Ok, I’ve suddenly perked up the interest of many of you, especially the recruiters. You’ve probably already started to reach out for the red pen. But, bear with me, it’s not all negative.
I’ll start with the obvious declarations. I’m intersex, Trans identifying, and married to my wife. That’s the LT and I ticked off the list. I used to be called David and up until recently I presented as male despite being an intersex female. I’m legally female and actually quite proud of being part of the LGBTIQ+ community.
I’ve been looking for a new role for quite a few months now and I’ve learnt that recruiters are a two-sided coin, either fantastic or downright awful. If you’re a recruiter, you know where you sit, you don’t need me to tell you and this is absolutely not a ‘name and shame’ article.
Before coming out I had an amazing career, I think the most time I spent between roles was a few weeks when I finished my last post-grad masters. Life was good, my experience and qualifications were well regarded. Now, it’s a nightmare.
In looking for a new role, recruiters have either been bloody amazing or bloody awful. There seems to be no in-between approach. I had a phone interview earlier this week and if I could have reached down the phone, I would have given the recruiter the biggest hug ever, she was fantastic. I had indicated on the call that I was intersex and that any referencing would be in an unusual name (some of us are forced by the process to out ourselves) and her response was ‘thank you for being transparent, we genuinely don’t care about that stuff’. Then there’s the other side of the coin.
I’ve had an interim agent blatantly tell me that he will not work with me as ‘I was too complicated, and they don’t want to share my profile and risk upsetting their clients’. I had a face-to-face interview where I had to face male ‘peacocking’, I was told I had no management experience, I’ve been a manager for over 20 years, he looked me up and down constantly and sat leaning back in his chair with his arms and legs crossed smirking throughout. I’ll be honest, I left the building and stood outside and burst into tears over the experience and how I was made to feel so worthless.
Then there are the blacklists. Now I know they’re illegal and every recruiter will publicly deny their existence. I call BS on that. I’ve twice been sent excels with a list of details with markers and narrative by sympathetic recruiters who have issue with this approach and their use. If you have one, we know they exist, we just don’t know if we are on it and we know that you’ll always say you never use them, you know we can’t prove it.
And here’s some insight for you. Some recruiters, not all, use markers such as DNC (Do No Contact), DNH (DO Not Hire), TD (Too Difficult), DNS (DO Not Send), RC (Reject Candidate) and I even once got an automated email where someone hadn’t updated their database correctly as the email started Dear Rachael Evans (used to be called David), that was an interesting eye-opener as to how I was seen by others. A few months ago I had a phone call with an old employer to discuss my change of identity where the recruiter referred to me as ‘Mr. Evans’ throughout and then sent an acknowledgement email address to the same ‘Mr. Evans’, oh the irony behind that one when the whole point of the call was to discuss the change of gender and name.
Incidentally, if you do have a blacklist and have an issue with LGBTIQ+ candidates, Rachael is spelt with an ‘A’, it will help you reject my CV in the future if it’s spelt correctly. Please be careful, otherwise you might accidentally get me a role and then your income in part will be because of me, we don’t want that do we? OK, sarcasm over but you get the point.
I have no choice but to be ‘out’, it’s unfortunately obvious when people see me or speak to me. I don’t mention it on my CV, but it rapidly surfaces during the recruitment process. It’s a huge problem.
A research article published back in 2011 (https://tinyurl.com/yx39885s) highlighted that openly gay men were 40% less likely to be invited back for an interview. I appreciate that the paper is a little out-dated and some attitudes have changed but it’s an interesting read and it highlights the problems faced.
Before my ‘outing’ I was an observer of the behaviour of others, I wanted to understand what lay ahead for me when I addressed my gender identity issues, a little risk managment if you will. I saw lots of policy documents, training sessions, nice speeches, posters, and yet I also saw the day-to-day office banter. The jokes, the crude comments, the blatant hatred at times. It delayed me addressing my medical issues by at least 15 years. Policies are good but they don’t change attitudes overnight. If you have a policy, don’t assume that’s enough to guarantee that people are treated equally.
Now this isn’t a ‘tar-all’ article as I’d mentioned at the start. A lot of the recruiters despite what candidates think, are actually very nice people. They have their own pressures trying to find roles, the right candidates and they do this whilst their boss is reminding them about sales targets. Yep, sales targets. Recruitment firms are a business, the have expenses and they need to place candidates to generate income and pay salaries (ok, and the skiing trips) and they have little time to be every candidates next best friend. They have to make judgement calls on clients and candidates, that’s understandable but it needs to remove the bias from the equation that some have.
Finding work as an out LGBTIQ+ candidate is tough, the competitive nature of the recruitment business brings out unconscious bias in some recruiters, it’s unavoidable and a fact of life. Working through recruiters is and always will be a very hit or miss affair. If you’re in the same boat as me, I have some advice,
1. Accept that job hunting is more difficult. It shouldn’t be so nowadays, but it is.
2. Don’t give up, discrimination exists but it’s not representative of the majority.
3. Treat all recruiters with respect. Threat them as you hope they will treat you.
4. If you don’t have to ‘out’ yourself, please don’t. Don’t make it harder.
5. Use your network, ask those in your network for help. Anyone???
6. Research companies and agencies in advance, be selective about who you approach.
7. Don’t discuss your gender identity or sexual orientation in the interview, it’s irrelevant.
8. Pick your references carefully, your old employer may not know.
9. Accept that some people are a-holes. It’s their issue, not yours.
10. Be patient, you will get a new role.
And my bonus little suggestion, if you find it frustrating, talk to someone. If you’re facing discrimination remember that it says everything about them and nothing about you.
It’s been an interesting few months, I’ve learnt a lot. Not only about the recruitment process but about myself. I thought I was a great, inclusive boss as I had my little secret in the background but now I know I could have done even more. I’ve also learnt that the recruitment process is more complicated than I understood and that when I am a hiring manager in the future I will pay as much attention to the CV’s that I don’t get to see as the one’s I do. If you’re a hiring manager I’d like to ask that you too start to ask about the CV’s that you are not presented with, you might just be missing the CV of a perfect team member. If you’re a recruiter can I ask that you don’t look between my legs but between my ears, my brain still works after coming out, don’t discriminate, help me to get my next role, the commission is the same as a non-LGBTIQ+ candidates.