I hated the pressure of getting ready for an interview – figuring out the right outfit, the resume. All of it just felt like so much pressure when we already agreed that I could do the job. That’s how I got the interview after all, right? Now I had to go in for the personality contest so they could pick the person they liked most.
It’s a stupid game. Not because I didn’t know how to play. No, I was really good at figuring people out quickly. You don’t survive 13 schools as a kid without nailing that skill. I just hated the aftermath. The wondering until I got a call. The wondering when I never did get a call back – questioning my skills and what I did wrong. Why they didn’t like me. It felt like this interview process was a test to see if I was good enough. A test I felt like I had failed when I didn’t get a call back.
Then I had to question if it really was me. Not before when my hair was long and I wore pink shirts. No one could identify me as gay at a glance. But when I cut my hair short, I noticed how people looked at me differently. It was noticeable to my straight friends, too – in the bathroom, in the boardroom, and everywhere else. People were trying to figure me out. Interviews were no exception.
Will Adding My Pronouns Impact Job Search Success?
Some might say I’m sensitive but LGBT+ workplace discrimination and bias are well-documented. There’s now data on how queer people feel about coming out at work. Beyond.com talked to hundreds of nonbinary people about how their gender identities impact their job searches and workplace experiences. I wasn’t surprised, but I was hurt. The report made it feel like things have not gotten better.
More than 80% of nonbinary people believed that identifying as nonbinary would hurt their job search. When they sent two “phantom” resumes to 180 job postings – one with pronouns and one without? The one with pronouns received less interest and fewer interview invitations than the control resume.
Then they talked to hiring managers and that’s the part that broke my heart the most. Managers were less likely to want to contact an applicant whose resume included “they/them” pronouns. The comments they shared anonymously from those hateful hiring managers were heart-breaking. I won’t share them here. How could a queer person that’s not self-employed ever feel safe coming out during an interview?
Inclusive Introductions: Pronouns In The Interview Process
If you’re an inclusive employer that does want to recognize people’s correct pronouns in the interview and workplace, you have to understand that you’re different than most companies. Most places don’t invest in employer education on pronouns. Most don’t even ask for pronouns at all. That means your candidates are constantly questioning if they can be safe. They definitely aren’t sure about sharing during an interview.
Regardless of how inclusive you are, there’s a power dynamic in the interview process that we don’t talk about enough. The one you, as an employer, hold to make decisions about the candidate’s life. The big stuff like if they even get the job, how much they will be paid, etc. This power requires you to be open to asking for pronouns a few times – of everyone, not just people who present as queer or gender-nonconforming.
How? Well, when you introduce yourself during an interview, share your pronouns then ask for theirs. Say this: “My name is… my pronouns are… how should I refer to you?” Notice I didn’t say “what are your pronouns?” Asking point blank may put someone on the spot to come out when they don’t feel comfortable yet. Then, ask again post-hire when some of the pressure is off. “How should the team refer to you?” Ask before making team introductions and remember, things may change.
Also worth mentioning – don’t use someone changing their pronouns as a reason to get pronouns wrong forever. Practice getting them right by changing how you make introductions during interviews and everywhere else to help others feel safe.
Be sure to come back next week for the next post in this three part series on queer candidate experiences. Melissa Martini will be covering how LGBT+ candidates analyze candidate experiences, then Dominique Rodgers will teach us about benefits and belonging. Subscribe here to get those straight to your inbox.
Read The Other Posts In This Series:
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.