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I am a M.A. in industrial/organizational psychology. Most of my experience has been in human resources and change management. My passion lies in employee assessment, organizational development and employee opinions. Website: www.IanMondrow.com LinkedIn Profile: http://linkd.in/drBYoC

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Effects of Sexual Orientation on Hirability Rating

Reference: Van Hoye, G. & Lievens, F. (2003). The effects of sexual orientation on hirability rating: an experimental study. Journal of Business and Psychology, 18(1), 15-30.

Summary by: Ian Mondrow, M.A.

Diversity management is an approach that encourages a comfortable and developing work environment for all employees regardless of their personal attributes. In 1993, The Society of Human Resource Management officially declared sexual orientation as a source of diversity. Although no Federal law protects GLB* (Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual) against discrimination, several states have regulations against discrimination based on sexual orientation. In addition, it is considered illegal to discriminate others in the public sector based on their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, 66% of GLB individuals have experienced discrimination based on his/her sexuality (Croteau, 1996 as cited in Van Hoye & Levens, 2003).

Research on sexual orientation in the workplace has been limited to gender norms and the subject of "coming out". Another issue includes work-related problems (i.e. bullying, violence, termination, etc.) of GLB employees. This topic is currently limited in studies but it is starting to gain popularity. The scarcity of research in this domain is a result of the challenge of being able to observe real candidates in a job setting. Due to this challenge, Van Hoye & Levens (2003) implement an experimental approach.

Van Hoye and Levens had a total of 135 selection individuals (from consulting firms or HR departments) in Flanders, Belgium participate in the study. Participants ages ranged from 24-59 with 69 males (51%) and 66 females (49%). Participants were mailed a job description for a HR Manager opening and 1 candidate profile. There was a total of 6 hypothetical candidate profiles that varied on candidate quality (poor, moderate, excellent) and lifestyle (gay or living with a man; heterosexual or living with a women; and single or living alone). Participants rated the candidate on a scale from 1 (strongly recommend not hiring) to 9 (strongly recommend hiring).

To the researchers' surprise, sexual orientation had no impact on the hirability, F(2, 126) <>F(4,126) = 161.43, p < .001. This is a comforting finding! No interaction was present. Demographics of the selection individual (age, gender, and years experience) had no impact as well.

The results of the study differ from previous research. Croteau (1996) had opposite results in his qualitative study. However, these were based on self-reports from GLB people. There is a possibility that these candidates viewed their sexual orientation as a reason for not securing the position instead of considering their suitability.

The following study has several limitations that must be considered. First of all, the study was conducted only in Belgium. Therefore, it can not be applied to other countries. Furthermore, other factors could have attributed to the hirability rating, such as the company culture or selection procedures. No information was collected regarding the select participants' personality viewpoint or their own sexual orientation, which could have been an influential factor. Finally, only written information was provided. In hiring, interviews often play a key role and the face-to-face interaction may have produced different findings.

Unfortunately, this study is not realistic. The study mentioned that lacking face-to-face interaction is a vital limitation. Therefore, I feel the candidate profiles were closer to resumes. When viewing a resume, it is extremely difficult to determine an individual's sexual orientation unless they list their involvement in a GLBT organization. If future studies examine face-to-face interviews, there are too many variations of personality for the study to create a representative sample (i.e. flamboyant, feminine, butch, etc.).

The study states that it is examining GLB individuals but from their candidate profiles, it appears that they were only studying the sexuality of male candidates. The profiles did not include female candidates.

As HR professionals, it is important not to consider one's race, age, sexual orientation, gender, etc. What matters most is if the individual has the knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed in the position. If an HR Manager is actively seeking out candidates of a specific audience, then they are open to prosecution from a candidate that was denied the job. Not to mention that it may hurt the company's image as an ethical organization.

*The technical term is GLBT. The T stands for transgender. Unfortunately, this study does not include transgender individuals in its study.

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