Amy Andre

Dear Applicant: Ten Tips for the LGBT Job Seeker

Filed By Amy Andre | October 10, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: bisexual, Harvard University, transgender, unemployment

Andras_Tilcsik.pngDear readers who are on the job market,

As an MBA with years of experience in management, I've done my share of hiring. With the job market the way it is right now, I don't think applicants should leave anything to chance, especially LGBT folks, who have higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, and, among those who have jobs, tend to make less money, compared to non-LGBT people.

With that in mind, I've created a list of ten tips for anyone applying for a job. Each of these is based on real-life examples of things I've seen applicants do first-hand.

Here are my top ten tips when submitting a job application:

Top Ten Tips When Submitting a Job Application

1. Follow instructions. I cannot stress how important this is. If the job posting says to send in a cover letter and resume, do so. P.S. Typing "Here's my resume." into the body of an email does not constitute a cover letter.

2. Know who you're talking to. You can probably find a name on the company website, and searching for it is is better than guessing. My name is not "Sirs," and I haven't met anyone with that for a last name. So writing, "Dear Sirs" is probably not a good idea. Neither is just writing "Hey," (seriously, that happened). If you can't find a name, use the gender-neutral "Dear Hiring Manager".

3. Know what you're talking about. Your cover letter should be one page max. While I'm sure it's fascinating, the average hiring manager doesn't need to read your life story. You score more points for being concise, because it shows, among other things, that you respect their time - which, considering the number of people applying for each job these days, is precious.

4. On that note, your resume should be one page max. If you're at a stage in your career where you've accomplished so much that you can't possibly fit it all onto one page, you're not applying for jobs anyway - you're being headhunted.

5. On the opposite end of the spectrum: if you don't think you've done enough to fill a page, don't try to make up for it with an enormous font. You're not fooling anyone. Just try to come up with more description of the relevant stuff you have done. Or do more stuff (even if it's "just" volunteer work that's relatable - lots of places need volunteers, and you need more experience.) Then apply next time, when you have the volunteer experience and other work under your belt.

6. Along the same lines as giant fonts: unless you're using an acronym, no all-caps. Ever. EVER. You're applying for a job, not writing an angry letter.

7. No smiley faces or other emoticons. Don't do it. Unless I'm hiring you as a graphic designer for a website for tweens. And even then. Just... no.

8. Also, spell check. It's embedded in the software that you're using to type your document. If you see a wiggly red line under a word you typed, follow up on the situation.

9. Know what you're applying for. If the job posting says experience is necessary, don't start off your cover letter by saying, "I have absolutely no experience in [this industry] and no skills related to [the tasks you would be asking me to do]." Instead, don't apply at all, and look for something else entirely.

10. And most importantly: follow instructions. (I told you I couldn't stress it enough.)

A Minefield of Discrimination

In addition to the employment/income disparities between LGBT and non-LGBT, we have those same disparities within our community. Studies show that, in general, bisexuals are worse off than gays and lesbians, and transgender folks are doing worse than non-transgender folks, when it comes to employment and income.

The job search itself can be a minefield of discrimination. Check out this study that just came out. Yes, it's specific to gay men, which is not the majority of us; but I think it's safe to extrapolate.

Deciding whether or not to out yourself on a resume can be a tough decision. Personally, I always have, but that's because I don't want to work for biphobes anyway, ha ha! After all, if people are going to weed me out because it says "bisexual" on my resume, they might be doing me something of a favor - even though what they're doing may be illegal, depending on the laws in the area.

Of course, I'm just joking about the idea that bipobes are doing me a favor. They're not, because workplace discrimination is never okay. In all seriousness, I always come out in my resume because I'm just not in. So, why hide it?

But that's me. Your situation may be different, your comfort level with coming out may be different, your ability to pass may be different - and all of those things are okay. Unless all the jobs you've ever had in the past have been at nonprofit organizations with the letters "LGBT" in their title - which means you can't avoid putting that on your resume - being out during a job search is up to you.

Good luck out there to all of you who are looking for work!

Caption: Andras Tilcsik, the Harvard PhD candidate who wrote the study on gay male applicants. Img src

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Thank you very much for the information that was presented. Your top ten tips seem to be pretty much common sense, even the ones about whether or not to present oneself as LGBT to a potential employer. That is a very personal decision and even though the advise seems logical, that is a personal decision for each individual applicant that will be influenced by many different factors. Currently, I'm one of those people who is looking for employment and has been for a while. With the job market the way it is right now, I personally don't even consider that as relevant as it is to just finding a good job.

Also, some tips on navigating job searches these days since there are so many scams out there would be greatly appreciated.

Personally, I always come out indirectly when I apply for something via resume/cover letter (usually by including something trans/LGBT related in the "Interests/Affiliations" section), but I find doing so on a phone contact can be far more tricky.

I've discovered that I save myself a lot of trouble when I let people know in advance I'm trans rather than waiting until I show up for the interview (assuming I get one) and perhaps surprising the interviewer with the information. At the same time, when making contact by phone coming out can work against you because then the interviewer wonders why you're making a point of telling them this information.

Another good idea is to do a little research on the company you're applying to. Check their website if they have one and see if they have a company non-discrimination policy posted and what it covers. That can tell you a lot about how you'll be received and your chances of being hired by that company. In addition, knowing as much as possible about your potential employer and their business never hurts and shows your interest goes beyond simply securing a regular paycheck.