Part 2 — Is Being Muslim Keeping Me From Getting Job?

Yesterday, I posed a question from one of my readers.  She’s actively looking for a job in the human resource industry, speaks fluent English and Arabic, and is active in her Woman’s Muslim Association.  She wondered if mentioning these small pieces of information might be hurting her job search.

Little did I know that yesterday was the beginning of Ramadan and the timing was perfect for posing this question.  Instead of posting a blog that dispensed advice, I asked my readers to share their thoughts, advice, and opinions on this topic.  Should religious information even leadership experience be contained within your resume?  And more importantly, is being Muslim keeping this job seeker for landing a job?

What I find interesting about controversial posts like this, isn’t the conversation that happens on the blog but the email messages, direct messages from Twitter, and conversations in other places outside of Blogging4Jobs.  Is it because this topic is controversial and persons wish to share their insights anonymously or are other mediums the preferred platform in which to discuss topics like these?

To read the comments from yesterday’s blog from some of the leading HR, Career Coach, and Recruiting experts, please see yesterday’s post.  I’ve copied and pasted my response to the job seeker from her email message below:

Hi “Job Seeker”,
Have you thought about getting involved in your city’s HR group or volunteering for the regional or state HR Conference?  Networking is a lot of work and it’s likely that people are busy not directly discriminating against you.  I think that because you speak Arabic and English this would be an advantage.  You will need to think about how this could help an organization.  Certainly, working in an area that has a high percentage of Arabic speaking employees is where you would certainly have an advantage.
This is a hard one regarding your association Muslim’s Women’s Foundation.  I want to say no, it shouldn’t matter because I know that it shouldn’t, but it might be hurting you in the job search.  When we include religious information even if it’s just affiliations on our resume sometimes people make assumptions.  Remove it from your resume.
My suggestion would be to find a mentor.  Maybe you can find one with a similar background to you to provide you some guidance and serve as a point of reference to help you make contacts.  Your mentor might not need to be in HR.  If he/she has connections outside of your industry that could work to your advantage.  Best of luck to you.

Part 2 — Is Being Muslim Keeping Me From Getting Job?

What do you think?  Am I wrong or am I right?  And what about those who might not be Muslim but are involved in leadership and volunteer roles in agencies that could lead to additional personal information being divulged by the candidate?  For example, you volunteer at the local women’s shelter because you are a domestic abuse survivor or are a community leader advocating finding a cure for cancer?
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Jessica Miller-Merrell

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

Comments

  1. AvatarPaul says

    I’m not sure that I agree. Unless she’s getting desperate for work—eager to accept a job she wouldn’t like—I wouldn’t recommend “hiding” her community involvement. I see being involved in a Muslim Women’s Foundation as a sign of progressive person who has cross-cultural experience and is ready for the 21st century. There must be employers out there who would agree.

    What’s worse: Not getting hired because your bigoted would-be-employer knows you’re muslim, or getting hired by a bigoted employer who doesn’t realize you’re muslim, then running into discrimination problems down the road? Might as well save yourself the trouble. No one should have to put up with that.

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Paul,

      I agree with you except if you have to pay your bills, you have to take the right now job instead of the right job. I know of lots of job seekers who are in a situation just like this. I don’t know if it’s the case for this job seeker, but jobs are at a premium and I would remove anything from my resume that might keep me from making the wrong impression. If it’s the choice between losing my house or working at a crummy company to keep that house, I’ll take the job and worry about what’s right later.

      JMM

      • AvatarElle says

        For the Muslim though, she should be putting her iman (faith) first and all else second. Putting her faith on the backburner for the sake of money will eventually hurt her.

  2. AvatarLanie says

    I look at it this way – in order to avoid and put employers in a tough EEO spot under the “religion issue” – even if she had “Baptist Women’s Foundation” I would recommend she remove any religious affiliation. You never know… the hiring manager could be an atheist or devout in some other faith. It’s not fair necessarily but recruiters tend to stay away from resumes that identify any candidates under Federally protected classes, etc.

    I think this should apply to political affiliations as well.

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Lanie,

      Or maybe you leave all the personal information that should be protected on your resume with the sole purpose of filing a claim with the EEO. I know people who have done things like this. It’s wrong but it happens. I just want an employee who will do the job and do it well. I don’t care about their religious affiliation but some companies and managers do. This might be the hard way to learn a lesson like this.

      Thanks for your comment.

      JMM

  3. AvatarMuslim-American Me says

    I’ve been unemployed for almost a year. When I accepted Islam almost a year ago, I had a job. I was laid off due to slow business, which was the absolute truth. They didn’t lie to me because I started wearing my hijab (headscarf) to work. I was Customer Service for a brand new company, and getting an average of one call per day. It cost too much to have me sit there doing nothing. I think the poor guys ended up going out of business.

    During my time of unemployment, I’ve been on an average of about two interviews per month, after sending out hundreds of resumes. My name isn’t even remotely Islamic, it’s Polish. I have an Associates Degree in Business Management and over twenty years of business experience. There have been some weeks where I’ve been on five interviews in one week, and some weeks none at all. In the past, if I was out of work and went on five interviews in one week, I’d get a job offer out of one of them, or maybe even two. The reoccurring theme now is: people are impressed with my resume, my writing skills, and my phone presence, if they speak to me, but when I walk into their office, there have been instances where I’ve seen smiles disappear and jaws drop, in the blink of an eye.

    None of my interviewers have been foolish enough to mention my being Muslim, at all. Most interviewers in the Customer Service/Inside Sales industry, as opposed to Retail Sales, are aware that you’re asking for trouble if you discuss things like religion, age, and marital status. There was one Malaysian woman who did ask me when Ramadan was because she didn’t want to go back home while they were fasting, but I don’t think she didn’t hire because I was Muslim. In her case, it was more like I didn’t speak enough Spanish for a company in Southern California.

    I’ve practically had to force some people to interview me, though, when they’ve tried to brush me off, without an interview after they called me to come in for one. All they’ll say is something like, “I’m just collecting resumes right now…” or “I’m interviewing all this week, thank you for coming in.” I start talking to them, anyway, and start asking them questions about the job. I totally ignore the fact that they’re trying to get rid of me and I make them give me at least five minutes of their time, considering the time I took to get there.

    I always send a professionally worded e-mail or letter thanking them for the interview and reiterating what was discussed. I even sent the Malaysian woman a listing of Muslim holidays for the next two years, for her convenience, and I specified that I would not need to take any time off from work for religious purposes.

    It’s a new year; I’ve had two interviews this week and I’ve got two scheduled for next week, so things will get better…InshaAllah (God Willing.)

    • AvatarElle says

      Masha’Allah, I am about to go through the exact same trouble that you are going through, now. Business is very slow where I work. I haven’t started wearing my hijab to work yet but I feel the need to for my faith. However, I am worried I will lose my job and that finding a new one will be very difficult. Insha’Allah some employer will respect me and I’ll be able to show people how good Islam is, and how it doesn’t make me any different from the next American. If I may ask, what area of the country do you live in? Might it be your location?

      May Allah guide us all, insha’Allah it will get better for you.

      Salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah.

      • AvatarMuslim-American Me says

        Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh, Sister Elle…

        I live in Southern California, in Los Angeles County. I’ve been Muslim for one year now, Alhamdulillah. I’m very strong in my Deen now and I won’t take my hijab off for anybody, not even for a job interview. I try as hard as I can to make people see that I’m still the same person, with the same abilities, no matter how I dress. In fact, being a Muslim makes me more desirable as an employee. I won’t call in sick the day after the Super Bowl because I got too drunk the night before…lol…

        This whole situation has taught me patience and made me stronger. I rely on Allah (swt) alone, as everything comes from Him.

        • Avataribrahim says

          your situation is seriously very similar to mine, please BE CAREFUL. I fully understand your passion for Islam and the inner strength you feel in having faith. I was there. But, I would like to advice you by saying, Protect your spirit. This is a non muslim country and there is a very very serious backlash against muslims and Islam since 9/11. There is an overwhelming anti muslim sentiment in the US today and people have learned to hide it. They have learned to be very crafty in their discrimination against muslims. The best way I can describe it is like this: you are in the middle of a tsunami and you’re trying to ride it out on a surfboard. eventually you will tire out and get overwhelmed. Protect your spirit.

          • AvatarMuslim-American Me says

            You think you understand my situation, but you don’t. I accepted Islam a little over a year ago, and studied for three years before that, so I knew what adjustments I would need to make in my life. I know enough to not apply for jobs in the banking or insurance industries anymore. I would never accept a job that involved anything that was not pleasing to Allah (swt). I do everything I possibly can to live in the right way, but that doesn’t change my intelligence level or make me “unemployable”. I’m still the same person I was before I was a Muslim, only better.

            I know what “they’re” like. I know how “they” think. I used to be one of “them”, not long ago. This is my country, too. I was born here and my father fought in WWII to protect my freedom to do exactly what I’m doing now. I’m not doing anything illegal by practicing my Deen, but “they” are acting illegally if “they” discriminate against me, whether it be for religion, age or anything else that’s Federally protected. I’m at a point in my life where “they” could easily discriminate against me for age, but my hijab covers my gray hair, and I’ve been told I look like I’m in my 30’s. I’m an educated woman who will not tolerate discrimination in any form.

            My father worked building the World Trade Center. You’re talking to the wrong person about 9/11. I’m one of the thousands, if not millions, of people who have accepted Islam, in spite of 9/11. Surfboard in a tsunami? Your analogy was poetic, and like the Prophet Muhammad (saw), I have no patience for poets. It’s negative Muslims like you, who keep using 9/11 as an excuse, that are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

            Practice what you preach, Brother. Guard your Deen, and stop discouraging people who have their act together. Allah (swt) has got my back…Alhamdulillah!!!!!

          • AvatarIbrahim says

            @muslim american me: you are going to have a very difficult time and an uphill battle with the attitude you display. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and your attitude will not fly. I offered you friendly advice and you responded with back handedness. Nobody is discouraging anyone of anything, but the fact is that you have to put a roof over your head and food on the table. And, if you have children you have to feed them. Nobody will do it for you and food will not fall from the sky. As the saying goes, When in Rome do as the Romans. You refuse to apply for jobs at banks. Well, you are simply limiting yourself. You sound more like someone who was fishing in order to preach. Your attitude will not take you far in the job market and from your response, no one, no one will want to risk hiring someone like you. You are a potential lawsuit waiting to happen and no business wants to risk that headache. And, I don’t blame them.

  4. AvatarCandace says

    Is removing anything that sounds Muslim from your resume necessary to get a job, isn’t this the same as people changing their names to avoid discrimination? I am Muslim and have faced a lot of overt discrimination, I would tell her if she feels that she is being discriminated against she should file an EEOC complaint.

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