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I make my money in software development, but my real love is my "calling" as an ordained clergyman. As such, my proper title is "Reverend," and thus the top line of my resume is "Rev. Michael Hollinger." even when I apply for software positions, I use that title, even though it is rarely relevant to the position.

I want to differentiate myself from the average coder -- who, per the stereotype, is not the person you want to put in front of a customer. Additionally, there are certain types of environments that I frankly just prefer to avoid.

That said, I have received unsolicited advice from people looking at my resume and online profiles. They suggesting that I should not include my title. Indeed, one recruiter even called it offensive.

Given that history, is it inappropriate to use my title in my name?

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    In the U.S., employers are generally forbidden to ask candidates about their religious affiliation in an interview. So from an HR point of view I think including this might be asking for trouble. (You are allowed to volunteer this information, but your interviewers must tread vveerryy lightly in discussing it if you do so.) – hairboat Apr 11 '12 at 3:10
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    I would have to think that recruiter inadvertently said more about himself than about you with such a remark... – Shog9 Apr 11 '12 at 4:18
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    I think it is too "in your face", something, which I would expect to see in the "extracurricular" section of the resume. I see a possibility that recruiters would sort out the resume to avoid possible problems later in the process. – Owe Jessen Apr 12 '12 at 9:57
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    Religion, marriage, gender, and ethnicity are all taboo topics in the US. I've heard that some companies will simply reject (internally) resumes that have that type of information on it, just to avoid any appearance that you were favored because of X. – Wayne Werner Apr 26 '12 at 16:50
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    The right answer here is: Would you put your race, color, sex, national origin, age and disability/genetic information at the top of the resume? If not, then I'd say leave "reverend" off as well. – NotMe Mar 31 '14 at 17:38

10 Answers 10

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I think you need to refocus on what you are trying to accomplish with a resume in the first place. A resume is a brochure with the sole purpose of selling the employer on the idea that you are worth interviewing. It is not an autobiography.

That said, your question can be answered simply in terms of whether it is helping or hurting your goal of getting called for an interview. It is irrelevant whether you think it demonstrates some positive quality the employer should value. What is relevant is whether it creates a positive image in the minds of the person reading it that must make a decision about whether to pull you in for that interview.

That said, I can see how it would make some HR people nervous because religion is one area that employers are prohibited from discriminating on. For the same reason that employers often prefer not to have photos attached to resumes. That is, it provides evidence that the hiring manager knew that you were a member of a protected class of candidate and if you are not hired it potentially leaves them vulnerable to hiring discrimination lawsuits.

Most managers are trained not to ask about marital status, religion, age, or other things that are commonly the basis of discrimination lawsuits so it may make them uncomfortable that you have forced the information on them and exposed them to potential liability.

Another concern is that hiring managers are looking not only for people that could do the job, but also a "culture" fit for their team. They want someone that the rest of the team will accept and work together well with. Whether it is fair or not, some managers may discriminate against you for your commitment to your religion. For example, if the a programming team is perceived as "wild and wooly" they might decide (illegally) that you wouldn't fit in with that group because of your piety. Whether it is fair or not, it probably has more potential to hurt your candidacy than help it.

On the whole my advice would mirror that which you have already received. If it isn't relevant to the job, and you aren't positive it is a selling point, leave it off.

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    Re: "culture" - the "Rev" title can act as a useful filter if the OP doesn't want to be considered for "wild and wooly" teams, which sounds like it may be the case. – weronika Apr 11 '12 at 6:08
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    +1 on culture. The vast majority of the last (outstanding) team I worked on were atheists, and that topic would come up from time to time, usually to bash on the embarrassing nonsense our state legislature (Oklahoma) had been passing. Hiring an ordained reverend would scare the hell out of us (pun unintended) – Adam Rackis Apr 12 '12 at 15:43
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    illegal but done widely. Think about unseen disabilities. Would you every mention them up front... for a job that you're competing for... – Michael Durrant Apr 21 '12 at 16:29
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    I'lll save you the lookup "Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, plaintiffs may sue employers who discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, or national origin. Employers who intentionally discriminate are obvious candidates for a lawsuit, but the courts also allow plaintiffs to prove liability if the employer has treated classes of people differently using apparently neutral employment policies." – JohnFx Apr 26 '12 at 22:57
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    It makes it 0 steps harder to fire you if they have good cause. If if it was harder, I doubt most employees think that way, and if they make decisions on that basis they are breaking the law. – JohnFx Apr 6 '14 at 19:17
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If it's an official title (like "Sir" if you were a Knight, or "Doctor" if you had a doctorate degree, conferred upon you by another organization), I don't think it's inappropriate. Unusual, but not inappropriate. However, I don't think it helps you in the slightest in terms of getting a software job, unless your connection to the divine is going to somehow produce better code, in a way that's recognized by the larger software community. I'm not aware of any such connection, myself, for or against better code.

As far as it being offensive, I don't think it's offensive at all (people should get over themselves) since you're not saying something about the company, you're saying something about yourself, so I think you're fine there. If instead you were making a direct statement about other people on your resume (for example, "Hi, my name is Jeff, and I absolutely will not work at a place who employs people named George, or Alice.") that would be both potentially offensive and inappropriate, though strictly speaking, covered by free speech.

As far as its affect on keeping you from getting offers from employers that might be offended by you being a reverend, well it does seem strange for people to care one way or the other, but I suppose it might hurt your chances in places that care about such things. That sounds like a personal choice.

24

The resume is supposed tell the recruiter whether your skills match that of the position. While you may have some public speaking experience (from sermons, etc.), if it doesn't have anything to do with position, don't include it on your resume. What your passions are outside of work affect you as a person, not directly as a coder. It is more appropriate to discuss what your passions/hobbies/interests are in the interview itself (where the objective is to get to know you on a deeper level), not the resume.

Just so you know, this is coming from a person, like yourself, who likes to preach religion on the side. There is an assumption being made (stereotype) that a "Reverend" is someone who is pious and has integrity. As you may know, that may not necessarily be the case with all preachers (you know of the good ones, not everyone else, though), so a recruiter would be careful not to make that assumption as well. So the title isn't really helping you in that regard. And that's one facet of the issue.

The fact is that it raises question marks in the recruiter's head:

  • Is this going to be someone who's overbearing about their religion?
  • Will they engage in debates about religion and try to proselytize people in the office?
  • Did they apply for the right position? (Remember this is the first thing they're seeing on the resume)
  • Are they gonna leave this day job shortly so they can pursue their real love?

As for avoiding certain environments, it's your job to interview the culture/environment itself and make the decision yourself. Don't let someone else use the title and make the choice for you, or worse (like others mentioned), use it as something to discriminate against you with.

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    The proselytizing is important. I have no idea what the people who work for me believe. To me that is completely meaningless in their ability to perform their job. However, I don't want people to feel uncomfortable if one of them is proselytizing in the office which I would think a Reverend is supposed to be doing full time... – NotMe Mar 31 '14 at 16:28
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the top line of my resume is "Rev. Michael Hollinger."

I agree with other posters that this is not a desirable thing to put right at the top of your resume. It will get you passed over for positions for which you would otherwise be considered.

but my real love is my "weekend job" as an ordained clergyman

I've got a stack of resumes in front of me right now.

Here's a fellow with an 'additional' section that list "Team Captain, Podunk Marathon" and "Secretary, Irish Music Society".

Here's another guy with a 'Community Support and Interests" section. He does Yoga and rides a bike 50+ miles a week. He's a Deacon in his church.

Here's a candidate with an 'Additional' section that lists 'Team Captain, Podunk United Rugby Club'.

I see 'additional' sections all the time, and I like them. It gives me a little more of a picture of the whole person. As a resume reviewer it's all well and good to screen resumes looking for that candidate who has 15 years of Ruby on Rails and five years of iOS 5 experience. But it's still interesting to see just a glimpse of who the person really is.

Just a bit of 'additional' gives your resume a hook. 'Let's see, I remember, there was an F# guy who was President of his chess club".

In your case, your religious activities are a very important part of who you are. You don't want to be hired at a place who would find this part of you distracting (and yes, it's not legal in most places for the employer to consider your religion, and we hope everyone follows this principle.)

So add your title and part time position as 'Community Service' at the bottom of your resume. Don't make a big deal about it, but it will be best for both you and your potential employers for this activity to be disclosed.

10

Employment law in most modern countries forbids discrimination based on religion.

With that being said, all human beings discriminate on prejudices concious or sub-concious.

Somebody I used to know was being called in for an interview in a department I was not part of. I was working in a swing space in that area one day and overheard the interviewer mention his name about calling him in to schedule an interview. Right as he picked up the phone I just mentioned casually that I used to work with him and that he was a nice guy. He asked me what I thought about him, I said he was a brilliant guy, a little eccentric and that I first met him at a political rally.

His eyes lit up and the only thing he asked me was, "What rally was it?" I told him that I would rather not say. He then got indignant and said, "Just tell me...". Reluctantly I told him, basically exposing his and my political affiliation. He then looked at me in disgust and told me, "Thank you that was helpful" and then hung up the phone and started looking at the next resume.

The bottom line is that you may be proud of your title, but it is just not a good idea. By doing this you are breaking the cardinal rule of "Never Discuss Religion or Politics at Work". You are exposing something about yourself that a hardcore Athiest may look upon and subconciously judge you.

It is a bad idea, don't do it.

5

With due respect to the other answerers, I'm going to offer an alternative solution.

Obviously, one problem with putting a religious title on your resume is that you may be discriminated against, whether consciously or sub-consciously. You may also make HR or hiring managers uncomfortable.

However, you indicate that your real love is for your weekend job as a clergyman, and I may suppose that it is an important part of your identity. I see a very positive effect from putting your title on your resume: you help ensure a good fit between you and your team, which will be a good thing in the long run. There is some upside to being upfront here.

Instead, do this: Put your religious title on your resume if you feel strongly about it and you can "afford it". In other words -- don't be stupid and think that you won't be losing some job opportunities due to the title, but if you don't think the loss will be too great, put it. This approach also applies to someone who has an "alternative" lifestyle and believes strongly in it as part of his or her identity.

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    I've found that the interview is a better place for this -- get in the door first. I had an interview where they talked about flex time for holidays, I said "so if I want to work Christmas and take off some other day that's ok?" and they said yes, and then later I asked if that flexibility extended to hours ("if I wanted to leave early on a Friday and worked extra earlier...?"). The interviewer asked "are you shomer?" (observant Jew) -- HR would not have approved -- and I asked if that would be a problem. He said of course not and I got the job (and never had problems with flex time). – Monica Cellio Apr 24 '12 at 18:30
  • I would give similar advice to someone, for example, who has an "alternative" lifestyle and believes strongly in it as part of his or her identity. Your answer would be just as wrong for them. Does it relate to your job as a programmer that you're gay or lesbian in real life? If not, then don't put it on the resume. Same goes if you're a reverend or mullah or rabbi. – Click Upvote Apr 26 '12 at 12:39
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    @MonicaCellio - Actually I do not want to interview with companies that are going to have a conflict with my lifestyle choices. In this case an interview that might result in an offer at a company that is not going to be tolerant to my expressions of my faith gains me nothing and has an associated cost. If I can do something like this to limit those problems then I am all for it. That said I suspect that this would be more limiting than I would be comfortable with but I am not the OP. I think this answer is great. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 31 '14 at 16:54
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    @Chad the trick is that there's such a wide range of expression of one's faith. Expression that might include evangelizing coworkers, for example, would be a problem while expression through kind, ethical behavior wouldn't be. I prefer to have people meet me before they start making assumptions about my behavior, religious practices, etc. If it's going to be a problem I'm likely to find out in the interview (if not before). – Monica Cellio Mar 31 '14 at 17:21
  • @MonicaCellio - I do too... but if you want me to write VB I would rather we never meet :p I have my own criteria for what makes a job I don't want. If this is important to the OP then I think it is reasonable to put it on the resume. Just realize it is going to severely limit the options. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 31 '14 at 17:27
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Know that putting such a title on your resume will force many companies to throw your resume away, for the same reason that they are prohibited from even considering resumes with photos attached: potential exposure to discrimination lawsuit. I know personally of companies that have policies like these in place in their hiring.

Also, you will get discriminated against by people with a negative attitude to your faith, but I'm guessing that bothers you less.

On a personal note: I would be pretty confused by a resume with a title like that, as it has no bearing on the position you are applying for. I would ask myself if this person was really applying for the right job. Based on that, I would not find it positive.

  • Wouldn't that increase rather than decrease liability? – Anon Apr 27 '12 at 16:54
  • @Casebash: no, the policy isn't against a particular group, other than the group of people that put extraneous information on their resume, and that isn't a protected class. And since the resume gets ignored, there's no feedback that lets the applicant know why it was rejected. – jmoreno Mar 31 '14 at 15:23
  • @jmoreno: I am really skeptical of your answer – Anon Apr 1 '14 at 2:56
  • @Casebash: quoting the eeoc.gov site "any other questions, which may indicate the applicant's race, sex, national origin, disability status, age, religion, color or ancestry if answered, should generally be avoided", include that in the rejection letter and say that it's policy to reject resumes that include the information unasked. – jmoreno Apr 1 '14 at 3:32
  • @jmoreno - so an HR dept should reject all applications with a foreign name because it may indicate origin or ancestry and lead to a lawsuit if they didn't hire them? – NobodySpecial Apr 6 '14 at 20:42
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When I was first putting out my resume towards job openings, I listed my personal interests on the second page at the bottom, so that recruiters could get a sense of who I was and what type of interests I have. I was especially careful to list my various gaming interests, thinking it would give me an edge in advertising myself as a programmer.

I got much better results when I didn't include this personal information.


Personal information about your life, be it your religion, your marital status, your hobbies, or anything else, do not help you on a resume. What recruiters and employers are looking for is the qualifications for the job you're applying for - any additional information is at best a distraction, and at worst will make hiring you more difficult for HR.

I understand that you are proud of your position as a reverend, and there's nothing wrong with being one, practicing it while you work a day job, or advertising it wherever you like - but on a resume, that type of information isn't necessary. You can include it, but it has no more bearing on your qualifications as a software engineer than my interest in gaming has on my qualifications as a computer programmer.

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The only place where that info can really help you is if you're applying for a job which needs that particular set of skills -- hospital chaplain, for example -- or a clear subset of them. And then you're going to need to substantiate the strength of those skills in the rest of the resume.

Otherwise it's somewhere between irrelevant and distracting.

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The job marketplace is supposed to be free from discrimination on the basis of religion, as per the applicable Civil Rights laws in "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII):

prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;"]

and which states:

it is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including:

  • hiring and firing;

By including "Rev" as your title, you are putting the hiring personnel in an awkward situation. If they hire you, the impression that you may have gotten the offer because someone has the same religious beliefs as you is inescapable. If don't hire you, then the impression that someone may have had it in for you on the basis of your religious beliefs is inescapable. I feel strongly about my non-Christian religion but I wouldn't dream of putting it on my resume because I am worried about someone giving me an extra break because that someone has a preferential opinion of say, Buddhism. I absolutely, positively don't want that extra break let alone to be hired on that basis or on anything that tastes and smells like that basis. On the other hand, if someone makes me an offer based on my qualifications with or without the taint of my irresistible good looks, bring it on ! :)

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    ****comments removed****: I removed the comments because they were turning into personal attacks. Please remember our site's be nice rule and be civil. With that said, I edited in some information from the comments that are helpful in supporting this answer. Hope this helps. – jmort253 Apr 1 '14 at 1:34

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