Studies: Showing Religion on Resume Hurts Chances of Being Hired

Studies: Showing Religion on Resume Hurts Chances of Being Hired

Two new studies of the U.S. job market claim that applicants who include religious affiliations on their resumes are less likely to be called back by prospective employers.

A series of experiments conducted in the south and the New England areas by members of Religious Affiliation and Hiring Discrimination found that applications mentioning religion were “26 percent less likely to receive a response from employers.”

“These studies do tend to show there will be factors in resumes that will lead to bias. Religion could well be one of them,” said David Lewin, head of Berkeley Research Group’s Labor and Employment practice and a professor of organizational behavior at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

The experiment conducted in New England consisted of submitting 6,400 resumes to employers that had advertised 1,600 job openings. The job offerings were within a 150-mile radius of Hartford, Connecticut.

“The jobs included positions in customer service, hospitality, media, retail, real estate, shipping and clerical duties,” The Washington Times reported on June 17. The postings only required an emailed resume.

The fake job applicants were presented as young people graduated from college in 2009 who earned a 3.7 or higher grade point average. The religious affiliations were mentioned as part of extra-curricular activities engaged in during college.

The religions mentioned varied.

“We randomly assigned to each resume one of seven experimental conditions,” the authors wrote. The resumes included mentions of atheism, Catholicism, and evangelical Christianity. Jewish, pagan, Muslim, and a made up “Wallonian” faith were also included. A control group with no mention of religion was also part of the study.

Study authors concluded that mentioning religious organizations or activities was “realistic for college graduates because they generally lack extensive work histories and tend to compensate by listing involvement in extracurricular activities and volunteer experiences.”

The New England applications with no mentions of religion experienced an 8.5 percent call back from employers, but those noting religious affiliation saw only a 7.5 percent call back. Oddly, the applications carrying the invented “Wallonian” religion saw an 8.2 percent call back.

In the southern experiment, 18.5 percent of the no-religion applicants received a call back while only 15.7 percent of the religious applicants were contacted.

David Lewin said that the lesson they learned is that “unless you have a good reason to put it on,” don’t put religion on your resume.

A growing trend among advisers for job applicants says that resumes are not the optimal way to seek a job and that networking is a better tool to get hired.

Some even say that a resume can do more to harm your chances than help if an employer even looks at them.

Even Warren Buffett noted back in 2008 that he and his partner Charlier Munger are not much interested in resumes. “Charlie and I are not big fans of resumes. Instead, we focus on brains, passion and integrity,” he wrote in a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

These two new studies may tend to show that resumes can hurt as much as help an applicant.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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