mentioning your interest in sadomasochistic sex in your resume

Perhaps I’m being close-minded here, but it strikes me as a bad move to devote the top third of your resume (or really any part of your resume) to the various leadership roles that you hold in your local club devoted to sexual dominance, submission, and bondage.

The resume is otherwise completely professional.

{ 21 comments… read them below }

  1. Phil Gerbyshak*

    So this doesn't count as leadership experience? At least there were no pictures shared…were there?

    WEIRD! That's all I can say.

  2. Anonymous*

    On behalf of those of us involved in said lifestyle – I'm sorry (and slightly embarassed).

    It is not unusual for one of us to have a resume-variant listing appropriate leadership roles for use /within/ our community… however it sounds like your applicant attached the wrong one in the email.

    What a blunder.

  3. camorra*

    I can't believe that someone put that in their resume! That's incredible and it does sound like a mistake.

  4. Henning Makholm*

    If the "leadership roles" were organizatorial in nature (secretary, newsletter editor, etc), they could well be as relevant as similar work for any other organization. (And someone who can fill a full third of their resume with unpaid work for any single organization must be really low on resume-padding material — cut them some slack, alright?)

    Of course, the hard part is how to present this experience without squicking out the recruiter. As a purely intellectual exercise, would the following work?

    "200X-200Y Treasurer in local branch (NNN members) of nationwide society*. — reconstructed records after unexpected death of previous treasurer. — eliminated long-running bar deficits at members' nights by improved oversight and inventory planning. — etc.

    *footnote: This society organizes people with certain sexual preferences. Outsiders tend to prefer not to know details, but I will provide contact info if you need to verify."

  5. Ask a Manager*

    Anonymous: I don't think it was a mistake, because she also refers to it in her cover letter.

    Henning: Your footnote does not avoid squicking me out!

    I'm no prude, but I strongly prefer to know nothing about my applicants' sex lives, no matter how tame or un-tame their proclivities.

  6. Surya*

    What about Henning's note without the footnote? I would say it depends on the size & culture of the organization. For example, some places will see being part of GLAAD as being socially responsible, some others might see you as a law breaker.

    But then again you have to ask: Do you want to work in a place where your colleagues get freaked out by who you are? And if the answer is yes, then provide the resume accordingly.

  7. Anonymous*

    The person might very well be struck from a lot of positions – but if this person is as *out* about their personal affiliations as their resume suggests, maybe it's that way by design.

    Say they've got a highly visible web presence and they're occasionally in the local alt-weekly as a group contact – a basic google search will bring all of this up. How to get around it? The whole 'it's not a flaw; it's a feature!' spin. State it up front, present all the benefits it provides, and assume (probably correctly) that any company that won't roll with it is not a place you'd be comfortable in.

    Of course, this is only a good idea if you can afford to be picky – and in today's climate, that's an iffy proposition.

  8. Henning Makholm*

    Okay, remove the part of the footnote from "Outsiders" to "but".

    If it squicks you out to know that applicants possess sexual preferences at all, even though you're not told anything about what they are, then … I don't know how to break this to you … but … well, that is probably true about 100% of your candidates.

  9. Anonymous*

    Add me to the list of people curious to know if there's ANY way to sanitize or spin this so that it's useful on a resume. (If not, so be it.)

  10. Wally Bock*

    For me this is very simple. It's not an issue of right and wrong. It's an issue of understanding that people will react to whatever you put on your resume. Unless you're trying for a test case before the Supreme Court, you want those reactions to work in your favor. There are some things you need to include, but hobbies, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, etc are optional. Include them if you want, but be realistic about the consequences and willing to accept them.

  11. Ask a Manager*

    Henning, I assume 100% of them have sexual preferences of some sort. But I don't want to know specifics, and I think most people feel the same. It's also a judgment issue — it's very questionable judgment to include something so personal on a resume (and something that it would be reasonable to assume many people would be squeamish about hearing in this context).

    (And I have nothing against sexual kink — the issue is solely introducing it into a work context via a resume.)

  12. Richard*

    It's unprofessional to talk about your sex life in the work place, whether if it's with a fellow work colleague, or even with someone you are currently having sex with.

    Therefore, mentioning your sex life, especially in such great detail, during the application process for a job where it is not at all relevant is, quite frankly, fairly stupid.

    Your application will no doubt be viewed by a number of different people, whether they be HR or managers, none of which you know the personal preferences of, or how comfortable they feel discussing such personal information about your life. I'm not one for including irrelevant information to the position in my CV or covering letter anyway, but this information is so beyond irrelevant it's ridiculous.

    Additionally, even outside of a professional situation, hearing such information from friends isn't particularly thrilling. I know someone who constantly talked about his sex life, BDSM, etc. etc., and it just got really inappropriate and boring. I have my own sexual preferences and turn ons too, but I don't tell everyone I know about them, because the vast majority of people do not want to know about them, and do not care. We do not talk to my previously mentioned friend much any more, because he refuses to change the record, and outside of his sexual adventures, is not a particularly interesting person. It's on par with having a friend who loves stamp collecting, and doesn't talk about anything else; sure, you'll humour them a little at first, but if they don't show any other interests, then they're going to get very boring, very quickly.

  13. Liz Williams*

    Thanks for raising this, AAM – it's an interesting issue that seems to surface in more interesting ways these days than it used to.

    Perhaps it's the way technology and long work hours have blurred the lines between work and personal lives; perhaps it's the way this newest generation seems to be showing up to work not quite fully raised, or perhaps its the way sexuality has become so politicized.

    Whatever the cause, I'm with many of the commenters here: Personal information on a resume is always a risk, and information about your sexual practices is uber-personal.
    For me, it's like this: If resumes are advertising and interviews are a professional first dates, then information about your sexual proclivities is simply out of order. It's too much information for the level of relationship. That would lead me to wonder about the candidates judgment about what to say when and to whom. It's the lack of social intelligence I find troubling here, not the SMBD.

    If you need to mention something about the skills you acquired as an officer in that club, it's a simple matter to list it under other experience and label it more generically as "various leadership posts in volunteer organizations." You can cite the experience and the skills without making it a tell-all.

  14. Lace*

    I think the applicant shows a poor choice by including the information not only in the cover letter but also in the resume simply because it is such a personal thing in nature. While I applaud her leadership abilities you have to be careful when you have that type of situation if it will be a make or break item. If it skeeves the hiring manager out more than "sells" the applicant then it's not worth having.

    I'm the Vice President of my local PTO. I've also served as the President and Treasurer of this organization. I don't include it on my resume because 1) I feel I have enough experience in other areas to sell me without using that information and 2)I don't particularly like telling people up front that I have children.

    Right or wrong I worry that sometimes employers might make a judgement about my ability to work a job due to the fact that I have children and the less I have advertise that part of my life, the better I feel. Perhaps personal information like which clubs this applicant participates in might be in the "better left unsaid" arena.

  15. TMM*

    Although I’ve never had this exact situation, I’ve read lots of resumes which include personal information I don’t want to know in advance – such as their pictures, marital status, SIN/SSN, birthdate, # of children, etc. I don’t want to know about this personal info because it leaves us open to claims of discrimination if the person doesn’t get the job.
    This could lead to a Human Rights claim against the employer if the person doesn’t get an interview and/or the job. They could say it’s because of their sexual preferences. If they are even remotely suited to the vacancy I’d be very careful about how I treated them. I’d want to be able to prove they didn’t have the necessary qualifications for the position. On the other hand, if they do qualify, you should interview them and treat them as any other candidate since you are not allowed to discriminate against them on the basis of sexual preferences. Who knows – maybe they will turn out to be perfect. That’s the thing with people, you just never know. (Although based on my experience, doesn’t sound like they’d be a good fit for the company).
    To be fair, in some countries, specially Mexico and the Middle East, it’s expected to have this information on your resume. Perhaps this person is coming from that type of background?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wait, in Mexico and the Middle East it’s expected that you’ll have information about your private sexual practices on your resume? That doesn’t sound likely to me.

  16. Chef011*

    WRONG! Middle east countries and Mexico DO NOT require you to present your sexual preferences in your resume. But they some companies do require age, religion, marital status and number of children. It all depends what the job requires you to do. If someone has children and job requires you to be away from the family probably won’t get the job as the hiring manager might think that situation like this can cause less productivity. It’s also known that single applicants are likely to get a job because they are hungry for money and success. Once they reach that they get decide to settle down.

  17. Chef011*

    Oh and If I may add. Some people don’t understand the SEX box where you are suppose to put male/female/other (transgender…ect) that’s why they start writing about their preferences. If the someone already has a job and reveals the preference, you can not fire the person as you may have a law suit against you.

  18. Rob*

    Is there a way of conveying this information in a manner that does not come across as though all the OP thinks about is sex? I say that because even though this person appears to have experience leading/managing/organizing this group, the actual subject matter is largely ‘taboo.’

    How could this person say something along the lines of ‘I did a kick-ass job of being a leader in this group’ (if that is indeed the case) but yet not have people freak out about where they did this great job?

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