Sexual Orientation and the Job Search

Every student has concerns or questions when exploring careers and taking first steps into the job market. The guidance and resources below are designed to be a starting point for LGBTQ students as they engage in the job search process.

Researching employers
Building your resume
Interview strategies
Coming out on the job
Gender Identity/Expression

Researching employers

When researching employers, look for the following resources to assess an employer’s support of LGBTQ employees (usually housed under Human Resources web pages):

  • Non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression – many organizations are ahead of state and federal laws
  • Domestic partner benefits - including health and life insurance, educational grants, access to facilities, etc.
  • Employee groups -  some large employers have organized groups for their LGBTQ employees, either formal or informal

HRC Corporate Equality Index – The Human Rights Campaign completes an annual survey of corporate America and provides participating employers a rating based on policies and practices related to employment for LGBTQ workers. The number of employers earning a 100% rating has increased every year.

The Greater Seattle Business Association The mission of this organization is to combine business development, social action and leadership to expand economic opportunities for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and those who support equity for all.

The Advocate The national gay and lesbian newspaper offers a wide range of resources including a careers section.      

Lambda Legal – An organization dedicated to achieving full recognition of the civil rights for members of the LGBTQ community. Use this resource to search for employment laws in all 50 states.

Building your resume

First, visit the CES Resume and Cover Letter Guide for general information about creating a resume.

Then, ask yourself: “Is my affiliation with LGBTQ groups related to the positions for which I’m applying?” The key is to use the job description as a guide. Your resume is intended to showcase your experience in light of a specific, available position. Your affiliation with an LGBTQ organization may or may not be relevant. Consider if your involvement is:

  • Directly related: If you’re applying for a “gay” job (e.g. any organization whose purpose serves the LGBTQ community). Your group affiliation and experience gained from it is advantageous. 
  • Not directly related, but relevant: If your involvement with LGBTQ groups has provided you with the skills that are essential in a position for which you are applying (e.g. a job qualification is “written communication skills” and you wrote a monthly newsletter for an LGBTQ organization). The group-affiliation is not as important as the experience you gained from it.

NOTE: You may choose to list the name of the organization or to provide the organization information in a more general manner (e.g. “anti-discrimination organization”).

  • Not related: Not everything you do on campus is relevant to every position for which you are applying and therefore is unnecessary to include on a resume.

Interview strategies

As with writing a resume, think ahead about how much you want to share during the interview process. Preparing for interviews is critical.  Check out the CES guide for successful interviewing for general information, tips, and strategies.

Research the organization: Gather information about the organization and organizational goals, policies, culture, diversity, community involvement, and other information that may be relevant to you. Engaging in research prior to an interview will help you in overall preparation and what you learn may help you decide whether or not to come out during the interview.

Be prepared: The goal of an interview is for both the candidate and interviewer to assess fit for the position/organization.

  • If you have specific LGBTQ-related activities on your resume, be prepared to answer questions about the organization and your specific involvement with it, as it relates to the available position.
  • If you decided to be more general in your resume description of an organization (e.g. “anti-discrimination organization”), employers may ask you more specific questions about the nature of the organization, what discrimination it works to prevent, etc. Whether or not you decide to offer them a simple description of the organization, the key is to focus on the achievements as a result of your work.
  • Practice interviewing in advance. Utilized the CES mock interview service or practice at home with sample interview questions (available in the CES guide for successful interviewing).

Ask questions: Your research will help you determine a list of questions you’d like to ask the interviewer. It is important not to ask questions for which you could easily find the answer by basic employer research. In order to assess the organizational culture, you could also consider asking questions about diversity in the workplace and related policies. 

Follow-up: Send a thank you note to your interviewer within 24 hours of your interview. Thank you letters are addressed in the CES Resume and Cover Letter Guide.

Coming out on the job

Coming out is an on-going process. If you decide not to come out until you are on the job, it is generally recommended to take it slow and let it happen naturally:

  • Focus on the job first
  • Get a feel for the organization
  • No need to make an announcement – let it come up naturally in conversation
  • Realize that some people will be overly supportive, a few will be antagonistic, and most will just accept you for the value of your work, not your personal life

Gender Identity/Expression

Currently 13 states (and the District of Columbia) include gender identity in their anti-discrimination laws. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force showcases the states on this map and also provides many other resources.

In order to assess if an organization is trans-friendly, consider looking for gender identity/expression language in discrimination policies, gender-neutral bathrooms, and support groups for trans employees.

Additionally, preparing for all kinds of questions will allow you to clearly articulate yourself and, hopefully, be more confident in your interview.

For more information on trans issues in the workplace, visit the Human Rights Campaign Transgender website.

The team at Career and Employment Services works with each student, taking their unique interests, goals, and personal circumstances into consideration and helps them develop a job search action plan that meets their needs. Please contact us to arrange your individual appointment.