When I’m writing for clients and come across an affiliation or any reference to religion, I always have to pause and ask myself, “What do I do with this?” For the most part, it is unadvisable to include this type of information on a résumé because of your potential reader’s view or bias. There’s no way to know how a hiring manager or decision-maker will react to a religious affiliation – it could be something that you have in common, but it could also prove detrimental to getting a call. You may be asking yourself, “Well, what’s the big deal?” And although the religious affiliation is a part of your identity, it’s also important to remember that a résumé serves as a brief introduction. Ultimately, this type of information is not necessarily a have-to-know from the beginning – the same as age, race, sexuality, and political affiliation.
However, I have also come across instances where this information is unavoidable. In one instance, I had a client who specialized in facilities management and it just happened to be that three out of the four places he worked for were large churches. Given his line of work, I had no choice and actually took the opportunity to position him as someone with great experience in facilities management with large organizations. Although I included the name of the churches within the work history section, I broadened it out when writing out his accomplishments for the top section, focusing more on the facility size and his contributions rather than the fact it was a church. In other words, his transferrable skills.
Zoning in on transferrable skills is critical for situations such as this as well as situations where you are trying to change industry or are just graduating from college. It’s possible that students may have volunteer experience with churches or other religious organizations. Since work history is limited, you may have to take advantage of those types of experiences and rework typically sensitive information in a way that makes it useful for what you are interested in doing. Keep in mind that you are highlighting your contributions and not the organization. Some transferrable skills include leadership, training, communication, human relations, research, problem resolution, project/event coordination, and technical efficiency. As I always tell clients that are transitioning into a new field – if you’ve had these achievements with one company, you can do the same or better for any other company.
Take a look at your experiences. How can your focus on your transferrable skills?