By Riley B. Folds III

Riley B. Folds III

Riley B. Folds III

Two  trends  seem  to  be  growing  in  the  recruitment landscape — scrutiny of the money spent on attracting  new  talent  and  an  increased  mandate  to  find diverse candidates. These factors would appear to work against each other. In addition, recruiters may not be aware of the opportunities that exist to recruit millennials who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. To become a leader in attracting LGBTQ millennial recruits:

1. Know the LGBTQ student profile. Over the past 10 years of working with college students from across the country, I have seen an evolution. Attitudes range from ignoring sexual orientation and gender identity when pursuing a career to actively using involvement within the LGBTQ community as a competitive advantage to landing a job. Leadership roles on resumes may include involvement in campus gay/straight associations or being active in the right to marry, employment equality or other LGBTQ advocacy issues.

Many  LGBTQ  millennials  are  comfortable  with  their sexual  orientation/gender  identity.  Further,  sexual  orientation/gender identity is not solely how they identify themselves.  The  students tend to incorporate sexual orientation/gender  identity into other dimensions of  diversity  such  as  race, ethnicity and political persuasion.  Being  LGBTQ  is just  one  component  of their  overall  makeup.  A student may identify as an African-American  lesbian, an  intersex  Latino  or  a Caucasian Republican who is also bisexual.

Another distinction is the use  of  the  term  “queer.” For individuals of the babyboom  generation  this  term was deemed offensive in the past;  therefore,  they  may have difficulty using it today. In direct contrast, millennials have reclaimed the term as a positive one — a term of unity — much like “gay” has been used in the past as an umbrella term for the entire LGBT community.

The literal interpretation of the most common acronyms used, including LGBT or GLBT, are exclusionary. The greater community is so rich in diversity that often segments within the community are never referenced, such as those individuals who identify as two-spirits, pansexual, questioning and genderqueer. Having a better awareness of how these individuals view themselves will provide your organization the benefit of how to approach and relate to this demographic. In  addition,  this  awareness  can  strengthen  your  outreach and recruitment success.

2. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Often once an organization creates an LGBTQ employee resource group, one of the first focuses includes initiatives that focus on recruiting and mentoring. While these are two very important areas, there are other local community groups, resource centers or nonprofit organizations working on similar initiatives. Therefore, it would be beneficial from not only a financial component, but also a human resources one, to consider partnering with these groups. For example, in partnership with a local LGBTQ community resource center, your organization may be able to supply volunteers from members of the ERG to the center and increase its programs in these areas. By making such a contribution, your organization gets the direct face-to face benefit with potential employees, as well as the recognition of being a key partner in the community.

Another example includes the organization OUT for Work. It is the only national LGBTQ nonprofit organization dedicated to educating, preparing and empowering LGBTQ college students for the transition from academia to the workplace. The organization works closely with more than 400 colleges  and  universities  across  the  country  and has  a  database  of  more  than  2,500 to whom it actively markets programs  and  information. By partnering with OUT for Work, your company would save  time,  money  and  energy researching how to effectively  reach  the  LGBTQ student  populations  and career center staff members. The organization can organize multiple initiatives in coordination with your ERG or recruiting  team,  includingcampus visits, webinars and skill-building  workshops. For  more  information,  visit

The  knowledge  that  recruitment  teams  or  ERG members  bring  to  companies  is  invaluable.  They know the profile of student your organization is looking for. In addition, they can provide their professional experiences with being out and open in the workplace. Sharing  these  stories  can  help  the  students  as  they  journey from campus to the workplace.

3. Get  on  campus. Career  fairs  are  a  good  place  to start, but should not be the only time that ERG members or recruitment  teams  are  on  campus.  LGBTQ millennials  are looking for more. Further, general career centers at colleges and universities are experiencing severe budget cuts. Lending your company’s professional knowledge can be beneficial for all involved.

A great resource to identify LGBTQ-inclusive career centers is OUT for Work’s Career Center Certification Program. The program helps career centers become more LGBTQ-inclusive with regards to programming, resources, outreach, services, advocacy and competencies of counselors. Representatives  from  career  centers  complete  an assessment  that  examines  these  areas  of  interest.  Based  on  responses, the assessment is scored, and the career center receives a certification level of Bronze (lowest ranking), Silver, Gold or A+Gold (100 percent score). Close to 400 career centers have completed the assessment since 2010.

For those career centers that receive lower levels of certification, OUT for Work can provide support in hopes of moving up to Gold and A+Gold levels. OUT for Work can help identify career centers that are LGBTQ-inclusive and provide an opportunity to assist those career centers that received a Bronze or Silver level. Members of your organization’s LGBTQ ERG can provide a panel discussion about being out and open in the workplace, critique resumes or present a skill-building workshop to the LGBTQ campus group in coordination with the career center. OUT for Work’s annual LGBTQ Career Center Certification Report is available online at career_center/assessment.asp.  This  resource  can  also  be used  in  the  decision-making  process  of  where  to  recruit students. Incorporating this report into the overall criteria would  encourage  colleges  and  universities  to  strengthen their  commitment  to  serving  the  LGBTQ  student  population, understanding that employers are evaluating them on such efforts. Reaching out to the career centers and the LGBTQ student groups can show a commitment to the future LGBTQ-inclusive work environment.

4.  Promote  your  LGBTQ-inclusive  workplace. In many  of  my  workshops  on  campuses,  I  ask  students  how important is it for them to work for an LGBTQ-inclusive employer? Over the years, I have noticed a shift that correlates directly to economic conditions and the job market. During the dot-com boom and a flourishing economy, the majority of students responded that a deal-breaker would be if the company recruiting them were not inclusive. However, when the financial crisis hit and the job market dried up, many chose going back into the closet with an organization until they could gain some experience and, hopefully, wait out the downturn. Presently, with jobs coming back, most LGBTQ millennials would like to work for an inclusive organization, but it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Therefore, promoting your LGBTQ inclusiveness should be considered an asset. LGBTQ  millennials  want  to  know  the  policies  and  benefits that your organization offers to LGBTQ employees. If your  organization  received 100 percent on the Human Rights  Campaign’s  Corporate Equality Index, put that fact on the company’s website  and  information  produced  to  be  distributed  to college  campuses.  Even  if your organization is considered  small  or  medium-size, review  the  criteria  for  the CEI,  and  determine  where your  organization  matches up. If you are attending a career fair on campus, let the organizers  of  the  fair  know that your organization is LGBTQ-inclusive, and ask them to promote that fact to the LGBTQ campus group.

Another way to promote your LGBTQ-inclusive workplace is to have members of the LGBTQ ERG and the recruitment team participate in LGBTQ conferences and career fairs. Ten years ago, not many opportunities existed. Today, there are a number of LGBTQ-specific conferences that may be great opportunities to find LGBTQ talent.

OUT for Work organizes the only all-industry-inclusive career  conference  for  LGBTQ  college  students  transitioning from academia to the workplace. LGBTQ professionals and their  allies  discuss  their  positive  and  negative  experiences of being out and open in the workplace or how they have supported  LGBTQ  individuals  in  the  workplace.  Through inspiring keynote speakers, powerful panel discussions and invaluable skill-building sessions, students walk away with a toolkit of resources to use when they are looking for an internship or job upon graduation. The two-day event concludes with a career fair where organizations can actively recruit LGBTQ talent.

5. Use social media. It’s always good to be in the space that potential employees frequent. For LGBTQ millennials, the use of social media to explore internship and job opportunities is on the rise. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are just a few outlets to consider. Not only should your organization  be  promoting  itself  by  creating  profiles  and pages, but also LGBTQ professionals within the organization should be commenting on their own pages, as well as joining groups and providing insight on LGBTQ campus groups, career centers, community centers and other pages. Having a  social-media  campaign  that  incorporates  and  promotes other outreach initiatives of your organization can lead to an overall positive result. Furthermore, you are able to reach those LGBTQ individuals who might not be comfortable attending an LGBTQ conference or career fair.

Incorporating  these  five  methods  into  your  overall  recruitment strategy will benefit your organization’s outreach to LGBTQ millennials, increasing the opportunities to find and recruit LGBTQ talent. Do not feel overwhelmed. Depending  on  the  organization,  choosing  one  or  two  initiatives and progressing slowly may be an approach to consider. Don’t be afraid to ask representatives  from  other organizations what is working  for  them.  In  addition, there are numerous LGBTQ resources and organizations
to  call  upon  as  you  move forward.  Reaching  out  to LGBTQ  millennials  today will  benefit  your  organization for years to come.

Riley B. Folds III is a veteran  speaker  and  writer, successful entrepreneur and strong  advocate  for  the  LQBTQ  community.  With  a  decade  of  experience  working  with  LGBTQ  college  students, he founded OUT for Work. For more information on Folds, visit Copies of his comprehensive career  guide,  “Your  Queer  Career,”  are  available  at, or on iBooks.