According to Nielson’s 2014 African-American consumer report, 58 percent of African-American women attend religious services regularly. And 31 percent of African-American women are more likely than the general market to pray daily. Religion and the church play a central role in the lives of Black women.
In addition to prayer and Sunday service, there are some who dedicate even more time, perhaps volunteering or joining a club to help the church community. If you’re also on the job hunt, you’ve probably come across a section on the application that asks for hobbies and activities outside of the workplace.
Can faith-based work experience be transferred into a professional setting? Moreover, do religious affiliations belong on a résumé?
Sharron Banks, Senior Vice President of human resources and operations of Flowers Communications Group, a multicultural agency located in Chicago, thinks so.
“Having it on your résumé, it shows your character… It kind of gives just a peek into who that person really is outside of their work experience,” said Banks. “Other skills, like event planning, are a huge one… [A]ll those skills are transferable to the business environment as well.”
From a recruiter’s point of view, Banks points out that it’s illegal to discriminate against religion. So, while the applicant’s religious-affiliated work experience may be listed on their résumé, hiring managers are not allowed to use it in their hiring practices. Taken a step further, Title VII of the U.S. Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is responsible for “enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job applicants or an employee” prohibits the practice of discrimination against individuals because of their race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.
Still, there are those who recommend that job seekers omit too many references to their religious activity on their CV. A 2013 Business Insider article, “5 Things to Leave Off Your Résumé,” listed religious affiliations number one because “some companies worry that if they interview but don’t hire you, they might be sued for discrimination.”
Job seekers should always tailor their résumés for the job they’re applying for. Their main objective should be to illustrate to the hiring manager their skills, accomplishments and work experience that is geared for that position – whether that means adding your faith-based experience and affiliations or not.
While you don’t want to make your religious affiliations the most important part of your résumé, Dr. Mercidieu Phillips, founder and CEO of Level Up Partners, a coaching and consulting firm helping companies and churches with strategic planning, leadership and corporate culture development, explains why including skills and experience from your work in religious institutions is fair game.
“The leadership skills you learn at church are transferable because leadership is leadership, whether you practice it in the confines of religious institutions or if you practice it in a corporate setting,” said Dr. Phillips.
So, before you dismiss your faith-based experience or religious affiliations ask yourself a few questions: Will adding the role bring you a step closer to getting the job? Does it highlight my accomplishments and qualifications? If the answer to those questions is “yes,” feel free to include the activities you participate in and how they enhance your professional qualifications on your application. That’s what companies are really most interested in.