Applying for work is a complex process that requires making decisions about how to portray yourself, your experiences and your interest in a job or career opportunity. Campus career services can help you develop and refine your application materials, as well as support your interview preparation and practice. This section considers various aspects of the application process for people who identify as trans or nonbinary.
Start with yourself
When it comes to reflecting gender identity or gender expression on your application, it’s up to you how you want to represent yourself. Think about what matters to you and your own comfort in this process. When considering and preparing your application, don’t sell yourself short. You have important skills and experiences gained through your academic courses as well as co-curricular, volunteer, and life experiences that will add value to any organization lucky enough to hire you!
The application process can be frustrating and complex, so be sure to take care of yourself and be prepared to rely on your support systems. Create a plan for finding and applying to work and remember to balance your time and energy. Apply strategically and pace yourself rather than applying to every single job posting you find. And remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Your campus career centre and professionals you’ve connected with can provide perspective and support on how to communicate your experiences authentically and effectively. Most importantly, do what’s right for you.
Social media – what does the world see?
Your presence online and on social media is an important part of your public-facing persona. You can be intentional about your use of social media to build your online presence and leverage connections and engagements to find opportunities. Employers sometimes look at professional social media platforms like LinkedIn and personal social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others to find out more about their applicants.
Review your publicly accessible accounts to ensure they reflect the professional and personal information you’re comfortable sharing. Update your privacy settings if there’s information you wouldn’t want to share publicly. If you have any concerns about an employer seeking information about you through social media and other online platforms, you can consider changing your name on your accounts to make it harder to find.
Photos are not typically included on applications in North America for roles outside the entertainment and arts industries, but social media makes it relatively easy for employers to find pictures of applicants. Social media relies heavily on images, and LinkedIn reports that profiles with photos are viewed much more frequently than those without. If you don’t want a photo of yourself on your LinkedIn, consider an alternative (e.g. a photo of a project you worked on or a logo of your business or organization).
Applying for jobs
Here are a few things to consider as you develop your application materials, prepare for interviews and think about references.
Preparing for interviews
Interviewing can be a stressful process, but is also a rewarding opportunity to share your accomplishments and experiences. Take some time before your interview to reflect on your experiences and choose examples that demonstrate skills most relevant to the job description. Take some time before your interview to reflect on your experiences and choose examples that demonstrate skills most relevant to the job description; this will help you best illustrate why you should get the job. You may also want to think about what you’re comfortable sharing in an interview. For example, consider in advance whether sharing a particular experience might out you if you aren’t out already. By preparing before the interview, you will feel better equipped to draw on the experiences that help you feel more confident as a candidate.
Pronouns – to share or not to share?
You may want to share your pronouns when applying, following up to accept an interview offer, or when introducing yourself at the beginning of the interview. If the interviewers share their pronouns either in their email signature or in person, it’s a good indicator of the kind of training and awareness they have around gender diversity.
What employers can and cannot ask
Employers are not allowed to make hiring decisions based on gender identity or gender expression (except in very limited circumstances where one of those things relates to the core duties of the job). So employers shouldn’t ask questions about your gender – either directly or indirectly – during or outside of the interview context (such as casual conversation before or after the interview).
If they ask these questions, you’re not obligated to answer. This might feel challenging in an interview setting, so if an employer asks you an inappropriate question, you have a few options.
- Answer if you feel comfortable.
- Deflect or address the concern you think the question is about. If, for example, someone asks you about a previous name that you used, you could respond with something like, “That is my legal name and this is the name I use.”
- Ask the interviewer to explain how it’s relevant to the role to make them realize it’s not an appropriate question. For example, you could say, “I’m not sure I understand how this would be relevant for this position. Can you explain?”
- Refuse to answer the question.
You’re interviewing them, too
Keep in mind that an interview serves two purposes. Not only are interviewers assessing whether they want to hire you, you are also assessing whether you want to work for them. An interview is a great opportunity to determine the company’s diversity and inclusion policies, practices and culture in the workplace. Consider asking:
- What does diversity and inclusion look like in practice here?
- I was excited to read the statement on diversity and inclusion/non-discrimination policy on your website. Can you tell me a little bit more about how your organization or department supports diversity and inclusion? What does this policy look like day-to-day?
- What opportunities or initiatives are there to contribute to an inclusive workplace?
Remember, if you were invited for an interview, they’re already impressed with your qualifications!
Asking for references
References are usually required when being considered for any position. Consider the type of reference needed and who might be the best person to talk about your skills, strengths, and how great you are. If you use a name and/or pronoun(s) that differ from those used in previous employment and volunteer positions, there are a few ways to navigate this when requesting a reference.
If you feel that you have a good relationship with your referee, and are confident they can effectively speak to your strengths and skills, then consider having a conversation with them about your current name and pronouns. You can also get a reference from people other than a manager. For example, was there someone else more senior than you on the team who might be able to speak to your skills and strengths? Alternatively, sometimes organizations want a character reference, for example, a colleague, professor, or someone that you volunteered with.
If, based on your research, you believe the future employer will be supportive, you might consider letting them know you formerly went by a different name and pronoun at your last job, meaning past supervisors may refer to you by your previous name.
If none of these options work for you, there may be other or new experiences you can draw on for a reference. This could include asking professors who know your work and skills, or finding new opportunities such as Work Study jobs or volunteer positions. This might feel a little daunting, so speak with your friends, supports, or a career advisor to help you decide the most comfortable option.
“It can be nerve-wracking to be yourself in interviews and cover letters but I promise you that people almost always prefer you being yourself over who you think they want to meet. It also helps to be yourself because it means you’ll end up in a work environment that is safe and supportive of who you are.”
– Ayesha, Philosophy and English, Class of 2018