Why do I cringe when I see "Child of God-Follower of Jesus!" in a LinkedIn profile? I'm a very religious person and quite open about being a Mormon. Religion is a huge part of my life and of the lives of many of my friends. So, why does this bug me?

It's certainly not because I discriminate against the religious. Remember, I am religious, and I find it inappropriate to declare religious beliefs in places that hiring managers and recruiters often look. It's not just me, either. I asked Inc.'s social media editor, Stephanie Meyers, what she thought about it. She said,

I think it shows a potential misunderstanding about how privacy settings work and how social media is used, so it makes me nervous for the person when I see it! I want to ask them, "Do you know that an employer might read this? Are you comfortable with that?" (I think this is also true with other passions and hobbies--basically anything that you wouldn't want to talk about in a job interview, I would be very careful about including in a public or professional social media profile. But I see it most consistently with religion.)

She brings up very good points. When you're looking for a job or when you're hiring others for jobs, everybody is googling everybody else. The question is, do you want this religious statement to be how you are represented?

There are certainly worse things to have as your Twitter description than something like: "I am in the pizza business. But mostly I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, who is my savior and my redeemer. And my family is His gift to me." In fact, that's kind of sweet. But, if this fellow is looking for a job and a hiring manager sees this, the manager is now in an awkward position. He knows information that he can't, legally, use to make a decision, but it's now stuck in the back of his brain. This could be a help and it could be a hindrance, depending on who is doing the hiring.

Twitter isn't supposed to be a formal, professional networking site, so there's a lot more leeway there. But LinkedIn? It's supposed to be all about what you can do at work. When I see someone whose profile says "Real Estate Agent, Child of God," my thought is, "Why is she telling me this? Of all the things she could have said about her professional skills, this is what she's chosen."

Now, on the one hand, I think it's great that she's secure in her religious beliefs. On the other hand, is she trying to get me to overlook her lack of real estate agent skills by getting me to say, "Hey! She believes in God, just like I do!"? Frankly, when I'm trying to hire a real estate agent, I care about her ability to help me buy or sell real estate, and I'd like to know how she's qualified to do that. You can be both religious and a real estate agent, but being religious doesn't mean you're a better real estate agent.

This does not mean that you should hide your religion or be ashamed of a belief in God. Heavens no. References to religion belong on your LinkedIn profile in the following circumstances:

  • You attended a religious college
  • You worked for a church
  • You worked for a faith-based nonprofit
  • You have serious volunteering experience for a church or faith-based nonprofit

In these cases, references to your religion are perfectly fine in a business setting. What's the difference? Because these things showcase knowledge and skills that you've gained in a legitimate setting. Organizing vacation Bible school is just as complex as organizing a vacation program for the local community center. Hiring managers know this.

I don't want people to be in a situation where they aren't comfortable expressing their religious beliefs, but when you're hunting for a job, you need to be extra careful about what information you're revealing. The reality is, unless you're Jewish, mentioning your religion on your résumé (which is what LinkedIn is) is detrimental to your job hunt.