Should You be OUT as LGBTQ on Your Resume/CV (2020)

When it’s time to update your resume/CV preparing for a job search, it can be tough to know if you should be out as LGBTQ on it. We don’t believe you will find anyone who would suggest putting “I’m queer – get used to it” in bold pink letter sprinkled with glitter on the top of your resume/CV.

So, should you come out on your resume?

No one can answer that question for you.  It is your life, your career, your sexuality, your gender identity, and therefore your choice rests squarely on your shoulders.  However, read on for insights to help you make an informed decision.

Many in the LGBTQ community disagree about what you should reveal on your resume/CV.  Some say to be out being your full and authentic self, while others argue that you should remain in the closet, grit your teeth to land the job, and then slowly come out to co-workers as you get to know them individually.

Many people have acquired significant volunteer and work experience from obviously LGTBQ-oriented organizations. Other people struggle with how transparent they should be on their resume or job application when asked about other interests. Knowing what to say, and how much to disclose to a complete stranger with the power to provide or decline a job offer can be cause for worry. It can often feel like living in the closet and being judged for who you are as a person.

How much experience is related?

Not much but it’s close to my heart

You are such a wonderful person for volunteering. If your past experience related to LGBTQ non-profits/NGOs is not really central to the job you are applying for, we’d recommend completely leaving it off your resume/CV. It’s not hiding your sexuality or gender identity, it is just not pertinent. This even includes leaving it out of your resume/CV hobbies/extra activities. If you get a sense during the interview process that the employer and interviewers are LGBTQ friendly you can always bring it up in the course of dialog as appropriate.

Just a bit but it’s important

If some of your experience was acquired from paid or volunteering for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer non-profits/NGOs no matter if you are LGBTQ a straight ally you might start to wonder if you should put that experience on your resume.  This effectively would out you as LGBTQ whether you are LGBTQ or a community ally. Additionally, as you’ll learn below even just the perception of being LGBTQ real or perceived can potentially impact your ability to be hired, promoted and even the salary offered.

Major part of my career

If all your experience is from paid or volunteering at LGBTQ organizations, then it’s pretty clear you have no choice. You have to list the experiences.  But you still need to be aware of the issues you may face and be prepared to research employers to find the right match and put your best foot forward with the best employers no matter the size or location of the employer.

If you have worked primarily for LGBTQ or other non-profits/NGOs it can also be difficult to break into the for-profit sector. I have heard of people attempting to do make this transition and being told, “Your qualifications are outstanding, however, you aren’t a right fit for this company we are about making money not helping people/the environment/animals.” – true story. So if your work experience has been 50%+ with a non-profit organization no matter the focus LGBTQ or not, be prepared to address this disqualifying mindset proactively in your cover letter and in every interview conversation if you get that far.

LGBTQ workplace policies are good yet not a 100% guarantee

Reality is that even if an employer boasts being a welcoming LGBTQ workplace with LGBT friendly policies and benefits, there are many people involved in the resume/cv review and interview process.  Depending on the size of the employer, that may be a few people or in the best-case scenario, it will be a review committee to reduce the chances of one person’s learned prejudices and ignorance to discriminate and disqualify you based on you being LGBT.  In any case, it still can be risky. You want to list all your great experience and qualifications to land that new job yet you are also putting trust in the employer company/organization and the individuals in the hiring process.

At what point should I come “out” in the workplace?

It is important to know that you do NOT have to disclose your sexual orientation or gender identity at any point in the resume/cv submission, job application or interview process. This decision is entirely up to you and how comfortable you feel disclosing your sexual orientation, sex, or gender expression. If you do choose to disclose, there are generally three opportunities to “come out” to an employer?

  • On your resume
  • In an interview
  • After you start working for the organization

Many believe that no job is so great that it’s worth hiding who you are and selling yourself short by leaving out all the organizations you volunteered time with, just-just to hide your sexual identity. That volunteer work could have provided many skills and demonstrate your community involvement beyond the workplace showing a well-rounded individual with character.

Some feel that it is more important to get the job first, and then come out after people get to know you. “I’m here. I’m queer. I’m in the next cubicle” approach.

Others strive for a middle ground in where they list their LGBT activities on their resumes but don’t draw attention to it. They might list PFLG, HRC, or NGLCC without going into additional details or spelling out the acronym. They might list the abbreviation of a student campus LGBT group and that they were the vice president such as Berkely LGSA Vice President instead of Berkely Lesbian & Gay Student Alliance Vice President. If asked about the entry it’s an opportunity for discussion to expand upon it in person versus potentially being tossed away by someone along the candidate review path who might hold prejudices. such as “vice president of gay campus group.” The rest, says Woog, is left to the interviewer. If she says, “The Rainbow Alliance –- tell me more about that,” it’s an opportunity to expand on it and judge her reaction.

Still, others hold firm that it is inappropriate to come out on one’s resume as it is to mark down one’s religious or political affiliations. We suggest talking with your both LGBT and straight close friends and family who also have a history of volunteer and community work.

As LGBTQ professionals we cannot live in a vacuum and our straight college have no problem listing their volunteer and community activities that might hint at their heterosexuality. It’s accepted.

At OutBüro we believe a resume should be honest and comprehensive. If a person has done work with GLAAD or Lambda Legal for example – and the reader even knows what these things are – certain presumptions can be made or not. We know many straight people who work at LGBTQ organizations too. Putting your volunteer work in the LGBTQ community on your resume is no different than others who may indicate they are a deacon in the church or a Hebrew school teacher on the weekends.

Why should you hide what you value and has contributed to your life, character, your local community, and the community at large? It’s unfortunate that all companies do not have sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination policies. Luckily many companies and organizations do

Questions to ask

  • Is the company you are interested in an LGBTQ workplace friendly employer?
  • Do you feel comfortable disclosing that you are currently or have in your past held paid positions or volunteered for an LGBT community organization?
  • Do you include previous work experiences (internships, etc.) that occurred at an LGBT advocacy organization(s)?
  • Is that current or past experience relevant to the job you are applying for?
  • How do you list your achievements from an LGBT organization on your resume?
  • Do you list it as for example an LGBT youth organization or simply a youth organization and if asked which one in the interview process disclose it if you feel comfortable doing so at that time?

Questions you can ask an employer in an interview if their employer website does not specifically state it:

  • Would you say that your company has a diverse employee base?
  • Do you offer domestic partner benefits and or other LGBT related benefits and policies? (if not clearly stated on their website)
  • Does your company/organization have an LGBTQ employee resource support or social group?

Additional considerations for transgender job seekers

Is it OK to use my chosen name on a resume and cover letters are not legal documents? You are not required to list your legal name on either document.

Let’s say your legal name is Stephanie Smith and your chosen name is Darrel Smith. You might consider listing your name as S. Darrel Smith on the resume and cover letter.

Will I have to use my legal name during the Job Search

Unless you have made legal arrangements to change your name, unfortunately, you will need to provide your legal name for the actual job application, background checks, social security documents, and insurance forms. However, most organizations will allow you to use your preferred name for company contact information, email, and phone directory. Human resource professionals are bound by confidentiality and can be a good source of information.

When it comes to dressing for an interview, it is important that you present yourself in a manner that is consistent with the position for which you are applying. Dress professionally for the gender for which you wish to be seen as. This can also help your employer understand which pronouns you wish to use.

The world has changed but not enough

A recent study conducted by the University of Surry demonstrates that discrimination in the hiring process still exists.  In that study the presented the participants with headshot images with the backgrounds removed along with voice samples.  The found that just based on those two bits of information that the participants indicated they were less likely to hire the person and if they did hire them the candidate would be offered less money for the same job with the same skills as someone they perceived as heterosexual.  Additionally, the participants indicated if the candidate already worked for the employer, they would likely be passed over for promotion preferring to promote a heterosexual.

According to a 2013 Queer in STEM study (science, technology, engineering, and math) found that more than 40% of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are not out as LGBTQ in the workplace.

One-third of out American physicists have been told to stay in the closet to continue their career as found in the 2014 Factors Impacting The Academic Climate study.  Half of the transgender or gender non-conforming physicists were harassed in academia (2015 American Physical Society survey).

In the United States laws to protect LGBTQ workers is still spotty today leaving LGBTQ citizens open to blatant discrimination and harassment. This leads to the findings that in the United States alone, nearly 72% of LGBTQ employees suffer mental stress from a workplace that is not LGBTQ friendly or welcoming.

Regardless of actual sexual orientation, another study found that men who do not conform to the stereotypical masculine norm they are penalized by being left out, not promoted and seen as weak.  When women behave in ways that don’t fit their gender stereotype they are viewed as less likable and ultimately less hirable.

Studies find benefits to creating an LGBTQ inclusive workplace

All the while other studies have demonstrated that having LGBTQ in management positions benefits the company/organization.   Further many studies have been done the clearly indicate that companies/organization that create an LGBTQ inclusive workplace benefit from increased productivity, increase employee happiness, increased customer satisfaction, and increased revenue.  It’s a win-win-win opportunity for employers who adopt LGBTQ inclusive policies, benefits, and business practices.

Know the LGBTQ legal protections where you live

No matter how you decide to proceed regarding your sexual orientation on your resume, you should do your homework on the employer’s LGBTQ workplace equality you before submitting your application.

Do research on the company’s website as well as other websites listing the company is important to know as much about them and their LGBTQ stance as possible. Know what legal protections are in place in your city, county, state, and country.

Network with other LGBT professionals of all levels

One of the best ways to get the inside scoop on an employer’s workplace LGBT friendliness is to connect with and communicate with an LGBT employee who currently or recently worked there. Don’t know anyone? No problem. Join the OutBüro on the LinkedIn LGBT professional networking group. It was the first and remains the largest LGBT+ professional networking group on LinkedIn with currently over 46,000 global members.

Check out the organization and groups to connect with by reading the rest of this blog.

By Alicia Hibbard
Alicia Hibbard Profile Picture