Questions about job interview etiquette

I have an out-of-state job interview this week, and I’m wondering how to handle a couple of things. I had a gastric bypass 6 weeks ago, and it has me concerned,

The hiring manager knows I had abdominal surgery, because he called about my resume while I was still in the hospital. He doesn’t know what I had done, however. If the topic goes beyond the “How did your recovery go?” type of small talk, should I tell him about my gastric bypass, or fib? My instinct is to be truthful in an interview, but downplay it as much as I can. I’m not a good liar, and I don’t want to be caught when I’m asking for a new job.

I’m in near mortal fear of being taken to lunch, and this is the biggie for me. I despise lunch interviews on general principles, but now I have the added wrinkles of a minimal stomach and a limited range of what I can consume. Any suggestions here?

He shouldn’t even ask. I’m pretty sure that your medical situation is one of those things that is off-limits in job interviews, lest he be accused of discrimination later.

I can’t imagine he would ask directly. If he does, I’d sidestep, with a vague answer like “Well, I had to have surgery, but I’m healing well and I’m sure I’ll be able to do a full day’s work by (insert date here).” He won’t push the issue unless he’s the kind of boss you don’t want to have anyway.

As for lunch, I wouldn’t worry about that either, and for the same reasons. He should know better than to ask personal questions at an interview, and probably will. Order something small (a bowl of soup, maybe? A salad? An appetizer?). He’ll probably just assume you’re on a diet, like 75% of American women.

While I don’t think you should name some other type of surgery instead of the gastric bypass, I don’t think you need to specifically state what you had done - they know you had surgery, and my opinion is that’s all they need to know. If they press, you can state the type of surgery you had if you feel it’s necessary.
When it comes time for lunch, if lunch is part of the interview, you can state that because of recent surgery you cannot eat much and have carefully watch the content of what you do eat. That way, they hopefully don’t feel that you’re rude for not eating much.

IMO, YMMV and so on.

I would agree with the other posters, Bob.

I had GBS in November, and while I chose to tell everyone, I realize it’s a personal decision, and one that you wouldn’t necessarily share with a prospective employer.

Hope you’re doing well - early on, I found that soup & shrimp cocktail were godsends. Even if you left most of the things behind, you could attribute it to nervousness or lack of hunger.

Good luck!


He cannot ask you medical questions. Even at your current job they can’t ask you why you missed time- I believe it is covered under the HIPAA act. The company I worked for prior to the current one underwent serious uptraining for management regarding health information.

Technically, he can ask you medical questions and you can choose to answer him or not, but he cannot, say , ask your doctor medical questions and have him answer them without violating HIPAA guidelines.

After having undergone intense HIPAA training upon entering the Pharmacy World.

Don’t volunteer any medical details. Not because gastric bypass is anything to be ashamed of, it just doesn’t relate to your job. They may be concerned (even if they can’t ask directly) whether you’ll be reliable due to health reasons. It’s reasonable for you to allude to your surgery in general terms, i.e. it was nothing life threatening (translation: you don’t have cancer), you’re healing well and feeling better every day.

If it’s a lunch interview, just order what you can eat without explanations. The only rationale for lunch interviews is that they’re supposedly casual, so they can get a feel for what you’re like. (Yeah, right, but that’s the theory.) And maybe they want to see if you eat peas with your knife, slurp your soup or tuck your napkin in your collar.

What’s actually on your plate shouldn’t matter a damn. IMO, anybody who doesn’t natter on, in excruciationg detail, about what they will/won’t eat is a breath of fresh air. The setting is just a backdrop for carefully disguised workish chat anyway.

Good luck to you, and just concentrate on your work potential.


I think I’ve mentioned that my mom and other family members have had gastric bypasses. You’d be amazed how much other people will not notice what you are or are not eating.

My aunt just orders the full size version of what she knows she can eat, mostly soup at this point, though she occasionally will try an entree with chicken breast meat. Potatoes and rice seem to be too dry for her most times. Everybody is busy eating their own food and don’t notice she didn’t eat everything. She usually asks for the remainder to be boxed up and nobody blinks an eye because portions are so huge anymore, everybody at the table is doing the same GBS or not.

You might not want to ask for a doggy bag in this particular instance, but there’s sure to be a lot of food left uneaten on many people’s plates. The one time I’ve been out with her when someone asked if she hadn’t liked her meal, she said she was full after having had a big breakfast. Totally true, it’s just that big to her is awfully small.

Good luck, Bobbio!

He can’t ask medical questions unless they pertain to the job. For example, if the job involves lots of lifting and carrying, he can certainly ask questions like, “Is there any reason that you would have trouble lifting 50-lbs weights?” If the job involves carrying messages up and down stairs, he can ask “Is there any reason that you couldn’t go up and down stairs many, many times each day?” I’m gonna disagre slightly with TVeblen – they can ask whether you have any health conditions that would affect your ability to be punctual, to be present, etc. Those are job-related conditions, and therefore fair-game in the interview.

And also note that the “can’t ask” is really not much help. He shouldn’t ask about your medical condition (except insofar as it affects the ability to do the job), but if he does, you don’t really have any recourse but to answer honestly. What are you going to do, tell him that he shouldn’t ask such a question, it’s illegal? You’d not get hired, unless you’re able to say that in a way that is sweet and polite and doesn’t offend him. Yeah, you could sue later, but is it worth it?

And you should definitely answer honestly. You can put positive spin on things, but if you are caught lying in the job interview, it can be instant grounds for dismissal. Besides, what would be the point of lying? Do you really want to take a job where you’re not qualified or able to do the job because of your health? Or do you not want the job really, you’re just trying to lie your way into their health insurance? There’s no real advantage to lying in terms of career and long-term employment.

Ok, maybe I am weird, but I definitely notice what people do and don’t eat. I went out once with a couple where a very large woman ate 1/4 of the sandwich she ordered. My husband and I both noticed, and talked about it afterward. Next time we went out, she and hubby shared a smallish entree. Again, we noticed and thought it was odd. Was she afraid to be seen eating too much? I know some large people are. Finally, third time out, she said she eats small meals every 3 hours to control her blood sugar. Ahhhhh. Nice to know.

In the job interview, I would say musingly, while looking at the menu, “Hmmm…Got to be a little careful, since the surgery…” and then “Oh, the ____ sounds good.” Then drop it. IMHO, a small explanation will be prefereable to lots of wondering why the heck the big guy doesn’t eat.

Dagnabit, RickQ doesn’t have a husband, he is the husband. That was me above.


I’m a veteran at job interviews, and I’m aware that they can’t legally ask about the medical stuff. However, I’m chatty IRL, and I could be tripped up with the small talk. I guess the underlying question concerns the fine line between being polite and playing along, vs. the dread TMI faux pas.

If anyone is wondering whether I have the strength to do a job, this is an engineering position, and I have plenty of physical strength and I’ve recovered nicely from the surgery, which was laparoscopic. Hell, I swam 1/2 mile this morning before work.

In the weight loss circles, there’s 3 schools of thought on how to handle questions about surgery.

  1. Lie. Tell them you had a gall bladder, hernia, or some other type, because it’s none of their business. I don’t like lying in general, and it’s bone-headed stupid to do it in an interview because lies get caught.

  2. Don’t answer directly. For this situation, I think it’s the best way to go. I’ll gladly tell them that recovery went quickly, and I’m back to strength and endurance levels pre-surgery. In reality, with 42 lbs gone, endurance is better than before.

  3. Tell anyone who’ll listem what you did, and preach to the unconverted. In casual situations, I’ll tell anyone about the surgery and process, but I don’t try to preach it. For an interview, this is TMI.

I don’t see any reason why you can’t answer pointed (i.e. RUDE) questions about the surgery with, “I’m sorry, that’s personal, and I don’t feel comfortable discussing it.” As you say, you can assure them that your surgery won’t interfere with your ability to do your job, then change the subject.

When I was going to be out of work for my gastric bypass, I just told my employer it was abdominal surgery and left it at that. Since I would be losing weight and eating very little after surgery, I had to say “abdominal surgery” so they would at least have an idea why I was losing weight and eating very little.

That should cover it.

If you do use this idea, then if you go out for lunch, you can tell your interviewer that you’re still healing and can’t eat a lot.

As an aside, mine was 2 years ago and I’ve kept the weight off. Congrats on losing the weight!