It is commonly known that the best companies actively pursue the best candidates regardless of what they look like, where they’re from, or how they live their lives. In addition to hiring employees regardless of gender, ethnicity, or nationality, recruiting programs also strive to engage LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals as part of the mix. The LGBT population is underrepresented particularly in the industries MBA’s tend to join upon graduation, and both recruiters and the LGBT organization on campus are working to change that.
On the HBS campus, most of this focused recruiting happens through the LGBT Club and follows a process very similar to programs for female and minority students. LGBT Club presidents Garrett Hall and Monne Williams coordinate formal and informal career development initiatives for the organization’s some 50 members, all of who identify as LGBT with “varying levels of being out,” says Monne. Straight allies are also involved in some events, but the core mailing list is made available only to LGBT students for confidentiality reasons. Monne explains the thought process behind the career initiatives: “Recruiters don’t see [being out] as an added benefit, but they definitely don’t want that be the reason to lose good people.”
Formal recruiting events, mostly small dinners and cocktail receptions, are facilitated directly through the club. Many large companies active in other areas around campus are also connected with the LGBT organization and often sponsor a specific event. Typically a human resources representative along with an out employee will host gatherings that, among other topics, address LGBT diversity in the workplace. Since the target population is smaller than others, achieving scale at these events is sometimes a challenge. Often Monne and Garrett will coordinate with the Kennedy and Education schools as well as other institutions in the area (MIT, Boston University, etc.) to get a sizable crowd. The majority of the club is also planning to attend the annual Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Conference, held this month in Dallas, which is designed to “provide LGBT business school students with a resource to make connections with other LGBT students and business professionals.” Many LGBT Club members have found job offers through this conference in the past.
As with most all campus organizations, the LGBT Club also offers resume help. Like all other organizations, the LGBT Club has a CV book for companies that request it. But the organization’s leadership also helps LGBT students navigate issues more complex than the typical work experience line item. Club members often confront the issue of being out on their resumes and consult each other on how much they might highlight their connection to LGBT organizations or causes depending upon their familiarity with the company receiving the information.
While structured recruiting events are important, the informal connectivity is the core of the club’s recruiting offering. Monne and Garrett keep a database of alumni working in various fields who are available for questions that current students may have regarding an industry, company, or geographic location. Monne observes that “informal connections tend to be more valuable than the company events because we can ask real questions” and get the “real scoop” on whether a company’s work environment is supportive of LGBT employees. Most of these informal conversations focus on cultural fit. Common questions towards out employees include: Do you feel comfortable bringing your partner to company events? How is it being out on a daily basis at this company? Is there a gay partner at the firm?
The goal is to assess whether the company supports a culture that is conducive to the success of LGBT individuals. Monne points out that “some companies are known as good places” while others don’t enjoy a strong reputation. Recruiters tend to overpromise across the board and it is important for candidates to consult a current employee they identify with. This is especially true for LGBT students, whose concerns are more often related to the realities of a firm’s day-to-day atmosphere. At the end of the day, LGBT recruiting serves the same purpose and follows the same processes as those of the programs for other populations, with a focus on the student and his or her priorities.
Kate is a former securities analyst for Goldman Sachs and a graduate of Princeton University. She hails from Darien, CT.