Job Interviews & Food Allergies
Dear Career Coach: I am a new grad NP with celiac disease and I am unable to eat at restaurants due to potential cross-contamination that inevitably leaves me ill for a week. What suggestions do you have to handle not being able to eat at a restaurant, without coming across like a "major diva" as you mentioned?
Dear Reader: The structured office interview is how the employer learns more about your skill set and experience, but in order to gain a greater understanding about who you are and how your personality might fit into their workplace culture many employers like to connect in a less formal and lower key environment such as lunch or dinner. So because this is such an important part of the interview process we need to find you a solution.
I feel it is important that you not decline the invitation so I will give you a few ideas that you may find helpful.
- 1. Just say it. The bad news is that food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities have become more common. The good news is that food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities have become more common. It's likely that everyone who will be attending knows someone or has treated someone who has a dietary restriction for a medical reason. It's also likely that they will understand the importance of your request. Also in your favor is that you will probably be working with either H.R. or an office assistant to set up the meeting so you may feel you can speak a little more freely. Remember too that your medical history is technically protected information and H.R. should not be sharing what you tell them with your future boss and co-workers.
- 2. Don't overshare. Spare the details and the history of your issue. Going into what has happened or may happen when you eat a particular food WILL make you sound like a diva. I would simply keep it simple and just say "I have a food allergy" and then share the specific accommodations you will need.
- 3. Offer a solution. If you know of a particular restaurant that you trust to prepare your meal correctly then by all means offer to meet there as an alternative. If you absolutely can't eat food prepared in a restaurant then perhaps you could suggest meeting for coffee. If you meet mid-morning or afternoon in a coffee shop then the expectation to order food will be less and you won't feel so uncomfortable.
- 4. Call ahead. Most of the better restaurants should be able to meet your needs if given some notice. Talk to the manager and explain the situation and come up with a plan. Tell them that it is imperative that you a safe meal without calling unwanted attention to your condition.