Leave Religion Off Your Resume — Unless You’re Jewish
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Leave Religion Off Your Resume — Unless You’re Jewish

'Chosen people' takes on a new connotation.

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers abuses of power in non-profit and religious settings. She heads up the Investigative Journalism Fund, an initiative to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Religiously affiliated on campus? Recent studies suggest that you should leave it off your resume if you want to get hired–unless you're Jewish, that is.

According to statistics gathered by the Southern Sociological Society, those with a religious mention on their resume got 29 percent fewer email responses and 33 percent fewer phone calls than those with otherwise identical resumes but without religious ties. Similar results were found in New England, where mention of religious ties reduced the likelihood of getting a callback by 24 percent.

Only Jewish applicants "escaped unscathed," researchers found. Among the 3,200 fake applications sent to 800 jobs through a popular employment website, Jewish applicants were more likely than any other religious group to get an early or exclusive response from an employer.

In both regions of the country, Muslim students bore the brunt of discrimination, receiving 38 percent fewer emails and 54 percent fewer phone calls from employers. Atheists and pagans were also unpopular amongst employers, with Catholics and "Wallonians", a religion made-up for the sake of the study, following shortly after.

Despite the apparent tendency to favor Jewish applicants, Jewish students remain wary of listing religious affiliations on their resumes.

Micah Timen, recent graduate of NYU, was president of the Chabad club while an undergraduate. Despite the intensive leadership skills and time commitment the job required, Timen never listed the position on his resume.

“I preferred to keep my affiliations professional and secular only. As Jews, I think were paranoid (myself included), but I just wanted to be extra careful to not be off-putting.”

Daniel Kasdan, recent graduate of Brandeis University, is also discerning about when to identify Jewishly on his resume. However, for Kasdan, the decision to include or exclude a religious position depended more on the job responsibilities than anything else.

“I think it depends on whether your role in the club or group is resume-worthy to begin with,” he said. “For example, I was very active in the Orthodox organization at Brandeis and at one point served as the president. The job entailed leading weekly executive board meetings, acting as a liaison to the student union, running social and educational events, active fundraising with alumni and parents, and navigating the politics of a campus Hillel. That role in particular I put on my resume because it defined my time at Brandeis, and when I went on interviews it helped me tremendously. Non-Jewish interviewers found this stuff fascinating, and these types of interpersonal skills demonstrated to the interviewers that I had potential.”

However, he left “very Jewish heavy” activities, such as leading prayer services and acting at the Shabbat mashgiach in the dining hall, off his resume. “I didn’t think they really added anything to my desirability for potential employers.”

The researchers tested seven different religious categories, including evangelical Christian, atheist, and Roman Catholic. Recent graduate of Trinity University Carlos Anchondo did not hide his Catholic affiliation on his resume.

“I have listed that I was a member of a Catholic Student Group at school and I don't believe it has ever affected my chances of getting a position,” he said.

Though discrimination did noticeably vary between religions, separating between church and state regardless of affiliation might be the best idea.

“We have kind of a schizophrenic attitude toward religion in the U.S.,” University of Connecticut sociology professor Michael Wallace told Religion News Service in a recent interview. “We are a fairly religious country. We acknowledge religious freedom and religious diversity but at the same time, we don’t like it when religion is brought into public places such as the workplace or schools.”

editor@jewishweek.org

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