.

            I mean, it wasn’t really that much water, but it looks like a lot when it comes out of your nose, it was enough that it left a noticeable wet spot on my blouse and slacks.

            Luckily she was a good client and we had gotten quite friendly by that point so she just laughed and sent me to get cleaned up. If it had been a different client, it could have been a huge thing.

            1. FTW*

              I surf, and this belated nasal drain is not infrequent!

              In college, you would look over in sympathy when it happened to classmates… It would take out a whole page of notes. Now I get up as quickly as possible to take care of the drip when it starts to happen, i can feel it coming on better than I used to.

            2. MD2BE19*

              Cercis, I love my neti pot and use it often but after reading your post….yikes! I have secondhand mortification! I’m glad your client was cool about it!

            3. formergr*

              I get the same thing, but I’ve learned I can (mostly) force it out sooner by standing bent over at the waist so my head is upside for about 30 seconds, and then getting up. That tends to make it come shooting out, so something I do in the morning a few times before going to work if I’ve used the neti pot the night before.

        2. Scarlet2*

          Well, I have allergies so I end up having to blow my nose pretty often. I am not contagious however, so I would find it odd to have to perform complex procedures because someone, somewhere might have a problem with someone using tissues (and I also don’t think I should have to explain my allergy problems to potential employers).
          BTW, there have been reports that long term use of neti pots can actually make sinus problems worse.

        3. Nerual*

          I disagree about shaking hands. If you have a cold, please don’t shake hands – especially in an interview. I interviewed someone a number of weeks ago who initiated a handshake, and then proceeded to cough and hack throughout the interview. I could not get the “ick” out of my mind the whole time; if we’d not shaken hands (or if I’d forced the handshake), I’d have been sympathetic, but not hyper-focused on it.

      2. Holly*

        OP – was it a full box of tissues you brought in, or just a packet of tissues you took out when you needed to sneeze? If the latter, I don’t see it as a huge problem. If you brought in a whole box of tissues, that’s a bit unusual and would make me question your judgment.

    9. No Name Poster*

      Agree. It makes me think drama queen. Canceling, or asking for a Skype or phone interview would have been more professional.

      1. Sunshine*

        Can you please stop being so rude to OP? I get that you have an immune issue but that is not OP’s fault. Other people in the world having an extremely common ailment does not warrant this level of hostility.

        1. Margaery Moth*

          “I get that you have an immune issue” and they’re the one being hostile? You’re belittling immunocompromised people for no apparent reason. One person’s desire to work sick because they’re broke doesn’t trump another broke person’s right to work without being infected by an “extremely common ailment.”

          1. Sunshine*

            Margaery, No Name Poster has so far called OP a drama queen, immoral, immature, undesirable and implied she could kill someone. For going to a job interview with mild congestion. Not even an active cold.

            So yes, they are the one being hostile.

            And I was not belittling immunocompromised people, I was using a common linguistic contraction.

            In an ideal world everyone could stay home whenever they are sick. In reality staying home when you have a cold will get you penalised, possibly even fired. Skipping an interview due to a cold will get you taken out of the running. And actually, colds aren’t just a common ailment, they are usually a mild one. Offices with immuno compromised people should adjust their sick leave policies accordingly. As another (immuno compromised) commenter pointed out, many don’t.

            Is that a travesty? Yes.
            Does that make the billions of people a year who catch colds through no fault of their own immature, immoral, undesirable potential murderers? No.

            1. jamlady*

              Agree with you yet again. I’m immunocompromised. I get sick from other people not because they’re evil, but because we have a strong work culture that offers little to no sick leave and punishes those that use it. The OP made a choice to go into a workplace with the sniffles, like people are expected to do all the time, and the interviewer overreacted – this really isn’t that big of a deal.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        But for a huge, huge number of employers, cancelling an interview over a cold would read as “drama queen” and unprofessional. In fact, I’d be happy to bet that those employers are a very significant majority.

        1. Scarlet2*

          This. We have no problem getting sick leave at my company, but someone calling in sick for a common cold would definitely get side-eyed.

    10. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Yes. If it had been a little discreet use of a tissue and sips of water and using the cough drop before OP went in, it might not have looked so bad. I think it’s a matter of judgement and perspective–is the person a little under the weather, or all-out sick and infectious? It sounds to me as if there was someone with seriously compromised health in this workplace, maybe even the interviewer, and they took OP’s decision to show up very personally and sharpened their claws on OP.

  4. Anonadog*

    In the future, you could let them know you are under the weather but leave the choice to reschedule up to them: “I’ve caught a little cold that sounds worse than it is. I’m still excited to come in tomorrow, but if you’d like to reschedule my schedule is flexible and I’m also available on…”

    1. Wing Leader*

      Yes! Giving them the option is a great idea. That way they can reschedule if they want, or they can tell you to come on in if they don’t mind it.

    2. Contracts Killer*

      Seconding this! When I was interviewing for my current job, I called the day before and let them know that I had what I thought was likely the flu. I told them I totally understood if they wanted to reschedule, or I would happily drag myself off the couch if they wanted to proceed with the interview. They actually said I was interviewing with people who never get sick and it was too much of a pain to reschedule. So I slunk in, did the interview, and got the job! I think they were impressed and sympathetic that I still came in for the interview. And they thanked me for giving them a heads up (and for not shaking hands).

    3. Zombeyonce*

      Rescheduling because of a cold would be so difficult, though! They often last with obvious symptoms for at least a full week, and often longer (at least for me, they’re always 2 weeks+). I’d be awfully nervous to propose pushing out an interview date even a week later, especially when I’d likely be in the same condition at that point.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Or you get another cold. My oldest son seems to get some sort of never-ending cold that evolves into a sinus infection or bronchitis.

    4. stebuu*

      The flip side is that I have definitely worked at places where if an interviewee asked to reschedule because of a cold, they would immediately be rejected and not interviewed.

      1. SignalLost*

        That’s my issue with it. It puts the onus on the candidate to be a mind-reader in a way that’s outside most norms. I’ve been rejected for asking to reschedule after a police officer provoked a car accident that I was involved in.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Yup, this. If the LW had called in, they’d say, “Obviously you’re not really interested/committed.” But by coming in, they got “You’re inconsiderate.”

        There is no winning in a situation like this, it’s a gamble either way.

        1. Tisiphone*

          It’s one way to weed out the non-telepaths. Back in my tech support days, mind-reading seemed to be a requirement for the job, at least from the caller’s point of view.

        2. stitchinthyme*

          That’s why this approach (letting the interviewer decide) is a good one. You’re not asking to reschedule; you’re explaining that you have a cold, you feel good enough to make it in (assuming that’s true), but you wanted to give them the option since you are aware that germ-spreading is a possibility. That way you warn them ahead of time and give them the choice.

          I did this when I interviewed last. They told me it was fine either way, so I dosed myself with OTC cold medicine and came in. I declined handshakes and tried to keep the sniffling to a minimum. I got the job. Still there almost 6 years later.

          1. D'Arcy*

            Yeah. It’s fair to acknowledge that there’s a chance you’ll be rejected no matter what you do, but giving the interviewer the choice is the strongest option that gives you the best chance of being seen as handling things in a professional manner.

  5. voluptuousfire*

    OP, you dodged a bullet IMHO. The fact that they sent that email out 10 minutes (!) after you left the interview AND included that snarky little note says quite a bit about the company. I understand that they were not keen on that you were getting over a cold and interviewed anyway (rescheduling generally is best in this type situation), but also not every sniffle during the winter is a cold. I tend to get post-nasal drip twice a year when the weather would change and I sound like I have bronchitis since my cough is so pronounced.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I agree. Huge bullet dodged. And yes, every sniffle is not a cold or something contagious. You can only use your best judgement. (Sorry to hear about that post-nasal drip, it’s so frustrating to deal with. Why can’t our bodies just produce the grossness over a couple of days and get it over and done with???)

      Employees really can’t win. If you call off sick, you’re branded as lazy. If you don’t, you’re told you don’t care about your colleagues. You’re right to ignore the email, OP. This is not a place you want to work at. Good luck and hope you find something soon.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Would not be surprised if this is the kind of company with minimal or no sick leave benefits (just PTO if that) and certainly doesn’t expect their own employees to stay home for a week or more every time they’re recovering from a typical cold. Their OTT note to the OP smacks of “How dare you risk infecting us as if you already worked here?”

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Oh, for sure. I’d bet there’s zero employee support all round.

          “How dare you risk infecting us as if you already worked here?”

          Ha! This made me laugh :D And it’s probably exactly what they were thinking.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah I’m a little surprised there’s as much sympathy for the employer as I’m seeing. In my mind, they were over the top.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s because there are two different issues:

          1. Should you go to an interview with an active cold (or with accessories that make you appear to have an active cold)? Probably not.

          2. Was this employer over the line? Yes.

          1. Czhorat*

            Possibly. It depends.

            Perhaps the OP had already scheduled one of their limited vacation days, and perhaps it’s challenging finding a mutually agreeable time for the interview. I can see pushing oneself to make an interview, especially if it’s a significant step up from ones current job.

            A cold is usually the sort of illness one would shrug off and drag themselves to work with. I wouldn’t be shocked for someone to interview if they had one.

          2. Sunshine*

            How do you respond to the fact that, as a lot of people have mentioned, rescheduling an interview over a mild cold would mean you completely lost the opportunity?

        2. RabidChild*

          +1 The employer was out of line. OP was recovering from a cold, not the plague. What was she supposed to do, remain in quarantine for the duration?

          1. Bostonian*

            yeah OP said “recovering from a cold”, which for all they knew meant a week later. Do they expect their employees to stay home until there’s no sign of cold left?

            1. Czhorat*

              Yeah, I show up to work with a cold. I’d still show up to an interview unless it was so bad that I could barely speak.

      2. Aurora Borealis*

        I’m not so sure that the hiring manager was on a power trip. I agree the letter could have been worded much better. But we are not aware of the issues that the manager could have in their own life. In my own experience, having cared for a close relative that had a severely compromised immune system due to a stem cell transplant, I was able to reduce my contact with people that did come to work when sick and take precautions. That’s not always possible when you get ambushed by someone that will be in close proximity to you and is bringing in tissues and cough drops. A simple phone call could have removed all questions and doubts. I admit that I was pushed over the edge once myself once when seeing a young child with early measles infection in a public place and not knowing if this would be fatal to my loved one or not. Please remember that there are other sides to the story, and do not judge the manager based on your own experiences.

        1. LGC*

          I mean, that does sound rough, and it’d be understandable that the manager overreacted if they had other things going on.

          But it’s also just that – an overreaction. I think that a lot of people are being harsh on the hiring manager because their email was mean-spirited. At best, they scolded a stranger for showing up when they weren’t sure they should have cancelled. Especially with the power dynamics in play, this isn’t great.

        2. Hello*

          In this scenario, the person arranging the interview should have stated that in the event the candidate develops an upper respiratory infection, the interview should be rescheduled. No one can read minds.

        3. media monkey*

          i had the women next to me at baby clinic telling the nurse that she thought her baby might have measles and could she look at this rash (in the uk you strip your baby down to a nappy to be weighed at baby clinic and she was about a foot away from me). i think my baby was about 3 months old and hers was maybe 4 months. never moved so fast in my life!

        4. JerryLarryTerryGarry*

          If they were that concerned, they should have reacheduled the interview on the spot. By proceeding, the email just made some sort of useless point.

    2. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

      Totally agree. This is such a non-issue. It’s crazy that these people managed to psychoanalyze LW for it, and even crazier that they sent that condescending note.

    3. LetterWriter*

      (Original Letter Writer)

      Yeah, after getting that note I did feel as if I was pretty lucky. In person everyone was nice, but the note came off a little too passive aggressive for my tastes.

      1. Doodle*

        The letter mentions cancer and suppressed immune system, so possibly someone on the committee is dealing with this issue and reacted strongly. Doesn’t excuse the rude letter.

        1. SignalLost*

          That’s the kind of thing that – I think – is reasonable to state up front. In confirming the interview details, you could say something like “this office takes health concerns very seriously and wants to protect the health of everyone here. Please feel free to reschedule if you are feeling under the weather.” That could be a bit smoother, but … colds are such a fact of life that I don’t expect most candidates would reschedule for that.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Also the way they lept to a judgement of OP’s character, and basically attributing malice to her decision by saying she’s not thoughtful of her coworkers is just … way, way too much. And the “advice” at the end is just nasty.

          2. Clisby Williams*

            +100. It would never have occurred to me to reschedule an interview because of an ordinary cold ( and the LW’s description sounds to me like an ordinary cold – nothing extreme.)

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Except to immunocompromised people, you* being contagious and donating your cold could be extreme.

              *The general you.

          3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            Yes, or they could have said it outright so there was no questioning it. “Members of our team at (location) have a compromised immune system, so if you are unwell please let us know and we will happily reschedule you to a day when you are feeling better. Rescheduling will not harm your candidacy for the role.”

          4. Phoenix Programmer*

            Yes and it puts the onus on whether or not to come in with cold on the employer to determine up front how they want it handled.

        2. Karen from Finance*

          As someone who has had cancer in the lymphatic system I’m very annoyed that the company included this line in their email. I don’t think it should be used as a throwaway line to guilt trip people. When you are inmunocompromised you are exposed to a lot of things by being in the office at all (germs in the office, in your commute, in your food, exhaustion). It’s not fair to put it on someone who is making an effort in showing up to an interview.

          That is, assuming someone there IS inmunocompromised which I’m not sure about.

          1. Former call centre worker*

            I’m wholly unconvinced there was an immunocompromised person there. Why would they go ahead with the interview if it was a serious risk to anyone?

            1. bossy*

              Agree. This sounds like the rationalization of a germophobe. If there were an immunocompromised person there, they would have turned OP away at the door, right??

        3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          See and that line stood out to me because it’s one we here in the comments here so often and it’s just become a conditioned response to the subject of someone going to an office/class/store/whatever sick.

          Personally I read it as a knee jerk response that was over the top.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            When catching a cold could literally kill you, you tend to take people coming into shared spaces when they are ill kinda seriously.

            1. Sunshine*

              However – how on earth can you prevent it? Most employers do not pay sick leave; most employees cannot afford to go 4 weeks unpaid for a mild illness. Most employers would also be furious if you said you were taking a month off with a cold. And it’s an extremely common and very easy to catch illness. It’s not a matter of wilful negligence, like refusing to vaccinate or going in with norovirus. This is just being a human in the world.

                1. PVR*

                  But it sounds as though the OP was in the most contagious window of the cold—2 to 4 days after onset of symptoms.

        4. Tree*

          If that were the case, I imagine they would have refused to see her as soon as she declined to shake hands because of the cold.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Very passive aggressive! They could have said something right then and there instead of acting nicely and scolding you afterward. A simple “oh, we can see you’re not feeling well and Jane has a compromised immune system/Joe’s wife is going through chemo. Would you mind rescheduling?” Instead they waited until you were gone to complain.

    4. Celeste*

      There’s not a thing you can do about it when your coworker comes in with a cold. I think the interviewer over-reacted because it wasn’t a coworker and they could indeed do something about it. IOW I think it was misplaced anger. I have no idea if this was the person the LW would have been working for, but I definitely think this is someone the LW does not want to work with.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Yeah, no way would I want to work for these people. I get that it’s not great to bring germs to the office if you can help it but sometimes people are really over the top in scolding people for daring to come to work while in anything less than perfect health. I would not want to work in such an environment. What else would I be scolded for?

      1. PVR*

        I don’t know—maybe they are very flexible about working from home or taking time off when you are under the weather. Certainly they could have handled the situation better but I’m not convinced this is the sign of anything but a workplace that for whatever reason is very conscious of how germs can affect immunocompromised people.

    6. 653-CXK*

      You dodged a bullet the diameter of a basketball.

      I wouldn’t send them an email back, but Glassdoor’s community would certainly love to hear about the way they treat candidates.

      1. 653-CXK*

        If I chose to send an email back to them, a polite but pointed letter back would suffice:

        “Thank you for your concerns. There is one issue I’d like to raise – the note at the end of your rejection letter. Your advice was not necessary, was not asked for, and is overwhelmingly rude and condescending. We have already established I am not a fit for your company, but your unsolicited and rude comment shows me that you are a company I would not want to work for. I plan on telling others who might consider applying to avoid doing so.”

    1. Fergus*

      You didn’t dodge a bullet, you dodge a whole extender clip of bullets. Be glad you are not working there.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      What bullet did the employer dodge? Coming in when you’re sick isn’t great, but it’s incredibly common (and necessary for most people, and exacerbated by company policies).

      1. TootsNYC*

        yes! Especially because the employer can certainly say to a new employee, “Here, we ask you to stay home if you’re sick.” Working while you have a cold is such a common standard at so many places, they surely must realize that have to communicate what their standards are.

        And instead, they decided that this tells them she has a huge flaw in her entire personality and would never be considerate of her coworkers!

        1. Zombeyonce*

          And unless the company gives out unlimited sick leave as soon as someone starts work, this would be ridiculous. Do they expect people that haven’t yet earned sick time (or much sick time) to take off a week to get over a cold? I’ve never heard of any place doing anything like that, so the note from the interviewer seems incredibly unlikely to even follow their own PTO policies.

          1. SignalLost*

            Yeah, I’m REALLY CURIOUS to know what this place’s sick leave policy and expectations look like.

            1. Clisby Williams*

              I am, too. I was well up into my 30s before I magically outgrew the colds from hell I would get at least a couple times a year. If I had to stay away from work while I felt sick and had cold symptoms, I’d easily have missed 4-6 weeks a year.

            2. Tisiphone*

              I’m betting that on paper they’re the same as anywhere else and in practice, it depends on who your manager is.

          2. Zillah*

            FWIW, my last job had pretty flexible work from home policies, and a nasty cold was definitely seen as a good reason to do so for several days. That’s not super typical, though, and they actively made it clear and didn’t shame you for coming in, just occasionally sent you home or told you to work from home the next day.

        2. LetterWriter*

          (Original Letter Writer)

          Yeah, every job I’ve had, I’ve had to come in with a cold. The days before and after the interview I had come back into work with the cold. I also feel like working with a common cold is nothing too bad, I mean, if I was really, super sick I wouldn’t come into work but some congestion isn’t enough for me to burn through sick time!

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Right! Even if you work somewhere with generous sick time, using it for a head cold might not be prudent. I try to keep at least a couple of weeks of PTO banked (we don’t have separate sick and vacation leave) in case I need it for a genuinely serious illness.

  6. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

    I did that once when I was really new to the job hunting thing. I thought it would look worse to cancel than to show up running a fever and with a drippy nose. Not the best interview of my life because I was kind of delirious and miserable. At least I had the good sense to forgo shaking hands. The interviewers didn’t say anything to me, but I could tell they were less than please being trapped with my virus spreading self.

    1. Dan*

      Sadly, I think you were right though. We have a weird relationship will illness — call out from work for it, and you’re a slacker. Show up with it, and you get blamed for trying to get the whole office sick.

      In terms of the interview, I think most of us are conditions to Show Up No Matter What and this can be an end result.

      1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

        It is kind of a rock and a hard place situation that probably depends a bit on where you are in your career. This would have been my first job in my field and I felt thankful to get an interview at all, so the idea of cancelling was not on.

        1. Dan*

          It probably *really* depends on how unique of a skill set/specialized reputation one has when they progress in their career. The reality is, as a junior person, if you don’t play ball, it’s very easy to move on to the next candidate without a second thought. And that’s probably a rational decision on the interviewer’s part — when people are very junior, there’s very little to differentiate one candidate from the next.

          As you progress in your career, and establish a reputation (the later likely being key), you become the person they “must” interview before moving on. The other thing is, as you get more experience, you start to understand different office norms, and if you’re lucky, how to read the tea leaves. As a junior person, you operate with such an information asymmetry, it’s not even funny.

          1. Sunshine*

            Yes I think a lot of the vitriol toward OP is coming from people in roles / seniority levels where they have a lot more flexibility and power in the situation.

            1. Jadelyn*

              It’s funny, I wrote this whole huge post on my personal social media awhile back about what I see as two totally different types of job search: the “yes” search, and the “no” search. A “yes” search being one where you’re already stable and have flexibility and can afford to be picky, so you’re looking at jobs that make you say “Oh, yes, I’d love to work there”; while a “no” search is one where you’re in dire straits already and are going “Oh no, I need a job, like, yesterday.”

              Most of the advice on here is geared towards “yes” job-seekers, and assumes you have baseline stability, are job-searching while already employed or while relying on a strong safety net so you’re not financially pressed, and have the ability to lose out on an opportunity without it being a disaster. This strikes me as following that pattern – people who are accustomed to “yes” searches are chastising the OP because they, with their solid safety net and higher level of relative power in job interview situations, would rather lose out on an opportunity than interview sick, and they expect everyone else is in the same situation. Which is…decidedly NOT the case for a lot of people.

  7. Wing Leader*

    I feel for you, OP, because this one is hard to guess. For every office that feels like this one, there are a thousand more out there that think a cold is nothing and if you ask to reschedule for it then you are just being a crybaby who shouldn’t be considered anyway. I currently work in a “Please stay home if you’re sick!” type office, but I’ve worked in some of the other kinds before. I once came to work with a full-blown virus and had to go to the bathroom to throw up every hour or so, and my boss still insisted that I wasn’t sick enough to warrant staying home. She finally, very begrudgingly, let me go home for the day at lunch time after I begged her enough. Luckily, that was on a Friday so I got two more days of rest before having to go back. But, ugh.

    1. Esperanza*

      Exactly. You can’t win in this situation. You’re either inconsiderate for exposing other people, or a flake for canceling when it’s “just a cold.” It’s impossible to know in advance how either option will be received.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        This is bad logic. This isn’t a binary situation. The OP could have contacted the employer and worked out other options. Skype, reschedule, partial phone interview, etc.
        The key is to engage the employer for other options.

        1. Jasnah*

          OP could offer to reschedule, but also risks the employer thinking they’re a baby/slacker/not dedicated enough to persevere through a cold.

          I think in an ideal world, OP could reschedule and the employer would understand.
          But in my experience, if it’s just a cold, you need to downplay the symptoms and suck it up through the interview. I wouldn’t get rescheduled if I called in at the last minute with a cold–they’d think I was lying.

    2. LetterWriter*

      (Original Letter Writer)

      I really felt like if I called and tried to reschedule, they’d dump me. I mentioned it briefly, but I the interview was made for 2 weeks after they called me. They really didn’t have many interview spots available (or so, when they called to make one, they didn’t give me many options). I was really thinking that if I called out they would assume that I didn’t want the job or I was a “baby” about it too. Many moons ago when I worked retail, I felt they treated being sick like that. If you weren’t on your deathbed, then you had no excuse to call out. I think that culture has traveled with me a bit more then I thought.

      Thanks for your input!

      1. KarenT*

        The thing is–it easily good have gone the other way, and they would have thought you were being a baby for rescheduling due to a cold. I think we all work with both types–I certainly do. I have co-workers who would have reacted the same way as the hiring manager in this situation (hopefully sans note) and co-workers who would think a candidate who cancelled for a cold was weak. I think the suggestion above about leaving it up to them about rescheduling is a great one–I actually used that on my dentist recently. I woke up with a terrible cold, but was past the time I was allowed to cancel my appointment without penalty. So I called in and told them I was coming because I didn’t want to cancel last minute, but had a cold and would happily reschedule if they wouldn’t charge me the $75 for a missed appointment. Otherwise, if you do go through with it, I’d do everything I could to mask it–dayquil (if that’s an option for you), a hot tea prior to…anything that can make you pep up a bit before you go in.

      2. Mallorie*

        I agree. I’ve had hiring managers who would have not hired someone for rescheduling for a cold. This was kind of like a lose/lose because people either think: yuck, keep your germs OR what a wuss. The is no inbetween!

      3. TechWorker*

        Re: the snarky note I wonder if maybe you just hit a nerve with someone recruiting – If they have, for eg, an immuno-compromised child they might get angrier about this sort of thing than the average person. Obviously no way to predict though!

        1. Tree*

          I keep seeing this – that maybe the interviewer had someone immuno-compromised in their life. But the letter writer was up front at the beginning – she didn’t spring the cold on them on the way out the door. If they had a serious issue like that to be concerned about, why would they go through with the interview at all? If sitting in a room with someone for an hour would potentially harm my child, my solution isn’t going a snarky note after the fact, it’s to decline to interview them at all.

      4. Tisiphone*

        Eons ago I worked at a fast food place with no sick time of any kind. I had a fever and tried to call out and got the third degree. While on the phone I was about to puke, and as soon as they heard me retching, they finally believed me.

        Seriously! Did they really want sick people serving FOOD?

        For what it’s worth, it took a generous sick time policy and a manager who really didn’t want the details to break me of the “I’m not on my deathbed” mentality.

    3. CoveredInBees*

      I worked in an office that was both at the same time. We were told to stay home if we were sick, but given very limited sick time. We also had to drag ourselves to the doctor to get a note if we were out more than 2 days and you’d have to use sick time to cover any other doctor visits without the option to work longer that day to cover time missed. It was not a good place to work.

  8. Bend & Snap*

    Rude note.

    I can see where people feel pressure to go in for an interview regardless, especially if it’s been hard to schedule.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah, the power dynamic is such that the person being interviewed rarely wants to the boat unless they’re on death’s door, IMO.

  9. MLB*

    Yes to everything Alison said. I would have contacted someone the day before the interview was scheduled. You could have explained that you’re at the end of a head cold, but feel well enough for the interview and let them decide if they want to reschedule. I am not a germophobe, but coming in for an interview while sick is a bit inconsiderate. One person’s no big deal is another person’s plague. I’m a smart ass so I would be tempted to “apologize” with a side of “it wasn’t necessary to scold me for coming in”, but that won’t really do any good, and may bite you in the ass in the future.

    1. LetterWriter*

      (Original Letter Writer)

      I really wanted to reply but everything I had typed out sounded really rude haha.

      1. jamlady*

        I’m in your camp on this, OP. While I totally understand why people would be upset about this, I come from a world where cancelling an interview for anything other than an emergency would get me dropped. I feel for you, and I hope this situation doesn’t happen again!

  10. Cathy*

    My research tells me that the common cold can be contagious for up to 3 weeks. Does this place of business really encourage people to stay home for the duration? The average cold lasts 7-10 days. It would be nice to give a heads up as some wouldn’t want to be in close quarters with someone with a cold. I think it would be nice to email ahead saying that you are feeling pretty good, but are still in recovery with a cold when going to meet someone in close quarters, going for a hair appointment, etc.. That way, they can opt out if they want. But the reaction was a little much

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah that’s why I think they were over the top. It seems to me like most people in my office are somewhere along the spectrum of sickness most of the time, and if it’s a head-cold that’s not too severe and OP felt well enough to proceed I wouldn’t send this note about it. That’s just how things go IMO.

    2. Tyche*

      Up to 3 weeks? Surely not!

      The common cold is highly contagious up to 3-4 days, then the risk of infection quickly declines, even if the symptoms are ongoing (and quite evident and obnoxious).

      Someone still may have some reservations about people with a runny nose or a persistent cough, but after the first days it’s mostly a perception issue.

      1. Dan*

        This gets into another issue with coming to work “sick” and office politics: Non-medical experts have different opinions (yes, opinions) about who should be coming to work under what conditions. Cathy thinks people are contagious for up to three weeks, you think they’re contagious for three days. You come to work on Monday because you think you got over the contagious period over the weekend, and Cathy writes to an advice columnist asking what she should do about the fact that you came to work sick for three weeks and tried to get the whole office sick (even though nobody caught anything from you).

        1. PVR*

          Well. Technically the body can shed the virus for up to 3 weeks but the most contagious (most intense virus shedding) period is 2-4 days after onset of symptoms.

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        There seems to be quite contradicting information available about this so I don’t know, but it would seem that the most recent research supports the longer version of contagious time (even if it’s not as easily spread than in the beginning). And even if the common cold doesn’t do it, there are viruses that can be contagious for up to a month even if you have no symptoms. I don’t believe any workplace would let you be away for that long without symptoms. Also many viruses are contagious before the symptoms start, so you’re never able to promise the immuno compromised interviewer that you don’t bring any diseases with you.

      3. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

        If it really is the common cold. Whooping cough in adults can be mild enough to be mistaken for a cold that doesn’t go away for months. And most of us have learned that there’s not much point going to the doctor with a cold, because there’s no medical treatment for colds, just rest and hot liquids.

        Colds are much more common than whooping cough, but if you feel like you’ve had the same cold since December, it might be worth seeing a doctor, because whooping cough is treatable.

  11. Person from the Resume*

    I’m sorry this happened to you, LW. I would have done what you did and gone in for the interview. But I agree that unfortunately there’s probably nothing you can say or do now to change their minds.

    It sounds like a mild cold. Unfortunately often you sound/seem worse after you start feeling better when it is time for your to return to work and that can mislead people.

  12. Roscoe*

    Yeah, I agree with Alison. The note was a bit much. However, coming in with your own tissues and cough drops does kind of read that you are more “powering through” the cold than actually feeling better.

    Also, just because you would go to work with a cold because you feel “better” doesn’t mean everyone would be thrilled with it. I liken it to a date. I’d much rather a date say they got sick than show up to drinks sniffing and coughing and blowing their nose constantly. I’d happily reschedule if they asked, but I likely wouldn’t want another date with someone who showed up like that.

    1. Annette*

      For me – cough drops and a box of tissues are a must all winter. Allergies don’t let up for months on end. Sick or not. My strategy – acknowledge, apologize, assume a reasonable attitude. AKA not what OP encountered with this Looney tunes manager.

      1. Roscoe*

        I mean, if you explained that it was allergies, it may make a difference. This was a cold, and although OP seems to think she wasn’t contagious, she very well could’ve been.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      For this one I don’t think the date analogy really works. You can cancel a date because you don’t really feel like going out tonight. With an interview I think most potential employers would expect you to show up unless you’re seriously unwell and/or contagious.

    1. Corporate Cynic*

      Right?? That’s what crossed my mind – how many sick days do they offer employees, and are they really ok with people calling out with a cold?

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        My guess is that it’s quite generous in terms of days offered but you get side-eye if you use them and the same side-eye if you don’t.

        1. Miss Displaced*

          My guess too. Probably lots of corporate doublespeak and doublethink.
          “We have a high regard for the well-being of our employees and have a generous PTO policy.”
          Then: “You’ve maxed-out your PTO and will be written up if you call out sick again.”

          1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

            Or like at one job where my manager was fine if you needed to take time off but got real weird if you needed time to care for a sick child, spouse, or parent. I’m not sure what was up with that.

          2. Sunshine*

            Yes. “We have a generous PTO policy – it’s just that that day is inconvenient. Also that one. Also you have a meeting that other day…

  13. Former call centre worker*

    I’m really harsh on people spreading germs around ordinarily, but i think there’s more chance of you losing out on a job because you asked to reschedule than because you turned up with a cold. I mean it is only a cold, which most people don’t take time off for, and if they had a compromised immune system they could have sent you away. I mean why did they even bother interviewing you if they were so bothered? Clearly they can’t have been that scared of catching it!

  14. Observer*

    I agree that the note was rude.

    But, one thing to consider here is that there is really a difference between going to work and going to an interview. At work, people have already been exposed to your virus, and probably at a point where you were much more contagious, so your presence at work is less likely to cause a problem. With an interview your viruses are a new batch so the risk to them is, or feels, higher.

    Calling in advance and asking if hey want to reschedule is the best route. It leaves the ball in their court so they can decide how much precaution to take.

  15. PizzaDog*

    Brush it off, OP.

    Reading the note they sent you, I’m sure if you would have asked to reschedule the interview, or declined full stop, due to your cold, they would have also sent you a snarky note about that. “In the future, it’s best to attend the meeting anyway. We’ll never be happy about anything you choose to do about this situation. Did you consider wearing a HAZMAT suit to the interview?”

    1. Annette*

      Exactly. Some people thrive on misery. Unless you want to be the mice fed to snakes – avoid at all costs.

    2. TheThatcher*

      I didn’t see anything in the note to indicate that the company would have been upset at rescheduling the interview because LW is sick. I think a lot of readers are simply not giving the company the benefit of the doubt because we only of LW’s perspective here.

      1. Lucy Honeychurch*

        TheThatcher, I think also a lot of people have worked in environments where they have been nervous wrecks to call in due to illness or have managers with martyr complexes that set a tone where they won’t call in themselves so it’s kind of hard to give the benefit of the doubt to a company when so many are not that great in this regard.

        1. TheThatcher*

          That makes sense. I probably am giving the benefit of the doubt because my company does encourage us to work from home or take sick days when we need to.

          1. Antilles*

            Do you really take a lot of sick days for just a runny nose though? OP said: “A few days beforehand, I started feeling a bit under the weather and ended up having a cold. By the day of the interview I was feeling much better but still had some mild congestion.”
            I work at a fairly employee-friendly company, but even here, I don’t think most people would burn their time off, if they felt overall fine but just a little congested.

            1. Jen*

              I think my company is pretty employee-friendly too, and I’ve never taken more than one day off per cold. I can’t imagine anyone taking a whole week off work for a standard cold.

      2. Jadelyn*

        The kind of company that sends snarky little holier-than-thou notes less than 10 minutes after the interview is not a company that deserves much benefit of the doubt. If they were *that* bothered, they should’ve asked the OP to reschedule as soon as they got in the door, rather than wasting everyone’s time in the interview and then taking potshots at the OP after the fact because of it.

        1. TheThatcher*

          You can view it as a potshot, or it could be poorly wordsmithed but good intentioned advice.
          How many times have we seen on this site complaints about receiving form responses and no actual reasons for a rejection? I would prefer to get this note and know why I was rejected than be left wondering if it was something else.
          I don’t view the comment as snarky, but informative. it is poorly worded, but the intent I see is to prevent the LW from making the same mistake (as they see it) in future interviews.

          1. Jadelyn*

            “You demonstrated to us that you would not show careful thought or consideration for your coworkers and that is a quality you should consider addressing.”

            I genuinely don’t see how that could be read as anything other than rude/snarky, so yeah, I do see it as a potshot. They’re taking *one* decision that’s not even objectively wrong, just out of step with their culture and more in-step with a different kind of workplace culture (one that we all know is not at all an unusual one), and extrapolating from that to “clearly you just don’t have any consideration for other people”. That’s not helpful, regardless of any (wholly theoretical) good intentions behind it.

      3. Spencer Hastings*

        The thing is, the LW would have had to know that (i.e. that they wouldn’t have been upset by her rescheduling) *before* the interview. There are plenty of organizations whose reaction would have been more like “Reschedule? Do you want this job or not?” How was she to know that it wasn’t one of those?

      4. Phoenix Programmer*

        How about the fact that they sent a snarky note?

        If they had just rejected her immediately without the preachy passive aggressive note fine. But the nite suggests they are an unreasonable and read into actions inappropriately so thus probably would have read into OP calling in as “not being dedicated enough”

      5. RUKiddingMe*

        This. Also the comments saying effectively “it’s just a cold” is pretty abelist actually. It’s “just a cold” if one’s immune system can handle it, but when every exposure to someone else’s illness is a roll of the dice, there is no “only” about it.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Expecting that everyone works jobs where they have copious paid sick leave they are always permitted to use without jeopardizing their jobs or ability to pay their bills is classist as hell.

          1. Sunshine*


            And in the UK, yes, mandatory statutory sick pay is a thing. For long term, serious illnesses. Not colds. Plus it’s £89 a week. I don’t know many people who could handle their living expenses on £356 a month.

          2. RUKidding*

            I never even suggested anything about anyone having even one day of sick leave. The thing about issues is thst each of us tend to see them through our own personal lens.

            1. Sunshine*

              The only way to avoid exposing people to a cold is to stay home. That involves, for most people, unpaid sick leave.

            2. Gazebo Slayer*

              And how do you expect people who don’t have sick leave to stay home? Do you expect them to just say “oh well, if I can’t pay my rent or I get fired that’s just the way it goes!” Or do you just assume they don’t exist?

  16. Gobsmacked*

    I think that for every interviewer like this, there’s at least one who would be unreasonably offended by rescheduling because you were feeling ill. The kind of person who thinks you should be so devoted to getting the job that you’d shoulder your way through your illness and show up anyway. I’m not sure there’s a way to win this – sometimes you’re just dealing with strange people, and maybe it’s better to know that now rather than later.
    Also, just because a company expresses that they don’t want you exposing other employees to your cold doesn’t mean they have good sick leave, generous work from home policies, reasonable managers, etc. Those things should really go hand in hand, but unfortunately they often don’t.

    1. Sharrbe*

      Yes. Some employers may view someone who comes into an interview while sick as someone who is dependable and will go above and beyond. It all depends on the employer and their views about illness. I can see both sides of this issue, but in this case the employer went a little overboard. The LW had lingering congestion from a cold, not full-on flu with a fever. Big difference between the two. What does this employer do during allergy season?

  17. TheThatcher*

    So what about the note is specifically obnoxious or rude?
    The company has provided specific feedback to help the LW in future job searches. Along with the exact reason why the rejection was sent. I don’t personally think that the cancer/compromised immune system portion is necessary, but the note itself is helpful. Especially since the LW did in fact go to an interview sick. I wish that more employers would include a reason for rejection along with specifics on how to do better next time.

    1. Colette*

      I wonder whether someone in the office has a compromised immune system. In that case, someone coming in sick could feel like a personal attack, almost.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      The cancer/immune system part is a big part of it, along with the overall tone. It comes across as harshly critical or disciplinary to me, rather than something coming from a desire to give constructive criticism. There’s a big difference between “you should be aware of how this affected our impression of you” and “we rejected you because you obviously don’t care about people with cancer”.

    3. gmg22*

      The note as written basically says “Dear LW, you are a jerk for coming to this interview before you were completely over a cold, and we definitely don’t want to work with you now. Get your act together, you inconsiderate flake!”

      Imagine instead a note along the lines of “We understand it’s hard when you’re in the running for a job to risk asking to reschedule an interview because of illness, but if you’re in this situation in future we’d definitely encourage you to consider it. Workplaces such as ours take sick time seriously, because we see it as important for the health of everyone in the office. We hope that advice is helpful and taken in the spirit in which it is given. Best wishes on your continued job search.”

    4. Zombeyonce*

      For as many workplaces that would expect LW to reschedule, there are probably just as many (more, in my experience) that would think rescheduling for “just a cold” would be ridiculous and that LW would end up being someone that called in sick for every little thing. I don’t think LW should take this as information to use for every other interview as it’s far from a universal opinion.

      1. MLB*

        I think this is where you give them the facts and let them decide. “I’ve been dealing with a head cold and still have a bit of congestion and cough. I’m feeling well enough to come in, but wanted to let you know in case you’d prefer to reschedule.”

        1. Observer*

          That’s true. But going from there to “OP is an inconsiderate jerk who OBVIOUSLY doesn’t care about people with cancer or is too stupid to think through the potential effects of their actions” is a HUUUUGE leap.

      2. Psyche*

        Honestly, we don’t even know if this company would have rescheduled or just moved on with the other candidates. LW was in a lose-lose situation.

    5. Joielle*

      I think this is the most obnoxious part: “You are demonstrating that you don’t care…. You demonstrated to us that you would not show careful thought or consideration”

      That’s just rude! The interviewers don’t know what was going on in OP’s mind. OP did what they thought was best under the circumstances and it was perhaps not ideal but it wasn’t some horribly callous act. I doubt every one of those interviewers stays home every time they’re feeling the least bit congested. They didn’t need to imply that OP is a big jerk who doesn’t care about cancer patients.

      1. Lindsay gee*

        exactly! This is where it becomes rude and personal. They’re extrapolating from this one experience to make judgements about LWs work ethic…which is highly personal.

    6. Ginger*

      The cancer part seems like the OP being sick pushed a button on the interviewer. Sending it 10 min after they left seems like a knee-jerk, emotional reaction. Or the OP really wasn’t a good fit.

      1. Anna*

        If the OP really weren’t a good fit, they could have waited to email and said exactly that and nothing else. This was a personal attack on the OP sent a mere 10 minutes after she left to Make A Point.

    7. Observer*

      Mostly because they jumped to totally unreasonable conclusions.

      What makes it worse is the fact that a lot of employers mot definitely DO expect people to come in when sick, and it’s not credible that these people don’t know this.

    8. Zona the Great*

      I believe we should err on the side of not offering unsolicited advice in almost all situations. They should have just sent the rejection and if LW were interested in the “why”, s/he could ask. I generally think offering unsolicited advice is usually rude.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Honestly I think the instant rejection was also bad hiring. What a sillytging to reject candidates over when you did not bother to let them know how important it was in your office culture.

    9. Miss Displaced*

      Not obnoxious and rude… more like over-dramatic and excessive.
      Have you considered how your cold could affect someone with cancer? Uh, why no, no I wouldn’t think that. Not unless it’s a hospital or healthcare/cancer organization. (IKD maybe it was though, which is a different case, and I might see it in a different light).

    10. Phoenix Programmer*

      It’s rude because it unreasonably reads into a very common behavior as a “total disregard for others” which is wildly innacurate.

      Newsflash – Americans would love to stay home and pamper themselves when sick. However the vast majority cannot afford that privelage and painting them as “uncaring for immunocomprimised” is passive aggressive and over the top out of touch.

      Honestly even just rejecting her immediately for coming in sick is over the top and bad hiring. Sending a snarky letter about how wrong OP was, when it’s clear from this thread that calling in or even offering to call in can hurt your chances is passive aggressive. It’s about as useful as the employer sending a letter that states – you should know that by ordering tea at Starbucks you came across as stuffy and high brow. Not all “advice to get hired” is worth taking and this employer has shown themselves to have poor hiring awareness.

      Even if one of the interviewers have cancer this is an inappropriate response (also look who is working while sick so I guess they don’t walk the walk after all). It is on the employer to make the interviewers feel empowered to reschedule if not coming in while sick is that big a deal to them. This is true for any unusual cultural deviance they care about.

      I would feel very different about a letter that states “they were clear during interviews that anyone sick should reschedule as they care about protecting their immune compromised employees” they rejected and lectured me – but according to the op they were very hard to schedule with in the first place.

      1. KR*

        Yes!!!! Until everyone has adequate paid sick pay and access to health care these arguments about every sick person who goes to work sick being an awful person will have little meaning to me.

      2. Allonge*

        I work in Europe. We have excellent (paid) sick leave and health insurance and I know I am lucky for this.

        I attended my interview while fighting a major respiratory infection, taking heavy-duty antibiotics – cancelling would have meant loss of the opportunity to interview (and the travel costs reimbursement). So even in our very posh indeed system, saying “I am still coughing” would never have occurred to me. It’s just not done.

        And I came to work with a bad cold quite a few times – honestly if no one ever came to work with a cold, we would have an empty office in September (people return from holidays, their kids go to school, we switch viruses, it’s fun!).

    11. JerryLarryTerryGarry*

      The note was rude. If they cared, they shouldn’t have continued with the interview. Instead, they thought it was a teachable moment.

  18. Arctic*

    I once had a horrible stomach bug. I actually threw up on public transport when I left work early (it came on suddenly). I had a job interview the next day and of course rescheduled. No one wanted to get what I had (and I wouldn’t be my best.)

    I was told informally from someone I knew involved in the process that rescheduling is what killed my candidacy. And they had initially been really excited about me.

    You just can’t win.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Oh, that’s terrible! I have had norovirus and that stuff is no joke, and if anyone showed up at my office with it (or something similar) I would tell them to turn around and go home. If they would have preferred you come in and infect them all (and that one spreads easily), then I can only imagine what it would be like to work there.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Stuff like that just pisses me off. If I’m excited about a candidate, I’m happy to delay a few days if they are ill. Leaving aside the human factor of not wanting to ask someone who is clearly unwell to come in rather than getting some rest and recovery time, I have no interest in getting sick myself nor do I think I’d get a true picture of what they’re like as a candidate when that could be the focus of their attention (rather than trying not to be sick).

    3. Observer*

      It sounds like you dodged a bullet, though. I mean, what did they expect? Someone who can guarantee that they will never, ever get sick or somehow prevented from coming in to work?

    4. Hot Chocolate*

      Yes, this. I was going to say that asking to reschedule drops you like a hot potato. Unable to come in when their already packed schedule wants to slot you in? They’ll just move on to the next candidate. I’ve witnessed it working in HR.

  19. Noah*

    This letter makes it sound like OP showed up with the tissues and cough drops and water bottle and plopped them down on the table in front her with a long explanation about her health. I’m not one to freak out about people being sick around me, but I wouldn’t hire somebody who did that because it reflects some really bad professional-social judgment. I reserve judgment here because I wonder if that’s actually what OP did. And, the employer is still really rude.

  20. Rainbow Roses*

    I think saying you’re not shaking hands brought the cold into sharp focus. The note could have been phrased better but mentioning cancer and immune systems make me wonder if there’s something personal going on in the interviewer’s life that this triggered the note. After all, why not just send a rejection note and be done with it?

    IDK. I can understand both sides, though again, the note could have been worded more professionally.

    1. RVA Cat*

      If the interviewer has or cares for someone with a compromised immune system, wouldn’t they cut the interview short instead of carrying on to be more exposed to the germs?

  21. Lucy Honeychurch*

    LOLOL. I have NEVER worked in an office, not once, where they encourage you to stay home if you are sick with a cold. Oh, they may say that they do, but the message is clear that you are a big baby and are expected in the office if it’s “just” a cold so it’s quite shocking to read about this interview.

  22. AMT*

    If they were that afraid of contagion, why didn’t they send her home as soon as they saw that she was sick?

    1. Gloucesterina*

      Yes, if illness is a dealbreaker in their hiring process, they should state that upfront and communicate beforehand that it’s their protocol to reschedule in the case of illness.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        That is the only solution that does not put the onus on the OP to read their minds and, thus, the only sensible solution.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I thought the same thing. If it were that big an issue, when she declined to shake hands, they could have offered to reschedule.

    3. Joielle*

      Or if there really is someone in the office with a compromised immune system or something, they could have addressed it when scheduling the interview! “We recognize that this is cold and flu season, so if you happen to get sick before the interview, please let us know and we’ll make every effort to reschedule.” If it’s important to the interviewers, that’s fine, but it’s unusual so they have to say something.

  23. TootsNYC*

    And this:
    a quality you should consider addressing.

    Like, they’re attacking your personality?

    Really snotty, and really over the line.

    There are all sorts of pressures on job candidates, and lots of pressure over people to go to work with a cold, etc. So they’ve decided that you’ve proven you don’t have consideration for your colleagues?

    THEY have proven that they can’t just tell people, “at our offices, we ask people to not come to work with colds.”
    Who wants to work with someone who decides that your momentary error–or the assumption you were trained into at your previous job–indicates some horrendous lack in your personality or your values!

    (I still remember the boss who attacked my proposed edit by saying, “Why don’t you want to help the reader?” I’ve never seen red faster! Especially because it doesn’t help the reader by putting inaccurate info in the text.)

    1. hbc*

      Yes, I pretty much have zero tolerance for rhetorical questions that assume bad intent or neglect. “Gee, interviewer, I was thinking I’d increase my chances of getting a job if I could take down a vulnerable person at the office. Survival of the fittest, amirite?”

      And really, if someone hits a pet peeve of theirs or just doesn’t mesh with their office norms, the right thing to do is yellow or red flag them in your mind, send them the standard letter, and hope they find an office where they’re a better fit. Acting like you know The One True Way and informing them that they’re inferior is just gross.

  24. Justin*

    I think what killed your chances were the tissues, cough drops, and declining handshakes with the reason being that you were sick. If you’re not very sick (like maybe your voice sounds a little funny but you seem normal otherwise) then just go to the interview and don’t mention the cold. If you’re sick enough that you can’t get through the interview without blowing your nose, rubbing your eyes, coughing, sneezing etc., then reschedule. It may be a little risky but you’d have to reschedule if you had a more serious contagious illness (flu, norovirus, strep, etc.) so it’s not like you can completely avoid it.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      I think the tissues and cough drops weren’t good and if you can’t get through the interview without them, then you’re probably too sick. In professional settings, I have declined handshakes in saying something like “I’ve just gotten over being sick, so I’m avoiding handshakes just in case.” It has always gone over well.

  25. LetterWritter*

    (I’m the letter writer!)

    Thanks for answering my question!

    I realize I didn’t make it very clear, I didn’t feel as if I was still sick, I just had some congestion. I didn’t actually even use the cough drops (or show them), but I did take out a tissue from my small pack at one point. Although, I can see how they might have thought I was sicker then I was. I think I was more worried about the coughing during the interview then I was coming off as if I was really sick!

    1. Anon for Now*

      You dodged a bullet. Even if they did have an issue with you coming in with the lingering effects of a cold, there are far less personal ways to share that information.

      1. LetterWriter*

        Yeah, it was one of those small travel ones. I think I used it maybe three times? All three was because I was coughing and I didn’t want to use my arm.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Well now they sound even more ridiculous. Especially since the cough part of a cold can linger for weeks – when I get a real cold, the cough usually sticks around for 3-6 weeks. Should I just…not interact with anyone for up to six weeks at a stretch? Really?

        2. kittymommy*

          What!! That is ridiculous (them not you). I use tissues due to my allergies more than 3x in a half hour. for them to reject you because you dabbed your nose a couple of times… be happy you aren’t working for these people. There’s probably a whole lot more happening there.

        3. JM in England*

          LW, have you considered putting this on Glassdoor? Or would it be obvious that it was you who put it there

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Thanks for updating us! What a bunch of weirdos. I figured you didn’t set out the water etc on the table but kept them in your bag. Getting worked up over you using a tissue lmao. You already told them you were on the mend, I don’t know what else they wanted. Good luck finding somewhere better to work.

    3. BookCocoon*

      I have a chronic sinus condition that means I blow my nose frequently and also often have a cough. I always carry hand sanitizer and have a big bottle on my desk, but I try to both blow my nose and sanitize my hands discreetly. I would be horrified to be scolded for blowing my nose one time, and it wouldn’t even occur to me to mention it upfront because to me it’s just a minor part of my life. I already get so tired of people making comments like, “Wow, you’ve had that cold/cough for a long time!” (This is my permanent state of living, thank you for reminding me.) Sorry you had to deal with people freaking out at you.

    4. MuseumChick*

      Hi LetterWritter and made a post down bellow before I show you had post so I wanted to put this up here as well. First, their note was super rude. I’m sorry for that. I get the impression that someone either on the interview team, a beloved colleague, a long term employees spouse, etc has a compromised immune system so they are must more sensitize to this than they otherwise would be. The fact that they felt the need to write you and specifically mention that in there letter just makes me feel there is a 75% change this is the case.

      I’m really sorry they were rude to you.

      1. Airy*

        They’d have an easier life if they realised no one can be expected to guess or assume they have an immune compromised loved one and should be told about it up front.

    5. Environmental Compliance*

      Even if I’m not sick, I’ll very often have a water bottle and a small travel pack of tissues in my purse. Especially if I’m going somewhere that I’ll be talking! Heck, half the year I have a good chance of sounding horribly congested just due to allergies. Does that mean with this employer I’m never hire-worthy?

    6. Flash Bristow*

      I haven’t noticed it said so far, OP, but – thank you for coming here and engaging. It makes such a difference! Much more satisfactory. Cheers.

  26. Dust Bunny*

    If at all possible, you should have rescheduled. The tissues and cough drops aren’t a good look. Was there hand sanitizer? Otherwise you’re blowing your nose repeatedly . . . and then touching surfaces in the office. And I know that other people have been touching them, too, but most of those people have presumably not been visibly ill.

    I have a job where I have to handle a lot of stuff and if I have one of those constant-nose-blowing colds I’ll stay home for a day or two until I can get it under control because, even if I weren’t contagious, the optics of constant tissue use + touching all our work materials are just really disgusting.

    1. MayLou*

      I always carry tissues with me. Yes, I get colds (fewer over the last few months thanks to a lot of work on improving my immune system – I have a long-term health condition which is probably at least partially auto-immune) but also allergies, and just generally you never know when you will need a tissue. I wash my hands as soon as possible after blowing my nose but it’s not always possible and I’m certain that nasal dripping would be worse optics. Should I not be leaving the house for a good third of the year, in case someone sees me using a tissue?

    2. WellRed*

      They were in a bag and nowhere does it say they had to blow their nose repeatedly. Don’t read what isn’t there.

    3. LetterWriter*

      I think I used the tissues maybe three times? And it was just to cough, since I didn’t want to use my arm.

      The cold was more of a congestion type thing, I was coughing a lot and a bit of a nose issue, but by then I was just coughing if I was talking a lot.

      I could understand the attitude if I was dripping snot everywhere and it was gross.

  27. Episkey*

    My immediate thought is either the interviewer themself or a colleague in their office is actually immune compromised and this is a personal issue for them. But COME ON. Next time, just blame any congestion/cough either on allergies or “sinus issues” if you want to say something.

    1. Snowglobe*

      I had the same thought. If someone in their office is immunocompromised the whole office culture may have adapted to the point that they just can’t imagine why someone would risk contamination.

    2. Ginger*

      Or has a newborn.

      I recently had baby #2 and it has been drilled into me at every ped appointment to keep the little one away from sick people, especially during this time of year to avoid the flu, not to mention outbreaks of measles (?!?!) etc.

      Obviously living in a bubble isn’t an option but based on the interviewer’s immediate response, I would agree that they have something personal in this.

    3. Name Required*

      This is probably what I would have done — blamed it on allergies, sanitized my hands vigorously, and used the best OTC medicine I could find to suppress my symptoms (coughing, runny nose). Safer to do that than reschedule for a cold, in my experience.

    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yes, that was my first thought as well, that there was someone working there who was immunocompromised. But if that was the case, that’s something that it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect OP to know about ahead of time, and they had the opportunity at the start of the interview, or beforehand, to explain the situation and raise the possibility of rescheduling.

  28. Rando*

    I would have just blamed it on allergies. Especially if you’re getting over the cold and it’s really mild at that point.

    1. Joielle*

      Yeah… me too. Although if you get the job, you have to remember you told them you have allergies in case it comes up in conversation. (Probably unlikely, but I can just imagine a conversation with a coworker in the spring… “Sorry, OP, my allergies are terrible today! Do you have any allergies this time of year?” “No, I’m lucky, I’m not allergic to anything.” “Wait, I thought you had bad allergies during your interview…?”)

  29. Essess*

    I had the reverse happen to me. I showed up to an interview, and the interviewer informed me that he had the flu. He looked like death warmed over. I wasn’t happy about being stuck in a tiny room with all the flu germs, but to add insult to injury he would ask me a question then I would answer then he would stare at his list of questions and then say “did I already ask you ….” which was the exact same question that I just finished answering so he obviously wasn’t even bothering to remember what I said. Complete waste of my time.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      I think it gave at least one valuable piece of information: You’d be expected to work at that office, even if you were in the interviewer’s condition. I hope the interview wasn’t too long.

  30. Ladylike*

    I’m curious, LW, if you came in with a box of tissues, a bag of cough drops, and a bottle of water and plunked them on the table while explaining you were sick? Likewise, did you have a super gross, rattly cough, or coughing fits? Did you loudly blow your nose? I can see the interviewers having a strong reaction to that. But if you were generally well and came with those items discreetly tucked into a purse/briefcase and pulled them out only when needed, their reaction seems extreme.

    1. BookCocoon*

      LW said above that they had the items tucked away and only pulled out a tissue once from a tissue pack.

    2. LetterWriter*

      I came in with the water bottle in my hand but everything else in my pocket. I had put my purse and water bottle down and when they went to shake my hand I said something like, “Oh, I’m just recovering from some cold/congestion” and said something about apologizing if I sound off and if I cough a little.

  31. Mairona*

    I’ve interviewed with a cold before. I’d been laid off for 6 weeks, my severance was about to run out, and this was the first promising interview I’d had. This was in 2008 so the job market was in the toilet and I discovered just how many employment scams there were out there. I’m not proud of it, and even less so of the fact that I didn’t tell them I had a cold, but I drugged myself up on cold medicine, washed my hands AND doused them in sanitizer before meeting them, and avoided touching my face while I was there.

    I ended up acing the interview but didn’t remember much of it because of the cold meds. Apparently my preparation and precautions worked because I got the job and nobody caught my cold! I only know that latter detail because I confessed this to my boss months later; by then, I knew her well enough to know she’d find it funny.

    1. ComeOn!*

      I am not sure you dodged a bullet. You refused to shake hands – indicating that you thought you were still contagious, you apologized for needing to cough, brought water (not mentioning unseen tissues and cough drops). Every indication you gave them was that you were contagious and not well.

      If you thought you were okay, a simple hand wash before attending the interview could have given you some piece of mind. A solid cough drop (not the cheap kind) will stop a cough for a number of hours.

      That said – it was a blame-y response. It seems they were quite concerned about what you might have exposed them to.

      1. Observer*

        A solid cough drop (not the cheap kind) will stop a cough for a number of hours.

        That’s just not true. Sure, that works for some people, for some types of coughs. Other times / people? Nothing doing. I’ve had bad enough coughs that the only thing that worked was narcotic cough medicine (Robitusin with codeine) and even that wasn’t completely effective. Which is why I mostly used them at night, because it cut the coughing enough to let me get to sleep. It’s NOT something my doctor prescribes lightly, but it really was the only thing that worked.

        Coughing (even much more than would be indicated by needing water) doesn’t indicate being contagious. And refusing to shake hands does not indicate raving contagiousness, but rather some caution – if there IS some issue it’s most likely to be transmitted via handshake, so let’s avoid that.

        If the OP were coming in with measles (which is FAR more contagious and ot just via handshake) that would be different. But colds just are not in the same league.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I was wondering where this is. If it’s the US city wit an active outbreak that might actually be the worry.
          Because the initial symptoms aren’t all that far off the common cold. (Fever, Dry cough, Runny nose, Sore throat, Inflamed eyes…all before the spots, according to the Mayo Clinic website.)

          1. Observer*

            Yeah, but this wasn’t initial symptom territory. The OP had been sick ling enough that the rash would have come out by this point.

        2. ComeOn!*

          Right – it might not have worked. My point is more that OP, having decided to show up, could have worked to mitigated her symptoms — and not acted like she was arriving contagious. If coughing started, she could have apologized “lingering cough – nothing contagious”, popped a cough drop and continued. She made her cold an issue. Not the way to arrive at an interview — either cancel or fake it till you make it.

        3. ComeOn!*

          I know that if I was interviewing someone who would not shake my hand, even out of abundance of caution, I would assume they are contagious and trying to soft peddle it. And I would be put off — bad first moment. Once she decided to go, she needed to do what is needed for the interview which, unless a religious objection, includes shaking hands.

  32. ChimericalOne*

    Don’t feel bad, LW — I wouldn’t have thought twice about it! In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve interviewed while I had a cold, too (although I also struggle with runny nose/watery eyes/cough on & off throughout the winter, so I can’t always say for sure). It never would’ve occurred to me to reschedule. I saw the advice from someone else to give your interviewer a heads up & find out their preference… I don’t expect to be interviewing again anytime soon, but if I do, that’s the advice I would take!

  33. HelloFriday!*

    I may come from a different perspective here, but I would absolutely not have hired this letter writer or any other person who came in sick to an interview. I am immune compromised and I have two colleagues with immune issues related to medications they take. We have strict expectations about working from home when sick to avoid passing illness on to others. I will get sick for a week for every day a normal person gets sick, and one of my colleagues could land in the hospital. I think the note was a bit rude in tone, but I also think the letter writer should be glad to know why she was not hired and to have the chance to make better decisions next time. On a side note, companies need to start encouraging people to take care of themselves by offering feasible amounts of sick time and not guilting people for using it.

    1. Joielle*

      You should mention that when scheduling interviews so people know! It’s unusual to be so strict about illnesses and they can’t read your mind. As part of the interview confirmation email, maybe just say “We have strict rules about not coming into the office while sick, so if you do happen to get sick between now and the interview, please let me know and we’ll make every effort to reschedule.”

      1. Scribbles*

        I like Joielle’s script. I have a lowered immune system because of a medication I take and I’ve never gotten any special treatment because of it. I’ve also only worked for companies that discouraged or punished you for using sick days (or that didn’t offer sick days at all). I would never think to cancel an interview just for a normal cold. If anything, I’d worry the company would think there was something wrong with me for wanting to cancel over a cold. If you don’t want interviewers to come in sick, you should tell them so.

    2. Jadelyn*

      I understand where you’re coming from, but I feel like you’re pushing that “side note” too far off to the side and not taking into account that many – probably most – companies are not nearly so accommodating about letting people stay home when they’re sick. People get a limited amount of sick time (or worse, combined PTO), many offices have “just power through” cultures around calling out, plenty of bosses have a martyr complex about it and will treat their staff as flakes for calling out sick, etc. Your company has strict expectations, and that’s great! Please understand, however, that a LOT of companies have the opposite expectation, and it’s not reasonable of you to expect a job candidate to just psychically know which kind of company you are.

      If someone shows up sick to an interview, what’s stopping you from just telling them your company’s stance on it and asking them to reschedule at that point?

    3. Doodle*

      In that case, it would be helpful to let candidates know right up front that if they are sick, they should call or email to reschedule. And it would be helpful to you and your co-workers as well, because you wouldn’t be exposed to someone who has no way of knowing that you/coworkers have a medical condition. (You don’t have to give them any reasons, just let them know what to do.)

      My kid was on chemo off and on for almost ten years, so I totally understand the need to keep away from actively sick/contagious people. At the same time, I never expected anyone who didn’t already know to think ahead about the possibility.

    4. Arctic*

      Not hiring someone due to something they didn’t know about is completely unreasonable. If you don’t tell people upfront that there are immune compromised people and they shouldn’t come in if they have recently been sick how can they know that?
      The LW was getting over a cold. She wasn’t full blown. Most workplaces wouldn’t be accepting if you call out at that stage of cold. She is working off most workplace norms.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        “You’re not being considered for the position because you wore dress shoes with no-show stockings. Because all of our conference rooms are bounce houses, we require everyone to wear shoes that accommodate the kind of thick ‘hospital style’ grip-bottomed socks that keep the bounce house environment free of plantar warts and athlete’s foot. Since you obviously don’t care about your fellow coworkers getting toenail fungus from your janky feet, you will not get the job.”

    5. Sunglow28*

      Right, but I also tried to reschedule once due to an asthma attack and they never returned my call to set anything up, except to tell me that the filled the position in the interim.

      Until its standard practice to stay home when ill, I’ll always interview sick so I never lose an opportunity again. Jobs in my field are sparse and I regretted losing my chance.

    6. Antilles*

      I’m curious. How does your company handle situations like OP’s?
      She said the following: “The interview was scheduled about two weeks in advance. A few days beforehand, I started feeling a bit under the weather and ended up having a cold. By the day of the interview I was feeling much better but still had some mild congestion.”
      The after-effects of colds like this can easily linger for a couple weeks or longer – especially the coughing and stuffy nose. Do people really take that much time off every time they get a cold? How does your office handle PTO/staffing to cover it, particularly in the winter months?
      (I don’t mean this as any sort of attack; I’m legitimately curious about the logistics of how this works in a practical sense)

    7. Observer*

      Do you let potential employers KNOW about your expectations? Your workplace is unfortunately very much an outlier, and people get penalized all the time for taking off for a cold. That includes killing people’s candidacy. So unless you are telling them this, it’s totally unfair to do this.

    8. Risha*

      Honestly, I think she made the right decision. The percentage of companies that would have rejected her for rescheduling due to a cold vastly outweighs the percentage of companies like yours that would ding her for showing up with one. In the absence of information one way or another, it shows good sense to err on the side of keeping the original interview time.

    9. Database Developer Dude*

      So basically you would expect the LW to buck the culture at some other workplace, just for you, without knowing that you were immune compromised. I’m glad I don’t work for you simply because I’m not a mindreader. I find your attitude unacceptable in the extreme.

  34. CupcakeCounter*

    Based on my experience I would have had to push the interview out several weeks in order to not “present” as sick based on how my typical colds go.
    OP did not shake hands in an effort to minimize any potential germs spreading and I highly doubt they used the tissue for some full on nose blowing – probably more like a dab when the nose starts dripping so they don’t have snot running down the face.
    Illness is very common in the winter. If the company has severely immune compromised people working there it is on them to mention something to candidates and vendors coming in because people get colds and rarely take more than a day or two off because those things last forever. Outside of feeling my worst I highly doubt it would have crossed my mind to reschedule an interview over the tail end of a cold. I would have done exactly what OP did – come prepared with water, tissues, cough drops, hand sanitizer, and just mentioned something on the front end and touch as little as possible.

  35. MuseumChick*

    I think their note as rather rude. That being said, I find it interesting that they specifically mentioned someone recovering from cancer/compromised immune system. I wonder if someone either from the interview team, or a well loved colleague is in that exact situation so they are move sensitized to it than they otherwise would be.

    I’m sorry they were so obnoxious.

  36. irene adler*

    I think it’s telling that the note made reference to those with compromised immune systems or recovering from cancer. I’m betting they have someone in that situation. They feared for this person’s health and lashed out at the OP out of this concern. Not okay to do.

    Granted, they could have delivered their message in a much kinder way. And, how is an interview candidate supposed to know that they might be entering an environment where someone is immunocompromised? What to do? I’d feel silly calling them to advise them that I’d just recovered from a cold. And then ask if it would be okay to keep the interview appointment. And I’m sure the interviewers aren’t going to ask candidates to make a point to arrive disease-free.

    We had a lab tech, Keith, who was undergoing chemo. A mfg worker cut through the lab, as we all did, to his work area. MFG guy was sniffing and commented that he felt bad- might be catching something. Lab tech got right up and left for home. Didn’t even bother to tell anyone- just called later to explain why.

    I found myself chastising the mfg worker – (“Don’t you know any better?? Keith cannot afford to be around anyone who even thinks they are catching something.”). Well, the mfg worker had no idea about Keith’s situation- he sure didn’t look like there was anything wrong with him. He felt really bad, too. And I felt bad that I’d chewed out the mfg worker. Had he known, he would have kept far away from Keith.

    1. Karen from Finance*

      My concern is that the company is coming off as hypocritical to me. If they really have someone who is inmunocompromised in there, and they care so much about it that they are sending these notes, are they equally chastising each and every employee who comes in to work while feeling a bit sick? And if so, why not allow the compromised person to work from home until they are better, which would be all around safer? This rubs me the wrong way.

      And if it’s not someone at the office who is inmunocompromised that’s just worse.

      In any case it’s trivializing a serious condition to guilt trip OP and not okay.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If they have someone who is in danger on staff, they need to take precautions on their end.

      Did they let the person know they’d have strangers who are probably full of unknown germs coming in for an interview? Why did you do it on site? Why didn’t you tell your interviews that in the event they are feeling under the weather, they need to reschedule? You cannot expect people to go around acting like everyone has a comprised immune system, when we live in a society that punishes each other for being “weak” and taking sick days/time off for the sniffles!

  37. PM*

    As an interviewer, I do not really want to spend an hour sitting in a small room with someone who is visibly sick. I wouldn’t automatically reject someone for it, but it could detract from my overall impression of a candidate. When I’ve been sick and scheduled to interview people, I’ve switched to a video chat so as not to be inflicting my germs on someone in a small room.

    Having said that, it is winter and pretty much everyone is sniffly. I don’t leave the house without a pack of tissues. If I didn’t come to work sniffly, I would have been working from home for most of the last two months.

  38. Czhorat*

    This feels to me like an interviewer power-tripping a bit. I can imagine an alternate universe:

    “Dear Candidate:

    You chose to skip the interview because you have a cold. We take our responsibilities here seriously, and expect employees to make every reasonable effort at regular attendance.

    You did not show commitment or responsibility. We will not be moving forward with your candidacy.

    Please consider these lessons in your future endeavors.

    Hugs and Kisses,

    Linda from HR.

  39. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

    Why couldn’t you wear a mask? And even call ahead to let them know you’d be wearing it out of courtesy?

    Or even brought one along to the interview ?

    It’s becoming less-rare where I live in the midwest. Especially at clinics. I wish it was popular like in Japan!

    A local health care group where I live requires all employees to wear a mask if they decline a flu shot. Several nurses/secretaries etc wear one every winter, and they matter of factly can say why so that the client isnt worried the provider is sick.

    I have donned one to a networking event. I don’t feel masks are a big deal if you don’t make it a big deal.

    1. Jadelyn*

      It might be getting “less-rare”, but it’s still going to stick out like a sore thumb if you show up to an interview that way. It would be far more intrusively in-your-face as a reminder of HEY I’M SICK than just coughing into a tissue. I’d have a much stronger “ooookay, that’s weird” reaction to someone who came to an interview wearing a mask than someone who declined to shake hands and coughed into a tissue a couple times.

      1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

        I accidentally replied below, if a person is visibly sick they are visibly sick. I’d much rather have it contained and *not* in my face by coughing sniffling and breathing air around me without a mask.

      2. Blue*

        I have to agree. At clinics, sure, that’s not odd at all. But otherwise… I work in a fairly open-minded workplace in a big city in the Midwest, and you would definitely stand out if you wore a mask to an interview here. A mask certainly wouldn’t take someone out of the running, but there’d be some questions about the person’s decision making (as in: why didn’t they just try to reschedule?)

        1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

          Except then you risk not getting the job, simply for rescheduling.

          Double edged sword.

          I said below I care more about looking weird (which is subjective and speaks to the interviewers’ bias) and being courteous and a good worker, than “fitting in.” Whatever that means! after all.

    2. Observer*

      Good heavens! In most offices that would have gotten the OP blacklisted as a hypochondriac drama lama. Please don;t give me all of the reasons why that’s wrong. That’s not the point. The point is that this is NOT Japan, and people do not do that. It is SOOOO out of the norm that, at best, it’s going to overshadow everything else the OP brings to the table, and t worst, as I said, make them look like a real “speshul snowflake”.

    3. Japananon*

      I live in Japan where mask-wearing is common and it would be pretty inappropriate to wear a mask in a formal situation.

      You could wear it on public transport to the interview and in your daily life, but you are expected to take your mask off for important things like interacting with clients, and times when your voice needs to be heard clearly, like speaking on the phone.

      So even here, OP would have been rejected for wearing a mask.

    4. CK*

      I agree! Masks should be default and not be seen as anything but an ordinary precaution.

      My spouse used to have a doctor who kept free masks in his waiting room during the winter with a request to please wear one if you’ve got something potentially contagious.

      Though these days it’s the immune compromised people who wear the masks at work & elsewhere for their own protection. I’d say it’s the default “culture” in the U.S. to put the burden upon the one who’s at risk, unfortunately.

    5. Former call centre worker*

      Oh my god no. Not unless you want to be that office’s “once someone showed up to interview wearing a mask because they had the sniffles” story for the rest of time. I have never seen anyone wearing one of these outside of a medical setting, it’s so far from the norm i doubt the interviewers would be able to remember anything else about you!

    6. Sunshine*

      I’m sorry, what? I don’t know where you live but if a person showed up to interview with us wearing a mask they’d be remembered for being so bizarre and likely wouldn’t get the job. It’s a really odd thing to do.

  40. stitchinthyme*

    I got a cold once just before a job interview. I called up my HR contact and explained the situation, and asked her if she thought I should come in or reschedule. She said it was up to me — if I felt up to it, coming in was fine. I felt more or less okay except for the runny nose, so I took (non-drowsy) OTC cold medicine and went. I got the job and I’m still there almost 6 years later. No one seemed to catch the cold (I also declined handshakes) or even remember that I had one later on.

    So that would be my advice to the LW or anyone who gets a cold just before a job interview: call your recruiter or contact, explain the situation, and let them make the call.

  41. Need a Beach*

    I have immuno-compromised people in my life, and I would be so tempted to respond accordingly.

    “Thank you for the feedback. I asked my mom with SLE what she thought, and she said that as long as I avoided shaking hands it would be fine. I’ll let her know she’s a terrible person.”

    Of course you couldn’t actually do such a thing, but it helps to imagine.

  42. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

    Problem with that is they’re still exhaling contageous air into my office space. Someone with the flu is apparently contageous within 6 feet. !! yikes. Idk for colds.

    Is it better to be courteous and weird and smart, than to fit in? (And why work for a company that values fitting in over courtesy and a good worker?)

    Id much rather have their germs confined.

    I have a hard time trusting strangers or guests that they are no longer contageous. How do they know?

    I don’t want to put trust in a stranger that I’m *not* bringing home a virus to a person with a compromised immune system. :/

    I stuck out. And I charmed their pants off.

    1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      Not sure what happened but I was responding to the comment about sticking out like a sore thumb. I’d rather have that than a visibly sick person I guess.

  43. Beth Jacobs*

    I mean, I agree that people shouldn’t be out and about when contagious… but I also think it’s quite likely (not certain) that if you try to reschedule because of a cold, many companies will just pass you over. Depends on the position of course, but for generic entry level ones it’s highly likely, as hiring can move fast. Or they’ll reschedule but count it against you.

    I’d really love it if we lived in a world where I could stay home for two weeks with a cold. I think it’d be great and since contagious people wouldn’t be in public, the chances of catching one would be actually much lower. But I don’t think that’s the world we live in. If I have a cold, I cancel my social plans. If work allows it, I might take 1 – 3 sick days. But colds last about ten days, I really can’t take that off for every cold.

    1. Lavender Menace*

      Colds aren’t necessarily contagious for the entire duration of the time you have symptoms. Actually, you’re first contagious probably a day or two before you even feel symptoms, and most people are contagious for like 3-7 days afterwards.

  44. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    “Did you consider if someone was recovering from cancer or had a compromised immune system? You demonstrated to us that you would not show careful thought or consideration for your coworkers”
    Interviewer is making a hell of a jump from, “you should be careful when you have a cold and stay away when there’s a chance you can spread it” “you have a reckless disregard for human life.”
    Whatever issue is tilting interviewer’s perception needs to be left at the door.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      TO “you have…”
      but anyway, you know what I mean. This is an over the top response from a very personal place.

      1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

        I’m the kid of a nurse. When someone sneezed she’d say “Curse you, you’re spreading germs!”

        (really) (but she did it with a certain humor that never offended, somehow…)

    2. Czhorat*

      Yeah, there’s a big escalation from “we’d rather you not risk spreading the most common and benign illness known to humanity” and “What if someone here DIED because of your lack of consideration?”

      The proper response to that part would be:

      “Why is someone with so badly compromised an immune system that the common cold could be deadly to them in the office to conduct an interview? Are your sick-leave policies that draconian that you are expected to show up during cancer treatments? If so, I am surprised at the expectation that one would stay home with the common cold”.

      Note that this is the kind of thing one says in ones head, not aloud.

      1. Jasnah*

        ^^ This!! In my experience, usually the interview takes place in a separate area from the regular workspace–like a visitor-only conference room, or at least “the fancy one.” So why is the person with cancer not avoiding that one interview room??

      2. Sunshine*

        “Why is someone with so badly compromised an immune system that the common cold could be deadly to them in the office to conduct an interview?”


    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Agreed. You’d think that she was interviewing for a job at a cancer treatment facility with all the level of indignation they raised themselves to. I get the feeling that they are a horrible place to work for, they have no impulse control.

    4. Miss Displaced*

      Unless this was a healthcare facility, hospital or cancer treatment facility… Uh why no I would not have considered that. I’m not a horrible inconsiderate person for not having considered it.

      Bullet dodged.

  45. The Rat-Catcher*

    The note assumes your motives, that you are inconsiderate and uncaring rather than a product of a culture that glorifies coming in sick, starting with perfect attendance awards in kindergarten.
    I do not think this would have improved if you started working there. I think you came out ahead on this one.

  46. Annastasia-von-Beaverhausen*

    Huh. I interviewed for my current position with a full blown sinus infection that took 3 rounds of antibiotics to finally knock out, and still got the job. As well as two subsequent promotions. Now, I dosed the hell out of myself before I showed up so I wasn’t coughy/snuffly/sneezy – more like dopey and congested – and I told them it was a sinus infection which isn’t contagious like a cold is, but they were quite happy to hire me.

    Personally, I think you dodged a bullet – if they’re all scoldy and obnoxious before you even start, I expect they’d be pretty insufferable to work with.

    Meh, YMMV.

  47. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I just got ghosted by someone who emailed right before an interview to say they had a medical emergency and needed to reschedule. I responded with well wishes and agreement to reschedule. Granted perhaps their medical emergency resulted in a hospitalization or worse, so I didn’t send off any snippy notes about it because that’s tacky and uncalled for.

    I’d rather someone show up. I’m already writing off people in my mind if a we have to reschedule. I never had a rescheduled interview go well, sad but true. So yes, it’ unfortunate. Your health self selected you out of that nonsense kind of office. Chastising someone who didn’t even work for you, I cannot fathom what it’s like to have so much nerve.

    1. Allison*

      And I think people are aware that this mindset exists, hence going in with a cold. I did reschedule an interview once, because I had a cold, and when I went in I was still a *bit* sniffly, and I ultimately didn’t get the job. I don’t think my cold was the reason, I don’t think I was quite what they’re looking for anyway, but it did maybe subconsciously confirm that rescheduling due to a cold is maybe not the best idea, unless it’s a really bad one.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I think it’s a subconscious situation in a lot of situations of re-schedules.

        You have that thought in the back of your mind that says “Sure they’re not bad, they could probably do the job but the other people can to!” so you get down to the nittygritty details of who “fits” better.

        The sad thing is that we just don’t know each other and therefore you have to trust your instincts overall.

        1. Miss Displaced*

          Interesting take.
          I think ONE reschedule wouldn’t bother me too much, if they rescheduled quickly and accomplished within the next 2-3 days. But of course the longer this drags out, the worse it becomes (they take 2 days to call you back and connect, then schedule it for another 4-5 days out). By then you’ve probably moved-on and don’t want to interview anyone a week or more after all your other interviews completed. And waiting for a cold to be completely over… well, that could be several days depending. Especially this place! They likely wouldn’t want any visible signs or sounds of a cold.

  48. Allison*

    I agree that you shouldn’t interview with a cold, but I can also see myself feeling conflicted in that situation, so I wouldn’t be mad at someone for going in while sick as long as they were careful with their germs – coughing and sneezing into their elbow, using hand sanitizer, etc. The employer’s reaction was way too harsh, I probably would’ve gone with “we admire your enthusiasm for this position and commitment to your job hunt, but in the future please don’t be afraid to reschedule a job interview if you’re really sick! Anyone who would hold that against you isn’t worth working for.”

  49. Amethystmoon*

    When I was growing up, the standard was always “Do you have a fever?” Or “Are you worshipping the porcelain deity?” If the answer was one or the other, stay home. Generally, I use the same standard as an adult. There is a such thing as cold medicine.

    1. Allison*

      I think there are colds that you can temporarily squash with meds for important stuff, and there are colds that can really knock you on your bum – I get these from time to time, there’s no fever or vomiting, but I’m still miserable, full of mucus, hacking up a lung and can barely talk.

    2. KR*

      This – I was taught that work comes absolutely first and you go unless you cannot safely drive there. While I appreciate that this company believes sick people should stay home they absolutely cannot assume all of their interviewees have been fortunate enough to get that same messaging especially if LW isn’t in the US and doesn’t have guaranteed sick leave and medical care.

  50. Pippa*

    I tend to agree that the LW should have inquired about rescheduling AND that the note was a bit much, but I’d like to get people’s opinions on something similar that recently happened in my workplace. Just before a meeting of about 20 people, a colleague told me she had strep throat. She’d definitely been exposed a few days earlier, she had the symptoms, and she was just waiting on the test result. I replied “Oh, no, you should be at home! Sorry you’ll have to miss the meeting.”

    But she insisted on attending. Neither I nor the chair could dissuade her, and she started downplaying her symptoms to justify attending, so the chair gave up. I was visibly angry with her by this point, so we sat far apart in the room. Her attendance wasn’t essential; other people had to miss the same meeting for various reasons, and it’s not a big deal. But there was some department disagreement going on and she felt she should be able to take part. She didn’t tell anyone else she thought she had strep, just that she was sitting away from me because I was afraid of her “cold.”

    She emailed me later to say the test was negative, she just had some other bug, which she seems to feel retroactively justifies her. I, of course, disagree. Strep seems enough worse than the common cold that when you reasonably think you have it, you should avoid exposing people. Am I an outlier on this – is strep now regarded as no big deal?

    1. Observer*

      No, strep is still a genuinely problematic disease. Is your workplace reasonable? Was there any way she could have called in to the meeting? Or would she have been locked out of the discussion and told “too bad, you chose to stay home?”

      I do think that regardless, she should have stayed home, but if your employer is unreasonable about accommodating situations like this, this is the result you wind up with.

      1. Miss Displaced*

        Yeah, that’s interesting. Where I work it would’ve been no biggie, we’ll schedule a Skype meeting so you can listen in. But we’re not a butts-in-the-seats type of place.

      2. Pippa*

        Nah, we’re academics. Our schedules are really flexible apart from scheduled teaching, and she could have gone home. And she could have left her comments for someone else to read out (we do that on big issues if someone can’t be there, but we tend not to Skype this kind of meeting for several reasons).

        This was an issue on which she didn’t have a particular role to play, but wanted to be heard. Which I get, but…strep.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think you’re quite out of line to instruct a colleague that they need to go home and that they shouldn’t be at a meeting. If it was really an issue for you, why didn’t you skip the meeting in protest that she was in the same room? Instead you got mad at her and are harboring resentment.

      She should have kept her mouth shut about her un-diagnosed issue to avoid the hystera that you’ve illustrated.

      Do you have unlimited sick-leave? Do you know she’s not out of sick-leave? Does she report to your same manager[s]? So many reasons why we show up to work when not in pristine health, mainly circling around job security and money to pay bills. If you are out of sick-leave, some managers are tyrants and will use it against you. Heck, even if you have tons of sick leave at your disposal, your manager uses it against you.

      Strep is bad but it’s not worth pretending to be someone’s mum.

      1. Pippa*

        Well, I see your point, but she told me she had strep. I was obliged to attend the meeting if possible; she was not. Our work environment is one in which she wouldn’t have had to take sick leave and could have skipped the meeting or even left for the day without penalty or even any side-eye.

        Not really sure what thinking ‘hey don’t expose everyone to strep if you can help it’ has to do with being anyone’s mum. (No one’s ever called me maternal before, even as a sexist insult, so that’s neat.) But I was asking here because maybe general opinion considers strep as trivial as a cold. I don’t, but if people generally do, then I’d adjust my view of how inconsiderate she thought she was being.

      2. Sunshine*

        Strep is ‘bad’ in that it can cause serious complications such as kidney infections and scarlet fever. Doctors also specifically say to stay home, preferably away from any family members, for 24 hours.

        It’s not in the same ballpark as a cold.

    3. Last_codon*

      Nooo. Colds usually resolve themselves. Strep requires diagnosis and antibiotics, and it can lead to serious complications if not properly treated.

  51. Fake Eleanor*

    If they were as considerate as they think they are, they would tell all candidates coming in for an interview that it’s not just OK to reschedule if they’ve got a cold, but that they would strongly prefer it and will not penalize a candidate if they get sick.
    They’re assuming their company culture is commonly understood, and penalizing someone for not guessing correctly about it.
    Honestly, if they’re that concerned about catching the cold, they should’ve canceled the interview when the candidate showed up and done so without holding it against them.

  52. mcr-red*

    Here recently, everyone has had some sort of virus with congestion/sneezing/coughing symptoms that are bad for like 3-4 days, goes away for about 5 days, and then comes back again for 3-4 days before leaving again. It was during my second round of symptoms that I came in to work, specifically to meet with a client that had been scheduled back when I thought I was fine. I miraculously pulled it together to sound like a normal human being during our consultation, and then left after the meeting to lay on my couch with my tea and blanket. But for that 30-minute window, I was fine.

    My point is, literally everyone I know has had this, it goes away and comes back, and if we were off work the whole time, we’d be off work for about two weeks! No company is going to be fine with that, I’m sorry.

    1. Miss Displaced*

      For me, colds will often lead to a sinus infections, and those tend to have lingering effects for even 2-3 weeks after the “cold” itself has passed. Last year I also had a cough that lingered on for about 4 weeks after a bad cold, even though I felt fine otherwise.

  53. This Space For Rent*

    I remember going to a job interview on pain medication after a dental procedure. I am not a fan of pain medicine and hate anything that alters me, so the fact that I took the pills in the first place should have been an indicator that I was not in the right place for an interview. I had tried to reschedule, but they were pretty inflexible due to the calendars of the executives I was meeting. I made it through the interview but the medication made me loopy/stupid/impulsive. I asked things I normally wouldn’t (which come up in my mental screw-up reels when I need a reminder I am a dork) and it was just a disaster. Needless to say, I did not get that job. They were jerks for not letting me reschedule and for ghosting me afterwards.

    OP, I feel for you. I’m sorry you received such a rude rejection letter, but you probably dodged a bullet.

  54. Bunny Girl*

    The only thing that I’m not sure about is what if this was allergies and you didn’t mention to them that you were sick, and they just assumed you had something like a cold? Would they have still sent you that note? For example, I have allergies almost all year round, and sometimes they can get bad. Do I reschedule even though I’m not contagious? Would I still get the same snotty (haha) reply?

  55. Miss Displaced*

    Ugh! Colds are tricky things. Generally one feels far worse at the beginning of one than on the flipside, where you feel functional and mostly over it, but still have some lingering effects such as a cough or nasal issues. And if you felt fully functional and had gone to work, I probably also would’ve went to the interview if I felt up to it. Unless this was a health care type organization? It might not fly in that case.

    But I think you can say you learned a lot about that organization. They were oddly dramatic and way over the top about this . Most people generally can’t realistically stay home for 7-10 days and avoid all activities and all people because they’re getting over a cold.

  56. jk*

    Well I think they were obnoxious. I’ve been to lots of interviews where potential bosses were sick. Actually my boss at my current job was very sick when I met her and she apologized so much.

    People get sick and that company has a stick up their bum. I wouldn’t want to work somewhere like that and I’m the kind of person that takes sick days!

  57. Bookworm*

    Although I could understand their concerns and where they were coming from, the *handling* of the situation was very poor.

    Look at it this way: these are people that you clearly don’t want to work for. Maybe it was an off day, maybe they DO have someone with a compromised immune system for whatever reason in the office. In any case it was still rude.

    I once had a similar experience except it was I hadn’t changed my voice mail (so it was a generic reading of the phone number) and I received a snippy email inviting me for an interview but also saying I had created a hassle for the person who had to double check my resume to be sure the phone number was correct. Told me all I needed to know, no thanks to the interview.

    You’re better off, OP.

    1. Lavender Menace*

      Seriously? Part of the job of calling someone is making sure that you have the correct phone number. Who gets mad about that? It takes like 5 seconds to do.

  58. frockbot*

    I wouldn’t have rescheduled either, OP, and I think that message is super, super, super rude. Besides, if they were that uncomfortable, they could’ve offered to reschedule the minute you said you’d been sick recently. This whole scenario is bonkers.

  59. FD*

    See, I struggle with this one, because a lot of interviewers are going to see it as a negative mark if you try to reschedule your interview. Whether this is fair or not, I feel like they are going to immediately doubt your reliability. It’s one of your first impressions, so the impact is going to be magnified.

    This feels like a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation to me.

  60. Indie*

    Is the world turning into Sheldon Cooper?

    A colleague of mine developed a hoarse throat midway through the day at old job and a new member of the team started lecturing them about how everyone in her country ‘gets vaccinated’ (against everything I assume) and she hates that we don’t here and colleague, with rather brilliant timing responded “It’s not contagious at all; it’s an allergy. To your perfume, I think”. Ouch.

    People get sick. We are supposed to. Yes people should stay home whenever possible but in between times we only have manners and hygiene and common sense to get us through. The people I have known with actual health challenges don’t forget this. They make graceful requests of what they need from others and they take sensible precautions which don’t include lectures.

    OP they could have just sent you home with all the reassurances that they are happy to interview you at your best. But no, they put you through a phony interview because they aren’t confident with conflict; and they are not direct or kind when they have a suggestion. Bullet dodged.

    1. Lavender Menace*

      Yeah – if they were really that concerned about contagious illness, they could’ve sent you home with concern and rescheduled the interview. Instead they went through the whole thing and then sent you an obnoxious note, which means they wasted both of your time.

  61. Hermione Granger*

    I’ve never really understood why people stress out over catching germs (unless there is a legit medical reason eg immunocompromisation, which is totally understandable). Unless you live in a bubble, you’re exposed to millions of germs every single day – on door handles, on train seats, on tube poles, on desks, in the air. It’s just part of life. You could just as easily get sick by picking up a lettuce that a sick person just put back down in a store (gross but I’m sure it happens), or by grabbing the car door handle of a cab, or by sitting next to someone who’s sick on the bus or whatever. I wouldn’t cancel an interview unless I was really, properly poorly. Same as work – I’d never miss work for a cold unless it was accompanied by a fever and/or a truly dreadful sore throat and I couldn’t swallow or something. If I was just a bit sniffly, there’s no way I’d call off an interview. I would assume the company would inform me if there was a specific reason they didn’t want me coming in sick, like people have said above, and I’d stop short of shaking hands. But that’s it. Generally, I do always wonder if people realise they can avoid getting sick by building up a resistance to germs… and the best way to do that is by coming into contact with germs.

  62. Rika*

    I know I’m overreacting, but this story made me angry. Mainly because I strongly suspect that you would have been rejected just the same had you tried to reschedule… only then the criticism would have been that the fact that you would try to reschedule for something as trivial as a little cold didn’t bode well for your work ethic. I admit I’m basing this on nothing from your story: this is entirely me. In my 17 years of working under managers who all claimed they preferred sick employees to stay at home so they wouldn’t infect their coworkers only ONE turned out to actually mean it. They’re totally in favour of you getting illnesses completely out of your system, until you actually go and do it; then it’s slacking off. I know it’s bad, but I almost never take it seriously when a manager tells me to ‘take it easy and make sure you fully recover’ when I call in sick. Unfortunately, coming into work when you’re still on the mend tends to earn you points.

    Sorry, this just hit a nerve. Felt the need to vent.

    1. Same.*

      Yes, exactly! You can’t win here. I’ve never worked someplace where you weren’t expected to work unless you were practically on your death bed. The fact that my last job had a lump of PTO instead of separated sick/vacation days didn’t help that either.

  63. Lavender Menace*

    This story also made me angry, because in addition to this feeling more like obnoxious virtue signaling than a genuine concern…not everyone can afford to miss out on a job opportunity, or hours at work, because of a cold.

  64. Anon Anon Anon*

    “You are demonstrating that you do not care about the well being of your co-workers.” Woah. The same thing could also be said of someone who chooses to stay home when mildly ill, and it would also be wrong. Both situations are a judgment call and don’t usually have a substantial impact on other people’s well being.

    I seem to have had a stronger reaction to their note than most people commenting. I thought it was really nasty and insulting and just wrong. I don’t think the OP did anything wrong. I think she should be glad she didn’t end up working for these people. From bringing cough drops to an interview to endangering someone with cancer? That’s a pretty big leap. I’d be regretting even giving them my contact info, washing off the slime, and hoping to find something better asap.

    1. Anon Anon Anon*

      PS – Thinking about this some more, I’m starting to suspect the note was someone’s way of blowing off steam or entertaining themselves. It was so over-the-top. Maybe they were going to reject OP anyway. Maybe they had already chosen another candidate. And the person tasked with sending out the rejection letter decided to have some fun at OP’s expense. Sad, but it seems more likely than someone really thinking that way.

  65. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    I agree. I’d never reschedule for a cold. Most places I know don’t reschedule.

  66. RUKiddingMe*

    I would be annoyed, a lot. I am immunocompromised and try very hard to segregate myself to the extent possible during cold and flu season. Well all the time really but especially during C&F season. If someone came in that gave me the impression they *might* be contagious, I wouldn’t hire them. I wouldn’t add a lecture, but they wouldn’t get the job.

    1. Airy*

      Would you tell them before the interview that you were immunocompromised, or say nothing and reject them for not knowing?

      1. RUKidding*

        I would tell them. That doesnt negate their lack of consideration for everyone else who may not want to catch their cold though. It just comes off as very self-absorbed.

        1. Same.*

          I strongly disagree. Colds can last for weeks, and people have to go about their regular business. Nobody can stay at home sick for weeks on end. In the winter, you probably encounter a dozen people every day who have a cold, they’re not self-absorbed for going about their lives.

        2. Airy*

          A lot of people don’t have a practical choice to just isolate themselves when they’re sick. Their boss won’t let them take the time off and/or their personal and family responsibilities don’t let up.

          1. RUKidding*

            OP said she’d had the cold only a few days. She could still be contagious. That she declined to shake hands implies that she knew she might still be contagious but chose to expose people anyway.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Did you even read Airy’s comment? This is a total non sequitur. We have been telling you all over this thread that a lot of people just don’t have the option of taking several days off every time they have a cold and you have been just sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting I CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA.

    2. Lavender Menace*

      In addition to what people said below, what counts as ‘the impression that they *might* be contagious”?

      People sniffle, sneeze, and cough for all sorts of reasons. They may be recovering from an infectious disease, but might not actually be contagious anymore, as many infections diseases stop being contagious a few days after symptoms show. They may have non-contagious allergies; they may simply have a persistently runny nose; they may have accidentally swallowed some water down the wrong pipe right before walking in your office. I have a coworker who has a persistently froggy throat, and they have to clear it often.

      How on earth does anyone know whether someone else is contagious reliably enough to make hiring decisions on that basis? Not to mention that many people *are* contagious a few days before their symptoms actually show up. The person who is probably most likely to infect you with a cold or flu virus is the person who is walking around feeling fine, unsuspecting. Today.

  67. Mellow*

    My undestanding is that colds are no longer contagious once full-blown symptoms have presented. That would certainly seem the case in the OP’s situation. I thought the note was way over the top.

  68. Peep*

    Courtesy should work both ways. I got the stomach flu from a job interview once. I later found out that one of the two interviewers had 3 sick kids and a sick husband at home, and wasn’t feeling so hot herself during the interview. She basically crawled into work, infected me, and went home. Nobody told me about this on the day of the interview, so I had no idea. She didn’t look that sick. I got the job, and I was to start right after the Christmas holiday. I had a very merry Christmas dinner of crackers and Gatorade that year. My parents had flown in from out of town for Christmas that year(a very, very rare thing), and spent a fun filled week of watching me watch tv on the couch. I found out on my very first day of my new job that one of the interviewers had been sick, and that’s where my holly, jolly Christmas by the toilet had come from.

  69. Sick kid*

    I *was* immunocompromised as a kid due to issues with my spleen. I got extremely sick twice afterwards catching a bug from other kids at school. I realize that there are a couple things at play here: I wasn’t long term immunocompromised and I was a kid, but nevertheless I never once have thought “wow, I should be upset at this other person who had absolutely no idea what my circumstances were” and I’m bewildered to see so many people here saying that everyone should stay in quarantine because they might meet someone who is immunocompromised or meet someone who sees someone who is immunocompromised. IMO the onus is on the ic. party to speak up, similar to the way someone with a peanut allergy would speak up if I started snarfing a pb&j in their vicinity.

  70. Bulbasaur*

    I might be in a minority here, but I think that expecting people to avoid meetings, interviews or general human interactions in a work scenario when they have a cold is ridiculous. Are you really going to reschedule or cancel meetings or interviews when one or more parties has a cold? If so, then you are probably 50/50 on any meeting with more than 3 or 4 people, and anything big (12+) you may as well just postpone until spring.

    Until we live in a world where companies are prepared to offer PTO for colds (which could amount to as much as 8-10 weeks a year for people who are particularly susceptible, have small children, etc.) then working around people with colds in the winter is a fact of life. If you have plenty of sick leave accumulated, are a generally healthy person, and can afford to take some of it for low severity illnesses like a cold, then good for you (I am envious). For others, sick leave can literally mean their job. People can be, and have been, fired for ‘abusing’ sick leave, which in practice often means being seriously ill for more days than are allowed for by the policy. If money is tight and you have a family depending on your income, and that happens to you, how will you feel if one of the reasons why you didn’t have enough leave was because you spent some of it on staying home when you had a cold? Yes, it’s annoying to me to be around infectious people and I’d rather not catch your cold if I can avoid it, but that’s not enough reason to ask you to possibly place your job at risk for my personal comfort.

    Having said that, this is an interview, and it’s an opportunity to gather some information about how they handle these things (and if they remove you from consideration as a result, you probably wouldn’t have wanted to work for them anyway). It still probably wouldn’t occur to me to do it, and if it did I’d likely be more worried about appearing out of step with professional norms by asking the question (who postpones meetings or interviews just because of a cold?)

    1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      Yep. I’m an asthmatic. My colds are bad (like, feeling like death for a couple of days, getting out of bed is hard). I call in if it’s a bad one.

      I’m borderline at risk of being ineligible for promotion as a result, because yes there is a specific metric for that.

  71. blaise zamboni*

    The advice to call and ask the interviewer what they prefer is great–I wouldn’t have thought of that myself if I ever faced this situation, so thank you, wise AAM commentariat!

    I am also immunocompromised, though to a much milder extent than some of the other commenters. Even though my condition is mild and rarely poses real danger to me, I’ve had loved ones get *very* concerned for my well-being. This is pretty pointless speculation, but I wonder if one of the team members has an immunocompromised loved one and didn’t feel comfortable speaking up while the OP was standing right there…but then unleashed a rage when OP was gone, which soured the rest of the team on her. That could explain why they didn’t reschedule at the beginning of the interview, and why they sent an emotionally charged note so shortly afterwards. It doesn’t really change the situation, but maybe it takes some of the sting from the “rude jerks who can’t be pleased” explanation. It’s still a jerk-y note, but it does seem like the situation really hit a nerve for some reason so hopefully that’s not their SOP.

    Either way. Now OP has a new tool in her arsenal in case this situation arises again later, and she can be confident that this place isn’t a good match for her. Good luck with your job search and future interviews!

  72. he who walks behind the rows*

    I have tried to reschedule interviews. Once because I was so sick I could hardly walk, and more recently because there was an emergency at work that I absolutely HAD to take care of. (It was my project and no-one else knew enough about it to take care of it). In both cases they refused to reschedule. And I never heard from them again.

    If you tried to reschedule they could have told you it shows you’re not dedicated or whatever.

    Basically, they suck

  73. Chriama*

    This is something that there is no general consensus on. Some offices applaud people who practically work themselves to death. Some say they don’t you to come in but have terrible time off policies. Some bosses think that most illnesses are “mind over matter”. And quite frankly if I needed a job I think it’s less of a risk to come in sick for an interview than to call and ask to reschedule because of a cold. I have no way of knowing what kind of office it is.

    So, I think OP was in a situation with no great options and tried to do the best she could. For future reference shew can call and ask if they want her to reschedule, but I don’t blame her for not thinking of that ahead of time. Until we, as a society, stop valuing arbitrary measures of “productivity” and start to care for workers as people rather than profit-making machines, I think the best we can do is try to exercise a little empathy for our fellow humans.

  74. Ossipon*

    My takeaway is: never try to reschedule an interview for a mere cold. Always exaggerate it into something worse so that any rational interviewer would want to cancel.

  75. Bittersuess*

    I tried to reschedule an interview once due to injury, and the interview offer was then revoked. I totally understand why the LW went. I’ve worked too many places where working sick is the expectation. Why would the interview process be different?

  76. Elise*

    It’s frustrating to read this when most employers are not as understanding about staying home from a cold. So you’re supposed to guess before the interview whether telling them you’re sick will help or hurt your case? As I’m typing this I guess it is a good indicator of how much you should want to work there since it might indicate how they treat sick time. However, if you’re desperate for a job it is frustrating that you never know which camp your interviewer is in. Note that I’m not arguing with the advice, just pointing out how frustrating this is for job seekers who really need a paycheck.

  77. Coughy McCougherson*

    This is my worst nightmare. I’ve been battling a chronic cough for over six months that JUST got diagnosed (silent acid reflux). It is not contagious, but it will take MONTHS to heal. I’m currently not working and need to start interviewing. I’m terrified that even when I say upfront that I’m not contagious, not sick in a cold like way, no one will believe me. The kicker is that my cough gets worse when I talk! If I were to get a note like that after a rejection I’d be super upset.

  78. GermsArentTheEnemy*

    Sometimes I wonder if basic health education has been missed when reading stories and comments here.

    By the time your body is throwing out the virus that caused your cold, you are no longer infectious. At this point basic hygiene rules will save the day for most humans. We were all taught to wash our hands right? Cough/sneeze into a tissue or into the elbow etc?

    Assuming you arent severely compromised these basic tips will help healthy people cope just fine around someone who has a cold. Acting as though the common cold should be treated the same as a real infectious disease like say a hemorrhagic fever is beyond the pale. The same is seen regarding measles, mumps and chicken pox these days, you know back in the day people had parties to ensure kids all got it and shared it around.

    If you are severely compromised, then surely its upon you to take measures to protect yourself and not expect everyone else to do it for you? Its a very dirty world out there, you cant expect everyone else to modify their normal behavior to satisfy you? I assume all those who are compromised avoid cash? only breath filtered air?

  79. Ann*

    Okay, dissenting opinion here – but I would be put off by an applicant who canceled while getting over a cold. I wouldn’t expect someone to take 2 weeks off of work while they had a cold, and would have some reservations about this person’s likelihood to show up to work.

  80. Big Biscuit*

    I’m of the opinion that the OP should have stayed away from the tissues and cough drops (maybe just brought in a small bottle of water) and if she could not have done that, then maybe it would have been best to postpone the interview. I also think the company was bat shit crazy to write such a condescending rejection letter. Unusual situation, for sure.

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