Can faith really affect your chances of getting a job?

Luca Baroncini

A new study has found that indicating your religious beliefs on your CV could stop you from getting a job offer.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut sent out over 3,000 fake job applications, each demonstrating similar qualifications, experiences and skills - the only difference was affiliation with religious groups. Most of the CVs indicated affiliation with atheist, Jewish, pagan, Evangelical Christian, Catholic or Muslim groups – although some made reference to 'Wallonian', a made-up faith.

A 'control' group of CVs made no mention of religion at all.

Prospective employers each received four job applications, and researchers then monitored which candidates received the most interest. The results showed that those who had not referenced any affiliation with a faith group were most likely to hear back.

Those with a religious affiliation were in fact found to be 26 per cent less likely to be contacted by a possible employer – with the exception of Jewish candidates, who were shown some "preferential treatment".

"We hypothesised that overt statements of religious identity or beliefs on résumés would lead to fewer responses from employers," the report reads.

"We found strong support for this hypothesis as résumés that mentioned any religious affiliation received 29 per cent fewer e-mails and 33 per cent fewer phone calls than the control group."

Researchers believe that this indicates a "secularisation" trend in the US, which "implies the declining influence of religion in everyday life and its disappearance from the public sphere".

Although the study showed that any religious affiliation affects the chances of employment, some faith groups encountered higher levels of discrimination than others.

"Muslims faced the most consistent and severe discrimination as they received 38 per cent fewer emails and 54 per cent fewer phone calls than the control group and ranked lowest in the employer preference scale," the report notes.

The study was undertaken with employers in southern US states, and follows previous research which looked at work-based discrimination in New England.

A comparison of the two brings up some interesting theories. "Overall, while there is evidence of discrimination in New England, with the exception of Muslims, it is much less pronounced than it is in the South," the report adds.

"This suggests, ironically, that religious discrimination in hiring is most prevalent in regions of the country where religion is most passionately practised."