Column: Religion and the Resume

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With the start of May, students are looking toward what they’re going to do this summer. Perhaps it’s an internship or, with June graduations looming, a full-time job. Which means that (if you haven’t already started) it’s time to update resumes and portfolios.

Common sense dictates that you leave any mention of religion off a resume. Common sense also dictates that if you’re unemployed, or if your portfolio is lacking, that you should volunteer to develop new skills and fill in holes in employment.

[public domain]

[public domain]

Online resume writing tips spout the same advice. “Don’t talk about religion,” suggests CBS in the article “How to Write a Resume: Dos and Don’ts.” But do talk about volunteer work. Some of articles, like one at The Muse even touch on both. However, they often fail to recognize that that these two things can be at direct odds.

This problem isn’t specific to one generation, or even one group of people. However it is something that affects a lot of young people and those right out of college. Job opportunities are scarce; especially if you don’t already have job experience. Volunteering with a local church, coven, or grove can be a great way to connect with people who share your faith while developing the skills needed for your professional life.

But when it comes time to write your resume and build your portfolio, what do you do? Include religion-based volunteer work, or not? Maybe you skirt around the issue? For example, you might include “Webmaster of a religious club at college,” or “Volunteered as an accountant at my church.” These statements can be true and relevant to the position you’re applying for without going into detail.

What about times that require that you to be more specific? The Artisan Blog recommends that nothing older than five years be shown to your potential employer, and that you put out new work regularly. Do you include the poster you designed for a sabbat? Could that be slipped into the mix without raising any questions? What about if you write a column for a Pagan publication,like The Wild Hunt or Patheos, that talks about your experiences as a Pagan?

As for me, I have chosen to currently display all of my written work on my digital portfolio. It’s a risk.

In the United States, It’s illegal  for employers to discriminate based on religion, in either the workplace or during the hiring process. As stated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “the law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring…” But that does not mean it doesn’t happen. Some places just throw out or ignore resumes and portfolios that mention religion at all to avoid having the EEOC checking in on their hiring practices. If your resume makes it past that stage, you still might trigger prejudice in a hiring manager.

pagans_and_the_law_mainWhen talking about her decision to include information about her religion in her resume, Rose Quartz, a graduate student at Mills College and founder of the Mills Pagan Alliance, said: “Anti-discrimination legislation stipulates that to refuse someone a job based on religious affiliation is illegal, but we all know how that can play out in real life. Statistics and studies have shown that biases remain strong.”

The book Pagans and the Law by Dana D. Eilers discusses a Pagan’s employment rights under the First Amendment. However, Eilers only talks about what happens after you’re employed with regard to job-based discrimination. More specifically, she talks about the burden of proof required to successfully file suit. If you end up filing a lawsuit against a former employer, you have to, among other things, prove that the company knew you are Pagan. Eilers writes:

The problem that most Pagans struggle with in a case of job-related religious discrimination or harrassment is actually standing up for themselves, which will mean coming out of the broom closet and being aggressive in the pursuit of their rights,

This begs a question. How does a resume or portfolio with a religious affiliation clearly laid out factor into this burden of proof?

Going back to the original discussion. What happens when a Pagan is denied a job due to being Pagan? If you can prove that a potential employer knows you are Pagan, you then have to prove that you did not get the job because you are Pagan. It is not enough to say “I am Pagan and I did not get the job.” You have to be able to prove “I did not get the job because I am Pagan.” Correlation does not imply causation.

Outing yourself on a resume is a personal choice that must be carefully considered. Many factors go into making that decision. Location will factor into it, for example.  II would never do so in my home town in North Carolina, but I didn’t think twice when presented with the same choice in western Washington.

Another factor might be the type of company to which you’re applying. There are situations when companies design products for churches, and, while they may not specifically be a religious, their roots may run deep with a specific religion.

But this raises yet another question. If do you have the choice, do you want to have to hide who you are to be able to work at that company?

In the end, Rose Quartz, had this to say about her own decision to stay “out of the broom closet” on her resume, “Ultimately, I am proud of what I have accomplished at Mills – every single part of it – and refuse to be any less than I am, even if that meant taking the risk of keeping that club name on my resume.”