HIRING

Your Religion Shouldn't Be on Your Résumé (Unless You're Jewish)

Even though Americans are pretty religious in general, we don't like it when other people let us know that they are religious, too.
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"I stereotype. It's faster." So said George Clooney's character in Up in the Air, and so do all of us.

I just heard a collective gasp from my readers. "Oh, I don't do stereotypes. I consider each person as an individual!" Liar. We can't possibly get through life without stereotyping, which is actually just making assumptions based on our past experiences. Clooney's character used stereotyping to his advantage to get through airport security lines faster. You do it when you're hiring (as well as picking your airport security line).

Yep. You make judgments not based not on in-depth interviews with each person who applies for a job, but by looking at a resume and judging, from your past experiences with other people who are similar. How do I  know this? Well, for one, it's easier to get hired when you have a job than when you don't have a job because many recruiters and hiring managers alike assume that all unemployed people must have done something wrong to be in that state. That? A stereotype.

And what about particular college degrees? Is every engineer that graduated from MIT a better engineer than every every engineer from the local state university? Of course not. But, does that MIT person's resume rise to the top? Stereotyping. Heck, assuming that a college degree makes someone a better employee than someone without one is a stereotype in and of itself.

And so what about religious stereotypes? Do we have these? Absolutely. And a recent study in Social Currents, found that people who listed a religious affiliation were less likely to get a response to their resumes than people who listed no religious affiliation--except for Jews. Jews saw no drop in response rate, although the result was not statistically significant. If this is replicated (which would  be necessary because of the lack of statistical significance), it could indicate that employers have a preference for Jews over other religious people.

Why? Stereotypes. The hardworking, smart Jewish employee of course, is just such a stereotype. It happens to be a positive one.

The study created fake resumes that described applicants as recent college graduates who included their campus activities, such as student religious groups, which was how they self-identified as religious. And this self-identification seemed to decrease the possibility of being contacted. Why? Undoubtedly stereotypes held by the resume screeners.

The authors of the study conclude that this is a an indication of the secularization of society. While Americans are still quite religious personally, we appear to be less comfortable with religion in the public sphere.

So, what does this mean for business owners? First be aware of your own closely held prejudices and stereotypes. A candidates affiliation with any religious group should not be considered, which brings us to the next point--what about your resume?

As a general rule, religion doesn't really belong on a resume. Why? Because it doesn't indicate your ability to a job, which is what a resume is really all about. However, for some of us, that's pretty impossible to remove. I, for instance, I graduated from Brigham Young University, which is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which you probably know as the Mormons. Now, while it's true that not all BYU grads are Mormons, most are, and leaving my university name off my resume would put red flags all over it. But, no matter, as there are plenty of positive Mormon stereotypes when it comes to business.

But, unless you held a leadership role in that campus group, there's no advantage to listing your religious associations on your resume. But, similarly, I'd say you should leave off all groups and hobbies unless they clearly indicate skills that are transferable to your professional life. If you're applying to be an accountant, it doesn't matter that you're a member of the local photography club. And even if you were president of your college religious club, that shouldn't stay on your resume for more than 3 years past graduation anyway. It should not matter in the job search.

Employers need to be careful about the stereotypes they are relying on. And job applicants need to make sure that their resume is work related in the first place.

 

 

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Jun 25, 2014

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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