When I applied for my first teaching job, I decided to leave off any mention of volunteer work I’d done with atheist groups, any leadership positions I held in them, and any scholarships I received from them. I just didn’t know who would look at the application and why give them a reason not to hire me?
At the same time, I knew that if I had volunteered with, say, a church youth group, it would probably boost my chances of getting the job.
Michael Wallace and Bradley Wright, professors at the University of Connecticut, sent out thousands of fake resumes to a variety of employers who posted ads on a website like Monster.com (they didn’t specify). Embedded in those resumes were mentions of the fictional job-seekers’ religious identities — atheist, Catholic, evangelical Christian, Jewish, pagan, Muslim, pagan, “Wallonian” (a fake religion, just for control), or none at all.
What they found was that, yes, it sucks to be an atheist… or a member of any faith group, for that matter:
In general, Muslims, pagans, and atheists suffered the highest levels of discriminatory treatment from employers, a fictitious religious group and Catholics experienced moderate levels, evangelical Christians encountered little, and Jews received no discernible discrimination. We also found evidence suggesting the possibility that Jews received preferential treatment over other religious groups in employer responses.
Atheist wasn’t even the worst thing to be. It’s especially tough to get a response if you’re a Muslim:
What the researchers did not expect, though, was the scope of the apparent bias against Muslim applicants: Muslims received 32 percent fewer emails and 48 percent fewer phone calls than applicants from the control group, far outweighing measurable bias against the other faith groups.
“Just by adding the word ‘Muslim’ to an application, its chances of receiving an employer contact were reduced by between a third and almost half,” Wright said.
In general though, they found that it was bad to even mention your religious beliefs on a resume. Sounds like common sense to me, but there you go:
The results bore that out in the New England study: applicants expressing any religious identification received 19 percent fewer overall contacts than the applicants from the non-religious control group.
The two studies they published focused on different regions — the South and New England. While the trends were similar, there was one notable (and totally predictable) difference:
New Englander are a little more tolerant and they seemed not to care as much about religion. But in the South, the differences, particularly for applicants from minority religions show up more sharply, said Wallace.
The clear takeaway is that you shouldn’t mention your religion on your resume — at least if your faith has nothing to do with the job you’re trying to get. Focus on your tangible skills, not your beliefs about the supernatural. And if all of your accomplishments come from your faith/non-faith-based work, then you better have some luck on your side.
Or be Jewish.