I was heavily involved with a religious group during college (a chapter of a mainstream organization, nothing extremist), ending as president. This involved a lot of planning, organizing and running events, figuring out how to get members more involved, making and requesting budgets, etc. -- general "leadership" stuff. It probably took up 75% of my extracurricular activities during college, and I learned a lot about running a long-term group.

When I graduated I was proud to have it on my resume, religious implications and all. However, I have since had a change of faith and would feel awkward if someone assumed I still held those beliefs.

The problem is that I do not have any other significant leadership experience, just a couple of smaller things where I was not the main person in charge - not nearly the same extent or commitment. So I feel that keeping it on my resume would help me be seen as a potential leader in the workplace, which is my goal. (I currently have trouble with that because of my personality type and lack of experiences to discuss, so people just assume I am not the "leader" type.)

Is is possible to write this experience into a "generic" listing for my resume, and avoid/gloss over the personal backstory? (How?) Or is it best to just leave it off altogether and deal with the empty spot in my resume some other way?

  • 21
    Is it possible to anonymize the organisation and still get the CV benefit? "2013-2015 Senior leadership role with a religious organisation" or similar. – Philip Kendall May 30 '17 at 14:56
  • 28
    @JoeStrazzere Eh, I'm not ashamed of my involvement (it was fun, they were good people, I learned a lot). It just seems misleading / I don't want to deal with "oh, uh, actually I'm not a believer anymore.." in a professional setting, too personal for me. – user812786 May 30 '17 at 15:03
  • 94
    I made myself laugh thinking about a recruiter who would go like "Oh yeah, what if you stop believing in our company too Bob ?" – sh5164 May 30 '17 at 15:12
  • 5
    @Mindwin on the other hand, if you do talk about you beliefs in an interview situation, the interviewer can and will draw conclusions about whether you are also going to talk about them after you are hired, whether or not your co-workers want to listen, and whether or not they can legally order you to stop. (I share an office with practising Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and probably a few more as well, and we all get on fine - but not by trying to convert each other during working hours!) – alephzero May 30 '17 at 19:10
  • 4
    You list things on your resume to show off experience, not your beliefs.. I'm not going to hire you because you believe in doing a good job, I'm hiring you because you demonstrated that you did a good job. – The Muffin Man May 31 '17 at 18:28

I would list it generically. Focus on the leadership for this "campus group" - on what you did and what skills you gained. If you get interviews, and they ask, you can say that you anonymized the group not just because it's a religious group, but also because you've since left the religion and didn't want to imply otherwise on your resume. Then immediately provide a sentence that focuses on all the great leadership, management, marketing or whatever you learned how to do and why you liked doing it so much.

It's possible you will miss out on some interviews because you've listed something semi-anonymous and noncheckable. I don't doubt that you will. The question is, would you miss out on more by including it with its full name? I think you might, if people think you might be proselytizing at work or have prejudices about "those kinds of people." And I think you might also miss out on more if you didn't appear to do that "little bit extra" while you were at college. So overall I think including it without naming it is the way to go.

  • 2
    OP is in the USA and no employer will require you to disclose which religious organization you were affiliated during the interview process. The fact that you obfuscated the organization shows discretion and anything beyond that is your own business. I wouldn't include anything about leaving the religion unless you know your audience. It's not pertinent and will only bring up additional off-topic and inappropriate questions. Other than that this is a great answer. – BZN_DBer May 31 '17 at 19:32
  • 2
    Leadership in campus organizations is often uncheckable anyway. Student clubs are not notable for their record keeping. (Some put records online, some don't). So I would be surprised if anyone tried to verify it, except by asking in an interview. – Lyndon White Jun 1 '17 at 3:46

There's no reason why you shouldn't put the experience on your CV. It's experience, regardless of the field. You don't necessarily have to put anything about the religious angle on it, for example:

Was president for a community group in college, this involved a lot of planning, organizing and running events, figuring out how to get members more involved, making and requesting budgets, etc. -- general "leadership" stuff.

If you are questioned about it in an interview later, than you can talk briefly about the context, but steer the conversation toward the leadership experience in more generic terms

Instead of:

We ran recruitment drives to get more people to come to church services


We ran recruitment drives to get more attendees to events.

  • 37
    This sounds like trying to hide the nature of the group, which probably isn't going to be viewed well. – jpmc26 May 30 '17 at 16:11
  • 57
    Being vague about the nature of the group in the CV sounds alright to me (focusing on skills instead), but I agree that in response to direct question in the interview this would probably raise red flags. – Llewellyn May 30 '17 at 17:52
  • 4
    @jpmc26 I don't think MikePearce is suggesting the OP should hide anything, just downplay it. If the interviewer asks point-blank "what organization was this for?" then of course you answer "Religious Group X." – Steve-O May 31 '17 at 2:15
  • 2
    @jpmc26 - Exposing religious details on your resume may not be viewed well, either. I once received an application with a resume that cited "theological differences" as their reason for leaving a previous job. Needless to say, they weren't progressed; we maintain an inclusive and diverse workforce that welcomes people of all faiths (or no faith). A candidate placing excessive influence on their personal faith is a warning flag, doubly so if they've indicated that they'll quit over religious differences. The safest option is to be a bit vague, at least in the written parts. – aroth May 31 '17 at 6:56
  • 6
    If this is not a job in a religious organisation, then religious beliefs or differences are absolutely out of place in a CV. – RedSonja May 31 '17 at 8:49

I think it's fair to assume that prospective employers would link you to prior religion and beliefs. I'd even go as far to say that if you've listed it, you're proud of it.

Like political views, I'd steer clear of putting it on your CV. Instead, just keep it generic... and then, if the conversation comes up in an interview, you can go into more detail and explain the circumstances / change in beliefs.


Does the college group have an acronym, or can you turn the official name into one? If so, you can use that on your resume without looking like you're dodging anything.

I worked for an NGO whose name included a religion (that I did not believe in) and their stance on a highly controversial political topic (that I agreed with). When I moved into the corporate world, I really didn't want that name on my resume. Just too much potential conflict.

So I used a four-letter acronym for the employer, and I didn't have any problems at all. Only one interviewer even asked what the letters stood for, and her tone was of curiosity rather than suspicion. I hesitated, but answered with complete honesty. We held each other's eyes for a moment, and she seemed to understand the reason for my discretion. We immediately moved onto another subject.

I ended up taking that job, and later learned that the interviewer was of a different religion but of a similar political persuasion. I never felt the need to point out that I was not a member of the religion represented by my old employer. It never seemed to matter, which it shouldn't in a healthy work environment (IMO).

Of course, this isn't a foolproof approach. If that interviewer had been on the other side of the issue, things could've turned out differently. But your experience was with a normal religious organization, so I doubt many people would care. The interviewer would probably be wary of addressing religion at all, and would move onto a discussion of your experience at the organization. Just discuss your position(s) in secular terms, like your role in coordinating events (leadership skills) rather than what the events were for (religious motivations). Everyone should be more comfortable that way, and it would ease any secret concerns that you'll be "preachy" if hired. That's all they really need to know about your beliefs.

TL;DR: Shorten the name to something less distinctive and include it on your resume. Don't dodge questions if it comes up in an interview, but most people won't care. And even if they end up thinking you're a member of that religion, it really doesn't affect anything. Be proud of your accomplishments.


Put it on your resume, in anonymized/generic form.

e.g. "Organizer, college religious group with n members - led event organizing, planning, budgeting, recruiting, chaired committee of m people, recruiting". Describe it as much as possible in generalized organizational language. Add quantifiable achievements wherever possible: how many events? how much attendance? how much budget? how much % increase in members? or event attendances? etc.

This gives all of the upside, and little risk of a downside. And the older it is on the resume, the less likely they are to care to ask what the group was or other details.

This is the same answer as to this similar question (although title is different): Will connections to an institution currently going through scandal harm my chances?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .