Speaking to a graduate recruiter or member of the recruitment team can feel daunting – that’s natural – just remember it’s a two-sided process. You’re trying to learn as much from them as they are from you. As a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer student you will want to find out how inclusive their workplace really is, and speaking to a graduate recruiter is a great way to do this. Whether it’s face-to-face at a Careers Fair, Open Day, assessment centre, interview or via email or over the phone, this is your opportunity to learn about the culture of their workplace and what they’re doing to make their workplace more inclusive.
Like any question you would ask a graduate recruiter, make sure you do your research first. This will demonstrate that you’ve taken the initiative to find the answers yourself and means you’re more likely to leave an impression. Some of the following questions can be answered by looking at an employer's website or social media accounts but even then, it might not have the level of detail you’re looking for.
Doing your research can provide a strong foundation to enquire further, for example, “I saw on Facebook that your company recently celebrated Wear it Purple Day, does that mean your company has a strong LGBTIQ and Ally network?” or “I saw that your company participates in the Australian Workplace Equality Index, what kind of support do you provide your LGBTIQ employees?”.
If a graduate recruiter can't answer your question on the spot at a Careers Fair or off-campus event, then take the opportunity to connect on LinkedIn so they can follow it up. You might also ask if you could speak to a current LGBTIQ graduate or employee.
It's also worth noting that whilst receiving affirmative answers to these questions is ideal, not all workplaces will have the resources or scale to run these types of programs. That's why it’s important to learn about the experiences of current or former LGBTIQ employees. You could ask to connect with a current LGBTIQ graduate or employee, or ask your LGBTIQ mentor. The LGBTIQ community in Australia is surprisingly 'small' and you will be able to find an internal perspective by connecting with the community.
The unfortunate reality of asking these kinds of questions means that you are indirectly ‘coming out’ to the graduate recruiter. If you are still developing the confidence to be your authentic-self, then this line of questioning might make you feel uncomfortable. Having a close friend with you can make this easier or alternatively you might have a straight or cisgender friend who could ask for you. For more information on disclosure, read our article LGBTIQ candidates: pros and cons of disclosure.
After you’ve made a lasting first impression, here are some questions you can ask your recruiter, to learn more about their workplace’s inclusive culture:
An Employee Resource Group (ERG), network or affinity group is a voluntary, employee-led group comprising of employees with a shared characteristic or purpose. They’re pretty much a student club but for employees. The existence of such a group will let you know if there are other LGBTIQ employees and if the employer supports its LGBTIQ employees by providing funding and opportunities for the community to come together.
The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and Wear It Purple Day are regulars on the corporate calendar like International Women’s Day. Many workplaces host talks and events to discuss the themes these days represent. They are usually hosted by the LGBTIQ network. Celebrating these days means there is LGBTIQ visibility in the workplace.
This will let you know that other LGBTIQ employees have been successful whilst being their authentic-selves in the workplace. They become examples of what you can achieve in their workplace. This year Deloitte and Google published Australia’s Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders of 2018 which showcases remarkable and inspiring leaders across diverse industries.
The Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) is Australia’s national benchmarking tool on LGBTIQ workplace inclusion. What does that mean? Well, Pride in Diversity (an ACON initiative) in collaboration with academics and similar programs abroad created a series of criteria which employers are assessed against to gauge the level of inclusivity within their workplaces. Employers submit evidence on HR Policy & Practice, Strategy & Accountability, LGBTIQ Training & Education, LGBTIQ Employee Network & Allies, Visibility & Inclusion, Community Engagement & External Advocacy. This information is not released publicly but it is reflected in an employer’s recognition as a Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze or Participating employer. In 2018, its eighth year, 136 employers participated, of which 4 were Platinum and 12 were Gold employers.
Ally training is formal training which increases the sensitivity of non-LGBTIQ employees in the workplace to LGBTIQ issues, including how to identify and respond to negative commentary and how they can help make their workplace more inclusive. Allies generally learn to understand the importance of inclusive language, such as the importance of personal pronouns and not assuming the gender of someone’s partner. The visibility of allies shares a strong message to employees that they can be their authentic self.
As part of a workplace’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) it is common for them to offer matched-donations for voluntary donations made by their employees to approved charities. This usually aligns with their company values and improves the satisfaction of the employees who support these causes. Offering to match voluntary donations to LGBTIQ non-profit organisations demonstrates a commitment to support the satisfaction of its LGBTIQ employees. You should personalise this question with any LGBTIQ non-profit organisations you support.
Here are more tips on how to choose an LGBTIQ friendly workplace.
Nathaniel is a Juris Doctor student at Macquarie University who volunteers with Out for Australia, a national not-for-profit helping LGBTIQ students and young professionals navigate the early stages of their careers. Personal pronouns: he, his, him.