As a LGBTQ+ job-seeker, the thing that’s often top of mind (besides, I hope I get the job) is assessing how safe you are bringing your identity and lived experience into the application and interview process.
While lots of tech companies are making strides to show up for LGBTQ+ employees, the job search can present extra challenges, hurdles, and nuanced situations for members of the LGBTQ+ community, according to Josh Torres, an executive leadership and career coach in Oakland who works with historically marginalized communities in tech.
From a legal perspective, LGBTQ+ individuals are protected from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. But it can still take a lot of mental energy to try and answer the interview questions while representing yourself the best that you can, explains Chris Rollins, a career coach in Tampa who specializes in LGBTQ+ leadership.
Here are some tips from career coaches who work with the LGBTQ+ community for navigating the job-search process and landing a job at a company that celebrates you.
Look at the company’s public presence
Take a look at how the company or organization outwardly supports the LGBTQ+ community. For example, “it's a major red flag if a company does nothing for Pride or is not talking about LGBTQ+ issues in their workforce in some way,” Josh says.
Find out more about who’s in charge, like the company’s CEO and senior leadership team. “Do your research to find out as much as you can about who that person is at the top,” Chris says. “The way that they make decisions, share information, and work with their team all trickles down directly to their leaders.”
Some other broader questions to consider: Is corporate social responsibility baked into the company’s mission and work? Does the company sponsor events that support the LGBTQ+ community? And is advocacy consistent throughout the organization, or is it still lacking?
Ask questions about benefits
The type of benefits that a company offers often reflect how a company prioritizes inclusion, Chris says. For example, do company-sponsored health insurance plans cover gender-affirming care options and medical necessities for people who are trans? Is the parental leave policy equitable and extensive for parents and caregivers of all genders? And does the company cover adoption fees? What about IVF and other reproductive assistance?
All of these topics are fair game to ask a recruiter or hiring manager in a job interview (BTW, you should definitely ask questions in a job interview).
Beyond benefits, if you’re returning to an office environment, find out more about how amenable the workplace is to LGBTQ+ people. Ask if there are gender-neutral restroom options available, Josh says. “Or is there a place where you can feel safe as an employee going if you don't necessarily identify as male or female,” he says. Though these things may seem insignificant to some, they can have a major impact on your daily work life.
Talk to current employees
Throughout the interview process, you typically get to speak to a panel of people who work in various roles at the company, which is a great way to get background information about employees’ experiences, Josh says.
If there isn’t someone on your interview panel who represents the lifestyle or aspect that you’re trying to find more information on, you can always ask to speak to someone on the company’s employee resource group (ERG) for LGBTQ+ people, Josh says. Think of this as a “gut-check” to get a sense of how LGBTQ+ folks really feel working at the company, he says.
Not sure who the right person is to talk to? “Do a search on LinkedIn for an LGBTQ+ or Pride ERG and see if any employees at the company have that mentioned in their profile,” Chris says.
Chris suggests asking each of the people you’re interviewing with about the company values to see how they embody them. “You can do your own assessment there to see to what extent they take [equity] seriously, and is it actually part of the culture,” he says.
Share as much as you’re comfortable
Ultimately, it’s up to you what you share with an interviewer or even a future employer down the line, Josh says. For some folks, there may be aspects of their gender identity and expression that are visible in a job interview or in the workplace, while others prefer to wait until they’ve developed a foundation of trust to open up or come out to coworkers.
“In an interview where you are creating a narrative around yourself, is [your LGBTQ+ identity] pertinent to your story?” Josh says. “Is it something that is going to bring a different lens to the work that you're doing and add value?” More often than not, your diverse lived experience and identity are assets that will only enhance the work that you do at an organization. “If you are comfortable stepping into that identity, there's a lot of power in it as well,” he says.
Still feeling nervous about that job interview? Head to our career center for more advice on answering common technical questions and crafting a resume that will make you stand out from other applicants. There’s even a collection of projects that you can complete and use in your portfolio. Remember: You got this!