By 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 www.outforwork.org.
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 www.outforwork.org/resources/ 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 www.rileyfolds.com. Copies of his comprehensive career guide, “Your Queer Career,” are available at www.Rileyfolds.com, www.amazon.com or on iBooks.