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VOL. 40 | NO. 31 | Friday, July 29, 2016

You might want to leave religion out of your job interview

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A reader contacted me today with an important question: When is it appropriate to wear clothing, jewelry, or other items associated with her religion to an interview or to work.

Her concern was about being judged – fairly or unfairly – in the workplace for her religious affiliation.

This is, as you can imagine, a very tricky and personal question.

I will share my thoughts, but at the end of the day it’s a very individual choice.

I often think of a job interview much like a dinner party. And at a dinner party, you meet many new people who may have different viewpoints than you.

Conversations tend to be high-level and centered on pleasant topics such as the weather. Etiquette experts say that the potentially taboo topics to avoid include politics, religion and money.

These hold true in an interview, as well.

Unfortunately, when it comes to getting hired, studies show managers aren’t free of biases, and those biases can influence who’s landing the job offer.

Details as minor as hair and makeup can influence the interviewer’s impression of a candidate. Even a candidate’s height can make a difference.

Religion, however, is more personal, and much more important than hair, makeup or height. It can be a large part of one’s identity.

In today’s climate, sharing your religious viewpoints with others can cause them to judge you, either positively or negatively.

When they judge you negatively, it can hurt your chances of getting hired.

A great organization to share your religious views with is one with a perspective that aligns well to yours. Some private universities, non-profits and corporations, for example, have a foundation that is based on specific beliefs.

A vast majority of organizations are not based upon these views. Their employees are made up of people from around the U.S. and the world, who have a host of different affiliations.

When interviewing at an organization like this, it’s important to be aware of the choice you decide to make.

If you want to minimize the likelihood that someone will unfairly judge you, think of all of the places you might send out cues to others about your views.

Check the volunteer opportunities on your resume. Look at the organizations you follow on LinkedIn. Check your Facebook privacy settings.

And, consider the pieces of your interview outfit that may signal an interviewer.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the column, this is a personal choice. I’m not here to influence you in one direction or another, or to discourage you from holding true to your beliefs.

But, it is wise to consider the positive and negative implications of your decision – and to make it consciously based upon what you feel most comfortable with.

After you’ve landed a job, you have a new choice to make – whether or not you want to share your views with your new coworkers. While it’s important to be yourself, remember that your story is one to be earned over time through trust.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

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