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  • Including Religion on a Resume

    February 19, 2018 | By NACE Staff

    Student Attitudes
    A young professional decides whether or not to include religion on his resume.

    TAGS: counseling, coaching, student attitudes, nace insights, students

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    What advice would you offer to a student who wants to include religious information on his or her resume? One NACE member turned to her colleagues in the NACE Community for their perspectives on this situation.  

    The member—an undergraduate career coach—explains that she discussed with the student the potential consequences of her including “bringing others closer to God” under the “leadership” heading on her resume. The career coach advised the student not to refer to a religious affiliation too much. Doing so, the coach noted, might hurt the student’s chances of getting an interview.

    A community college work force development director agrees, recommending that students refrain from offering their opinions on politics, religion, race, orientation, and other potentially hot topics on their resumes. Doing so might give hiring managers a reason to not give students an interview.

    A student who is actively involved in a religious organization or club may be able to use experiences within the club, such as writing or research, to signal examples of ability, says a NACE business affiliate who works with interns. However, the emphasis should be on the learned skills rather than on the religion.

    A career services director at a southern university notes that she sees more faith-oriented activities at her school than she did when she worked at a Jesuit school. She says she talks to students about potential bias or EEOC concerns an employer might have upon seeing religious beliefs on a resume. She says, “if [students] feel strongly about keeping it on there, we discuss ways to focus on the transferable skills, not the actual religious duties.”

    She recalled working with a student who founded and was a charter member of a religious group, and wanted to work on Wall Street. The student decided that if an employer was prejudiced about his faith, he would rather know up front, as the student was very open about his faith. 

    “We discussed the strategies/value of including this role on his resume,” the career counselor said. “In the end, we decided the demonstration of initiative, leadership, and planning with the organization were critical to his application of transferable skills.”

    Networking and wordsmithing landed the student at his goal. It’s important to note that changing the language used on a resume doesn’t mean the student is abandoning his or her beliefs, advises another career services practitioner at a religiously affiliated university.

    At yet another university where faith is part of the school culture, the director of career development explains that a resume is a business document that encapsulates experience and qualifications that are relevant to the student’s target occupation. As an example, he says, “I would leave out skiing experience if it has no connection to the job. Relevance dictates what you include on a resume.”

    What advice would you give to a student who wants to include a religious reference on his or her resume? Join the conversation in the NACE Community.

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