Don't Put Your Religion on Your Job Resume, Study Suggests

Before applying for a job, Americans may want to consider a recent study that found that those who indicated their religion on a resume were less likely to get a call back.

The study, "Religious Affiliation and Hiring Discrimination in the American South: A Field Experiment," revealed that applicants who expressed a religious identity, including Muslim, atheist and Christian, were 26 percent less likely to receive a response from employers.

Even those who identified with a fictitious religion faced anti-religious bias.

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Muslims, pagans and atheists suffered higher levels of discrimination while evangelical Christians encountered less discrimination. Jews were the favored religious group.

"On balance, the results show strong evidence of discriminatory treatment by employers," researchers Michael Wallace, Bradley R. E. Wright and Allen Hyde state in their study, published in Social Currents.

The researchers had hypothesized that following secularization (which they defined as the declining influence of religion in everyday life and its disappearance from the public sphere), overt statements of religious identity or beliefs on resumes would result in fewer responses from employers; and they were right.

Resumes that mentioned any religious identity received 29 percent fewer e-mails and 33 percent fewer phone calls than those with no religious identity.

The researchers conducted their field experiment in Southern United States, where they saw "relative religious homogeneity, the dominance of evangelicalism, and high levels of religiosity."

They submitted 3,200 resumes in response to 800 job ads found on a website. Four applications with varying biographical information but comparable job qualifications were sent to each job posting. Religions that were randomly assigned to each resume included Muslim, Catholic, atheist, evangelical Christian, Jewish, pagan and the fictitious "Wallonian." They also submitted resumes that had no religious identification (the control group).

Religious affiliation was indicated on the resumes by listing membership in a university campus religious organization.

The control group received a phone call or e-mail 18.2 percent of the time; Jewish applicants received responses 16.5 percent of the time; followed by evangelicals (15.8 percent); pagans (13.3 percent); Wallonians (13 percent); Catholics (13 percent); atheists (12 percent); and Muslims (10.7 percent).

"Only Jews escaped totally unscathed as we found no statistically significant evidence of hiring discrimination against this group across all eight indicators in this study," the researchers wrote. "Not only did Jewish applicants not face discrimination but they also actually may have received preferential treatment by some employers" such as an early, exclusive or solo response from employers.

As cited by the study, religious-based complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission increased from 1,388 in 1992 to 3,790 in 2010.

The study suggests that "one should not publicly display" one's religious or non-religious preferences.

"In the context of the workplace, it is possible that employers would view overt religious expression of any kind as potentially offensive to coworkers, clients, or customers or disruptive to the workplace," the researchers wrote. "Thus, from the perspective of secularization theory, even atheists are penalized."

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