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Navigating bias in your job search

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Sarah Lorenz-Coryell

February 3, 2023

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What to do if you encounter LGBTQ+ and gender-related bias

As you work towards your goal of nailing that next interview to land your dream job, you have likely had a range of experiences when sitting down with an interview or hiring team.

Job interviews can be a stressful experience, even if you are confident in your skills and know you are a good fit for the job. But your planning and preparation will pay off in the end, as will a confident approach to handling some of the trickier questions and situations that might be presented to you.

For someone identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community or who identifies as a gender other than straight heterosexual, some unique situations might arise. Those hopes for a successful interview might fall due to a poor experience with the interviewer’s bias.

Knowing what these are and how to handle them can ensure you have the best interviewing experience possible. Bias related to sexual orientation, gender identities, and representation can negatively impact both the company and possible hiring candidates.

This kind of bias can often be unintentional. Other times it is a more direct approach intended to disqualify candidates. Like any interviewing process, dealing with a bias of this nature can be tricky.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You do not have to sit through an interview and deal with this kind of bias. Let’s look at the issue in further detail and find out what you can do about it.

LGBTQ+ and Gender-Related Bias During the Hiring Process

Even in the 21st century, offensive and even downright illegal questions are sometimes asked during a job interview. This is direct discrimination against your candidacy and is a serious matter as it can reflect the interviewer’s bias towards a particular group.

In other cases, interviewers may ask something they don’t realize is inappropriate. This is an unconscious bias that employers have without even really realizing it. There are times when it’s more deliberate and engrained in a person’s subconscious or the very structure of the company itself.

Whatever the intention, recognizing when interview bias is happening and what you can do about it are essential tools that can help you get through an uncomfortable interview.

How Do You Know You Are Facing LGBTQ+ or Gender Bias in the Job Interview?

We all hear about common interview questions and have likely read guides and articles to prepare for standard interview questions. But what do you do when you think you are being judged based on your sexual orientation or gender identity? How do you know those warning flags are correct and should be heeded?

Examples of questions that can indicate a bias can take many forms, but common examples of sexual orientation and gender-bias-driven questions can include:

  • “Tell me about your spouse.”

    – This is a no-no for anyone but for the LGBTQ+ community, this is often a trap because we start talking about a spouse and can reveal a same-sex partner and other things that reveal our sexual orientation or gender preferences.

  • “How long have you and your (assumed) wife/husband been married?”

    – No interviewer should be asking this sort of question as it assumes a lot about the person and is a leading question designed to get the candidate to reveal more about their personal life, sex life, and other things that don’t relate to the job most likely.

  • What is your sexual orientation/do you consider yourself _____ (trans, gay, lesbian, homosexual….)?

    – A flat-out inquiry about sex, gender, preferences, and such is always illegal, and you are in no way required to answer these kinds of questions.

  • Who did you vote for last election?

    – It might seem a bit random, but questions about elections, politics, voting, local policies, and such are used in interviews to determine your political party, and what your morals are, and can be used against you when they don’t align with the interviewer’s personal preferences.

  • Are you married/have kids/are pregnant/chronically ill etc?

    – Again, this kind of question is essentially a trap for the LGBTQ+ or non-conforming candidate as it makes them divulge details about their personal life, activities, and preferences that should not be a part of the hiring process.

Strategies to Know as a Candidate Facing Bias

While experiencing this sort of bias can be uncomfortable, it can also be a very empowering experience to stand up for yourself as well. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do when faced with bias during your interview as an LGBTQ+ individual.

  • Maintain your composure and stay calm – It can be frustrating, insulting, scary, and confusing to find yourself facing this kind of interview bias. Stay calm and don’t yell or get insulting in your response. Reply that you do not feel comfortable answering that question, or that you claim your right to decline a response.
  • Know your rights and what the law says- Knowing the common questions that can be answered during an interview and what illegal and unethical questions sound like is important. This can help you know when you can stand up and politely challenge a question or ask why that is being brought up in the interview.
  • Deflect biased questions with your own- If you get asked a question you feel is biased against you, try to deflect it with a question of your own. A question about your spouse or kids could be answered with a question from you about the company policy of family leaves and support, so the focus shifts to them.
  • Be firm and direct but not offensive- If an interviewer is really pressuring you to answer a question you feel is biased, unfair, or illegal, say you will not answer. If they continue pushing, you have the right to end the interview and leave. They can in no way keep you there or force you to endure that kind of treatment.

To better understand your rights, prohibited employer practices, and how to file a complaint, please refer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC.)

Moving on From LGBTQ+ and Gender Bias After an Interview

A good way to move on from an experience tainted by bias is by getting another interview with an organization that feels like a good fit. With more employers today using applicant tracking systems (ATS) and AI scanning tools to screen applicants, familiarizing yourself with this type of technology is essential.

Maximize your candidate visibility by using an ATS-friendly resume. You can learn more about applicant tracking systems, candidate management systems, and how you can prepare your job-seeking materials to keep up with the latest trends within the employment market.

Remember that the pride you feel inside cannot be taken away by any interviewer. Finding a company that will respect you rather than judge you with faulty bias is the goal you can keep your eyes fixed upon!



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Sarah Lorenz-Coryell

Sarah Lorenz-Coryell is a full-time writer and editor with over 15 years of experience. With multiple degrees and diverse areas of expertise, Sarah writes content that is informative, memorable, and impactful.

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