Coming Out During the Interview Process

By: Christina Stokes
Jun. 1, 2020
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Coming out during the interview process is a very personal decision that should be weighed carefully. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is a federal law that protects employees against “discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.”

But only 21 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, have statutes that protect against both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment within the public and private sectors. 

Your sexual orientation and gender identity should always be a non-issue, left out of hiring decisions; however, volunteering personal details may open you up to potential bias and discrimination. 

Here are some factors to consider and tips to keep in mind: 

Researching thoroughly

Be aware of the legal protections that you have where you live and where you plan to work (county, city, state). Companies that publicly share nondiscriminatory policies and equal opportunity policies are a great place to focus your job search. 

Methodically research a company online, before you apply and again before an interview. Check their website and social media accounts for insights on their culture and stance on diversity. You can also look at LGBTQIA+ websites and job boards, such as the Human Rights Campaign, for lists of queer-friendly employers. Find out what charities an organization may contribute to or support as well.

Questioning everything

Many companies are actively recruiting for diversity, including LGBTQ people, so, in some cases, it could be a benefit to come out during the process, as it gives you the opportunity to highlight the unique perspective that you’ll bring to the table. 

Ask about the kinds of benefits offered to same sex/domestic partners if that information isn’t available online. Ask about what a company is doing to diversify their workforce and create a culture of inclusion. Find out if they have a diversity council or any employee resource groups (ERGs). If you know anyone who works at the company or has in the past, then you may also want to ask them for their impressions and experiences.  

Choosing to come out

Let me be clear: You do not ever have to disclose your sexual orientation or gender identity at any point in the résumé submission, job application or interview process. If you choose to come out during your interviews, remember that there isn’t any one right way to go about it. 

One thing I’d suggest is being clear about your preferred pronouns. Next, I have seen résumés where a person makes mention of the LGBTQ organization(s) that they are a member of or have volunteered with throughout college or their career. People sometimes casually mention their partner during the interview process. A candidate might simply state that part of their interest in the organization is due to the organization’s clear commitment to fostering diversity, specifically LGBTQ inclusion. 

Doing what’s best for you

The decision to come out during the interview process, or at the workplace in general, is a very personal one. Sometimes options are limited, and you just need to get to work. This might mean you choose to make some personal compromises and stay closeted.

Even if a company believes in and promotes their commitment to diversity, there are often many people involved in the interview and selection process, and all it takes is one person’s ignorance and groundless fear to hurt your chances. Do what is best for yourself, your life, and your career, and don’t feel guilty about it.

Whether you wear your pride on your sleeve or hold it in your heart, remember that together, we can work toward building and enhancing workplace environments in every industry that are welcoming, supportive, safe and inclusive of and for everyone. 

Happy Pride Month!

photo credit: stillfx