Treating LGBT candidates equally

Posted October 05, 2015 by

Employers who discover that LGBT candidates are applying for jobs should not discriminate based on sexual orientation. LGBT candidates deserve to be judged based on their skills and qualifications. It’s employers’ responsibility to select the best person for a job.

To help explore these issues, College Recruiter recently hosted a College Recruiting Bootcamp on LGBT and other diversity hiring issues on Tuesday, September 29, at the Twilio headquarters in San Francisco.

College Recruiter has been publishing the opinions from a number of talent acquisition and recruiting leaders about why and how employers should diversify their workforces. Dr. Linda Henman, The Decision Catalyst™ and author, shares an experience with one of her clients about making the right hiring decision.

dr. linda henman

Dr. Linda Henman, Owner and Founder of Henman Performance Group

“When employers find that a LGBT candidate is among those applying for a job, they should determine who is best qualified for the position and then quickly offer that candidate a strong contract. In other words, they should follow the established protocols for hiring and not worry about the person’s sexual orientation. Here’s a piece I’ve just written to illustrate my point. It involves John, one of my best clients at the time.”

John inherited a profitable family-owned business that prided itself on quality, service, and integrity. He hired only the best available talent and hired me to make sure he would achieve that goal. We worked together successfully over a period of time until we hit a snag: he simply couldn’t find a star performer for a key position. He finally discovered Thomas, a highly-skilled professional with the requisite experience and an impressive track record for achieving goals. I was delighted to call John with the good news that we had struck gold.

John seemed lukewarm about the idea of offering Thomas the job, however, so I questioned his reluctance. As John explained, Thomas was openly gay, and if he brought his partner to the Christmas party, John’s wife “would flip.” I suggested they could avoid this situation by not having a Christmas party, by not having an open Christmas party, or by John suggesting to his wife that she not attend. Any seemed a more reasonable solution than John’s passing on this extraordinary candidate. John still seemed reluctant.

Then he disclosed that for religious reasons he didn’t think he should hire a gay person because “it’s just not right.” “It” remained a vague pronoun throughout the exchange, but I inferred “it” meant Thomas being gay, not the act of offering a qualified person a job.

Clients hire me to help them with critical decisions, so I felt ethically responsible to help John make this one. If he passed on this exceptional candidate, who knew how long we’d have to wait to find another? And what consequences would the company suffer in the meantime? I posed these questions, but John wasn’t convinced he should offer Thomas the job.

Then I asked John if he should believe the opposite of what he believed. Should he believe that his primary responsibility was to safeguard the success of the company, or should it be to judge the personal lifestyles of his employees? He admitted that until then, he hadn’t really involved himself in the personal lives of his employees and that he knew a couple who had done things he didn’t agree with, like having extramarital affairs and getting into credit card debt. John didn’t abandon his religious beliefs, but he reframed them, realizing that hiring a gay person didn’t imply anything other than he wanted to hire the best person for the job.

“Reframing helps us question long-held assumptions and abandon conventional mindsets, but it does something else, too. It frees us to discard the fear-driven, deficiency, scarcity mentality that holds us captive.”

Dr. Linda Henman, The Decision Catalyst™ and the author of five books, including Challenge the Ordinary, works with leaders who want to think strategically, grow dramatically, promote intelligently, and compete successfully today and tomorrow. She was one of eight succession planning experts who worked directly with John Tyson after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products. Some of her other clients include Emerson Electric, Illinois Tool Works, Avon, Kraft Foods, and Edward Jones. She can be reached in St. Louis at

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