6

So, I am a CS student and recently sat down and applied to 400 internships in a sitting. 10 of them wanted alarming detail of my personal life. I'm sure it was all optional. However, questions varied from my sexuality to asking if I am homosexual or transgender. How is that relevant to working in any capacity? Asking for race/disability is pushing it, but to ask about something that deeply personal? Most of these fields do not have an option simply not to mark anything, only giving "Not disclosing" or something like that. That gives the reviewer the ability to infer and introduce bias. I cannot imagine how individuals who have not come to terms with things yet feel about this. Why is this in practice?

Edit: for those interested, I had about 200 jobs saved on linkedin I scoured for the day before and several lists I went through. I live in the United States. I use Chrome and I made sure my resume passed through an ATS with no problem.

3
  • 5
    Which country are you located? Jan 11 at 15:08
  • 8
    How does one apply to four hundred internships (or anything else) "in one sitting"?
    – teego1967
    Jan 13 at 15:15
  • 1
    If you only spent 2 minutes on each that is still over 13 hours of applications. Even if you had already found 200 of them it would still require finding the other 200 to be contained in the 2 minute timeframe.
    – sam_smith
    Jan 16 at 23:44
14

In the majority of cases, these questions form part of the initial information gathering. They're simply there to gather statistics for the purposes of diversity and inclusion and shouldn't affect the application itself.

They're not asking you personally, so don't take these as being invasive of your privacy. Answer as honestly as you prefer (in most cases, you'll have a "prefer not to say" option).

In the UK, this practice is called "Equality Monitoring", a good overview is linked below:

https://www.acas.org.uk/employer-decision-protected-characteristic/equality-and-diversity

Employers can ask employees and job applicants to give information about their protected characteristics (such as their sex or race) on an equality monitoring form.

If an employer does this, they should only use the information to:

  • understand how many people in the workforce have a certain protected characteristic, for example what percentage are women
  • make the workplace fair

So that they do not break the law, the employer should:

  • make clear to the employee or job applicant that this information is voluntary (they do not have to provide it if they do not want to)
  • make sure the information they get is anonymous
  • make sure this process is completely separate and confidential, for example by making sure the information is not seen by anyone involved in hiring the person

The rules here are probably broadly similar in different GDPR compliant countries.

And for the US, there's "Diversity Metrics". I couldn't find a set term for this, but a HR guide is linked below:

https://www.hrtechnologist.com/articles/diversity/3-diversity-metrics-for-hr-2019/

4
  • 1
    As no location was given, adding on to your answer: these questions are downright illegal to ask & store the answers to in EU under GDPR law. Reason being that any of these questions mentioned by OP have zero influence on ones performance as a CS applicant.
    – rkeet
    Jan 13 at 13:11
  • 1
    @rkeet Sorry, you're wrong there. UK Employers are allowed to ask, but the data must be protected to GDPR guidelines. Please see UK Gov - equality monitoring "If you collect personal information (eg ethnicity, gender, faith, sexuality) about job applicants or staff, you must protect their data."
    – user124851
    Jan 13 at 13:40
  • @Snow Interesting. That always been the case in the UK? Or since Brexit (as technically EU law no longer applies to UK, right?)?
    – rkeet
    Jan 13 at 16:55
  • @rkeet A long time. The information sheet for Northern Ireland listed on the web site is dated 2011, I don't think the UK guidelines would be drastically different.
    – user124851
    Jan 13 at 17:06
8

Expanding a little on Snow's answer:

Many organisations take an interest in the diversity of their workforce, with dimensions such as race, age, gender, transgender status, orientation, parent/carer status, and disability being among those that are commonly examined.

This can be for a variety of reasons, e.g.:

  • Some research indicates that diverse teams make better decisions, so organisations may see this as something to aim for.
  • Organisations that are concerned about the risk of e.g. discrimination lawsuits may want to know whether anything in their hiring processes is leading to inadvertent discrimination, and may want to be able to document the kind of applicants they get.
  • Some organisations, in particular government and non-profits, may have a mandate to meet targets for representation of certain groups. For example, the Australian Public Service has/had a target of 3% Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander employees by 2018.

Depending on local laws, it is often illegal to discriminate against individual candidates based on their responses to these questions. As a member of a recruiting panel, I don't see whether a candidate has ticked those boxes. But it can still be very useful for an organisation to understand the overall demographics of their applicants.

For instance, let's suppose that in a given year, my organisation hires 90 men and 10 women, and we have concerns about that imbalance. Is it because we're just not getting many women applying? (If so, we might need to look at how we're applying - perhaps it was a mistake to rely solely on ads in Beard Care Magazine?)

OTOH, what if we're getting roughly equal numbers of men and women applying, but the recruitment panel keeps selecting men over women? If so, we might want to look more closely at how the recruitment panel is making that call, and whether the process is as merit-based as it's meant to be.

Getting demographic data about your applicants helps distinguish between those cases.

1

Why is this in practice?

In the United States it's in part because of federal laws and regulations.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - EEO-1 Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:

The EEO-1 Report is a compliance survey mandated by federal statute and regulations. The survey requires company employment data to be categorized by race/ethnicity, gender and job category.

Apparently, the EEOC provided guidance for EEO-1 filing for non-binary employees at one point in 2019 but that appears to be gone.

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs - Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability:

We are a federal contractor or subcontractor required by law to provide equal employment opportunity to qualified people with disabilities. We are also required to measure our progress toward having at least 7% of our workforce be individuals with disabilities. To do this, we must ask applicants and employees if they have a disability or have ever had a disability. Because a person may become disabled at any time, we ask all of our employees to update their information at least every five years.

(NOTE: The link goes to the page that contains links to the forms in multiple formats/languages, not the PDF directly.)

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs - Sample VEVRAA Self-Identification Form:

This employer is a Government contractor subject to the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended by the Jobs for Veterans Act of 2002, 38 U.S.C. 4212 (VEVRAA). VEVRAA requires Government contractors to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment protected veterans. To help us measure the effectiveness of our outreach and recruitment efforts of veterans, we are asking you to tell us if you are a veteran covered by VEVRAA. Completing this form is completely voluntary, but we hope you fill it out. Any answer you give will be kept private and will not be used against you in any way.

You'll see variation in which questions are asked and how: EEO regulations don't apply to all employers, not all employers contract with the federal government, and the EEO doesn't recommend a specific form. The one example the EEO links to only has questions for race, not gender (which may possibly lead to more variation for that section across employers).

I did not find a law or regulation regarding questions on sexual orientation. Those questions would be due to an employer's own policies.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .