LGBT candidates and interview success: an expert’s view

Bryan Durkan, Principal Consultant with HRM Recruitment, shares his insights on how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) candidates can excel at interview. As a recruiter with years of experience headhunting top talent, Bryan knows a thing or two about interviews and what to expect.

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Bryan, can you set the scene for us?

Interviews are sales pitches for both the candidate and the employer. The employer wants the best candidate, and they want every candidate to walk out of the room wanting to work for them. Equally the candidate wants the interview panel to want to hire them when they walk out of the room. Then it becomes the candidate’s decision “do I want to work here or not?”

Interviews give you an opportunity to gather critical information. What is the nature of the role? Is the work appealing? What are the upward career development opportunities? In particular for a graduate, what learning and mentoring programmes exist, where can you expect to be in 5 years time if you join this organisation? Essentially, you want to find out if and why the opportunity is good for you.

A key piece to consider is the cultural element. We spend a phenomenal amount of time with our work colleagues, probably more time than with anyone else. You have to want to work with them. At interview you want to find out if you have a shared set of values with the interviewers and your potential colleagues; are they individuals with whom you 'click'?

Do LGBT grads have any particular issues they need to consider?

All candidates, whatever their level of experience, will likely be nervous before an interview. This is a good thing. It’s a sign that you really want the job. LGBT candidates themselves may be worried that being LGBT may have a negative impact on their interview process. However LGBT graduates should approach the interview with confidence, don’t let any concerns you might have about being LGBT affect your performance.

Do good employers care if you are LGBT?

Your contribution should be defined by your capabilities, your credentials and your suitability for the role you would be paid to do if you are successful during the interview. Nowadays, I see companies caring more and more about the diversity amongst the set of people they employ. Good employers are investing time in making their companies more inclusive because they recognise that talent comes in all shapes and sizes.

Should I research if a company is LGBT inclusive?

Yes, I would research if a company is LGBT inclusive. Ireland is a very small place. I would advise any candidate to try to have a conversation with a trusted source in the target employer's workplace, where they can have a ‘warts and all’ conversation about the company. You can then make an informed decision if this would be the right workplace for you.

Is it useful to include LGBT voluntary or professional experience on your CV?

Your CV is a fact based document. Anything that supports your application should be included, anything that is irrelevant should be excluded, so if your LGBT experience is directly relevant to the position in question, and you feel it will benefit your application, then absolutely include it. If it has no bearing on the application and the experience, then is utterly irrelevant and it should be excluded.

Do you think it is ever useful to disclose your sexual orientation at interview?

If it’s relevant to the role then yes absolutely it should be disclosed but in general I would say there should be no need to disclose your sexual orientation or gender identity.

How to deal with an interview question: “are you married?”

First of all asking about somebody’s marital status is prohibited by legislation. HR professionals are very well versed in the requirements of the Equality Acts and would be well aware that that it is an inappropriate question to ask. If one was asked, I’d suggest a simple “not yet” and move along. If the interviews continued to probe I would gently and confidently ask why the interviewers felt that was relevant to the role. In either case I would most likely take the view that interviewers, and hence the employer, did not share my personal and business values, and as such I would not be interested in that role.

How to deal with homophobic comments if they come up at interview?

I am happy to say that in my experience of working with hundreds of job seekers and employers this has never once arisen. However that is not to say that it doesn’t exist. If it were to happen, then the first thing to say is that it is obviously illegal. I would immediately and politely end the interview and I would raise my displeasure via the appropriate channels subsequently.

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