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Thursday, February 16, 2006
Fact or Faith
There was an interesting article recently in Fortune Small Business about Christian business owners that run their organizations according to Christian principles. While the article was quite interesting, the side bar section on the legalities of mixing business and religion was quite educational on the do’s and don’ts of religion and employment.

Basically, the side bar article stated that religion and work do mix, only religion cannot be a condition of work. The article states “Civil rights legislation bars employers from making any employment decision based on religion, but it covers only firms with 15 or more employees. Smaller companies are free to use religion as a reason to hire, fire or promote an employee – as long as they’re not located in a state whose laws cover smaller businesses.”

As most people know, religion or faith are “off limits” topics in a job interview just as questions concerning marital status, sexual preferences, age, and children are banned by federal law. Many job seekers don’t realize, though, that including information in the resume that alludes to religion could cause the resume to be rejected by employers. Most employers are extremely cautious these days about litigation and put all kinds of safeguards in place to protect themselves from lawsuits. One of those protective actions is to reject resumes that contain any information in them that alludes to these “off limits” topics.

We work with thousands of job seekers every year and I see a lot of self-written resumes that are their own worst enemies. I always try to advise my clients that including certain information might put their candidacy in jeopardy, but I always leave that final decision up to them. For example, I reviewed a resume recently of a man who listed his involvement as an elder in his church. We discussed his choice to include this piece of information and he was adamant that he wanted it left in the document. He felt it added to his leadership qualifications. He also felt strongly that if an employer rejected his candidacy because of it, then that was an employer he would not want to work for anyway. He used it as a filter. We left that piece of information in the document at his request.

The argument this fellow used – that an employer was at fault for rejecting the resume due to the inclusion of information alluding to religion – is set on a false premise. The premise this gentleman had was that rejection was a result of bias against his particular faith. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Rejection of the resume would be based on federal law and a highly litigious society. Sure, some employers might not want a evangelical Christian or Muslim or Buddhist on staff, but for most it doesn’t matter. What matters is whether the employee can do the job.

Religious affiliation information on a resume generally does not support the goal of the resume, thus, providing another reason to eliminate it from the resume. All information included in the resume should in some way support the candidacy of the job seeker. If it doesn’t, it needs to be removed. That is why we generally remove job experience that is older than ten years – it doesn’t support the current candidacy of the job seeker in today’s market. Religious affiliation information generally does nothing to support the job seeker’s position as the best candidate for the job. True, in the example given, the elder position was a leadership position but this bit of experience was totally eclipsed by the job seeker’s employment-related leadership experience. The elder position added no weight to the resume.

Always consider each and every bit of information that goes on the resume for value in achieving your goals. Evaluate value of the information in proportion to the risk of including it. Then make your own call. After all, it’s your job and your life.

November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 /


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