Is Being Muslim Keeping Me From Getting a Job?

Is Being Muslim Keeping Me From Getting a Job?

Sometimes readers send me questions looking for career advice or thoughts on a particular topic.  A couple weeks ago, I received one email that stopped me in my tracks.  I’m posting the question for you, my readers to answer.  On Tuesday, (tomorrow) I’ll post my answer to her, but for now, I look forward to your responses on religion, being Muslim, and if it’s hurting this job seeker’s job search.  

Hello Jessica,

As a job seeker I know the number one strategy for getting a job is networking and its all about who you know. I’m involved with my college SHRM and also go to a few networking events and luncheons around my state. Networking is what landed me an Employee and Labor Relations internship position last fall. I’ve been applying for positions this summer that one I was referred to by a professor and two by a college SHRM officer. I basically got the run around on one of them and no replies back on the other two.

I originally had on my resume that I was bilingual knowing Arabic and English and also that I’m a member of my state Muslim Women’s Foundation, I’ve been thinking lately maybe I’m not getting replies back because of the upraising in the middle east? Do you think I should remove everything that connects me with the middle east when job searching? Please give me your thought on this. Thank you.

What do you think?  Is a job seeker listing her affiliation and position with the Muslim Women’s Foundation on her resume, hurting her job search?  Should it matter?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. Julie Walraven says

    That was exactly the question a recent client asked me. He had been told to change his name but he wasn’t willing to let go of who he was. We decided to showcase his accomplishments, infuse some of the many quotes he had from no-Muslim customers while he was in the advertising industry. He was re-employed with a better position and better company and he also negotiated his salary and benefits – within a month of being unemployed.

    We didn’t remove his identity but we didn’t overemphasize his affiliations. He was hired because the company valued diversity. I think it depends on the industry and the person. He was located in the Midwest which could have made it tougher to be re-employed but his talent and qualifications shined through on the resume.

  2. Lyn Hoyt says

    I feel most businesses who truly value diversity will see your skills and talent, not your religion. Religion will not play factor unless it is part of their work-place culture. (We see that a lot in Nashville within the Christian publishing and music biz.) As a rule though, I advise to move away from any mention of religious affiliation if private worship practices do not play a part in job skill. It really goes back to the basics of resume building and stripping out any personal information. Yes, being married and having kids is a part of who I am but, it is not the interviewer’s business. Kinda like when selling a house you remove all personal character so the buyer sees the home’s potential through their filter. I would remove it.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Thanks for the comment Lyn.

      So if we leave it off our resume, how exactly, do we leave it off of our social media profiles like Facebook? Companies are becoming more savvy with these. I, myself have pictures of my daughter posted everywhere. Should these things really be separate? I realize that religion is a protected class as is being a woman. Where should companies and job seekers effectively draw the line?


  3. Rob says

    Unfortunately, this is still a major issue in this country. There are a lot of companies that claim they value diversity and very few in my experience who truly practice it. I have worked for two Fortune 500 companies as well as a couple of smaller organizations. All talked about diversity and claimed it as a value, but none did anything about it. Dig deeper and factor in any bias the person screening resumes may have and it can become a bigger issue than you think.

    I would remove any religious references (it is not relevant) from the resume and highlight what he/she can bring to the table.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Thanks Rob,

      Many people don’t even realize that they are screening for certain things when interviewing for positions. I would be rich if I got a dollar for every time someone told me, “Is he/she married?” And I would ask, how does this make a difference?


  4. Lyn Hoyt says

    I do agree Jessica. No where to hide when social media profiles are a layer of investigation. I guess I think a resume should be neutral ground. Thanks. Good stuff!

  5. ibrahim says

    if a person has a muslim name, like myself, you will find yourself getting no responses to your resume submissions about 99% of the time. Unfortunately, this is a hard truth in America post 9/11. All muslims have been painted with a wide brush. I would recommend to this person to NOT mention anything to do with arabic or Islamic organizations on a resume. You will increase your chance of getting callbacks, but in the end if a woman is wearing hijab potential employers will see this when she goes to the interview.
    It is a very serious matter in general, though people like to pretend that discrimination is not happening in the US. A friend of mine went to get a replacement social security card was told he was placed on a security check list and that it is standard practice now for anyone with a muslim name.
    Potential employers don’t want to deal with this type of problem, generally. When people see muslim or hear “Islam they immediately think “trouble”. best to keep all religious info off the radar.



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