Biblical verses in resumes?
January 28, 2021 3:53 PM   Subscribe

A job candidate's application materials prominently include a thinly-veiled passage from the Bible. Am I supposed to pretend that I didn't see it? Is this a potential professionalism red flag?

I work at a secular organization where I am on the hiring panel for a position in a department I closely work with. We're at the stage where we're assessing applicants to invite to an interview. I am not the hiring manager, but I will have a team lead type of relationship with the successful candidate.

We received a cover letter and resume from a candidate that both feature a biblical verse. It's not worked into a paragraph or job duties description - it's just there. The verse doesn't include the name of any higher power, and there's no book/chapter/verse reference included, but the capitalization of certain words in the verse would make its provenance obvious to someone familiar with the Bible. I Googled the verse, and my suspicions were correct; for privacy reasons, I'm not providing a citation. I'm not an atheist, but I was taken aback by the candidate thinking that that was an a reasonable thing to include in their application materials.

Bible business aside, this candidate would be an strong candidate if not for a lot of short stints unusual for our industry followed by employment gaps. If we moved this candidate to the next stage, we could assess our job history concerns through an interview and reference checks. The religious stuff, however, is something that opens a Pandora's box that we can't ask about and that references would hesitate to volunteer. I don't even want to discuss this with the rest of the committee or HR, for the sake of optics. The biblical content in this candidate's application makes me wonder about the candidate's sense of professional boundaries. Without identifying my location, I'll say that we have legislation allowing for the accommodation of religious beliefs as well as protection from religious discrimination or harassment in the workplace.

This is a professional job, where any applicant would be familiar with business communication norms. The applicant's resume demonstrates that they've spent most of their career in our metro area; our local business culture isn't one where it's common to see religious content in email signatures, etc. Whoever we hire will need to communicate effectively with a diverse group. Should I ignore what I saw? Knowing that it would be difficult to get more context from the applicant or their references, is it best to simply not move this candidate forward?

Thank you for your input, I'm really trying to be mindful of my biases and supportive of diversity.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (51 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is it possible to get any context at all? If you are non secular, I'd be concerned. Can you at least speak with references to see if they drop any meta or subtle information?

I wouldn't want it to seem innocuous at first, then suddenly more intense later.

From a non-c agnostic perspective, I'd be put-off if I suddenly felt forced to work with a preacher or a converter. It can feel like harassment. This is the more extreme perspective.

If the person is tactful about it, it's no problem, but it sounds like the behavior is already cueing in. This might be a nuanced/light way this person is seeking to "find their company," and maybe it isn't yours :)
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:05 PM on January 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


I would pass on them and not feel guilty about it, because I would also pass on a candidate who had an epigraph in their resume and cover letter from like... Brene Brown, or the Hunger Games, or whatever other book they find personally resonant. It's simply a very weird thing to do on a cover letter! Keeping your motivational quotes out of a document that does not call for any such thing is the very definition of professional judgment, and this would make me worry about their boundaries and their ability to evaluate what's called for in a given professional situation.
posted by babelfish at 4:07 PM on January 28, 2021 [108 favorites]


I'm an atheist in a secular industry but one that is very heavy on "positive thinking" type culture. I come across this every so often in email signatures or on resumes. I consider it this person's version of the Gandhi/Margaret Mead/etc quotes I see in the same situations. I'd give it the same weight--would probably consider the person a little too familiar for my comfort level but also not unprofessional in the context of my industry. If I hired them I would probably include something in their training about standardizing document styles and signatures.
posted by assenav at 4:09 PM on January 28, 2021 [8 favorites]


If they posted a passage from any other religious text it would tell the same story: applicant cannot read the room and showed poor judgement in knowing their audience.

It’s fine to be religious, but you gotta learn how to read that room and know when it is appropriate and isn’t to inject those beliefs into a situation. A resume is not one of those places.

It is almost guaranteed if they’re doing this at the resume stage, they will ratchet this shit up as hard as they can, eventually, and possibly at a very inopportune time.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:18 PM on January 28, 2021 [45 favorites]


Poor judgment to use any sort of quote —application materials are precious real estate and you shouldn’t waste a letter on filler.

Religion is inappropriate in most secular workplaces.
posted by kapers at 4:23 PM on January 28, 2021 [15 favorites]


A long time ago there was a comment here on mefi with a recommendation to put a jesus fish on your business card to get hired more readily in a heavily Christian area. I've never forgotten it.

If I saw this I would think #1 not the place for this, inappropriate and/or #2 this person is intentionally gaming their resume hoping to get an edge with a very Christian hiring manager. #2 seems unlikely given your location but you never know.
posted by phunniemee at 4:24 PM on January 28, 2021 [17 favorites]


Try removing the religious context from the quote for a moment. If they had an inspirational, non-religious quote, what would be your reaction? That's probably the same reaction you should have now. If the non-religious quote wouldn't bother you, then this likely shouldn't either.

How easy or hard is it to get good candidates for this position? If it's difficult to hire for, you should likely be more lenient, and not dismiss them out-of-hand over their choice of a quote (though the choice to include any quote could be considered odd). If they are one of a dozen qualified candidates, pass on them and don't think twice about it.

If nothing else, ask HR about it. If they are professional HR, and not the payroll person who also had to learn HR on the job, they won't be bothered by this question. You brought up optics, but what would the optics to HR be if they find out later you knew and didn't bring it up, when they would have preferred to know in advance? Let HR decide how concerned to be, then it's not as much your responsibility. You would be letting the specialists weigh in on something that is exactly in their area of expertise.

Personally, I think I would be more concerned with the job hopping than the quote. (And who knows, you might get to the first interview, ask about the job hopping, and they don't have a good explanation. Then you could decline to advance them based on their job history which would hold up better to HR or legal scrutiny if it came to that.)
posted by Meldanthral at 4:24 PM on January 28, 2021 [8 favorites]


I would think that they’re likely devout, but not much more unless it was a verse against homosexuality or promoting vengeance or something. I’m an atheist and I have Bible verses on my inspirational quotes list. Weird but whether it’s a dealbreaker is industry/job/verse dependent.

You could ask about it in the interview like “you included this quotation, tell me more about how it relates to your qualifications for this job” and you’ll probably find out what you need to know pretty quickly.
posted by momus_window at 4:26 PM on January 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


Here's what gives me pause: if you quote scripture in your cover letter, you're offering it as communication with a specific meaning. That makes me really itchy as someone who grew up among people who were utterly convinced there's one correct interpretation to any given passage of scripture--theirs. At best it shows a lack of professionalism and a false belief that this type of quote is a straightforward way of communicating, "I have strong personal values." At worst, it's an indication of the headache you're in for if you hire this person and suddenly they're imposing their beliefs and worldview on the office.
posted by theotherdurassister at 4:31 PM on January 28, 2021 [12 favorites]


As a fairly observant religious person, I find behavior like this pretty bizarre. Overt religiosity to me indicates covering something up. But I’m Catholic and Catholic culture is a lot different than Evangelical culture. I mean, the Francis of Assisi quote isn’t “yeah go ahead and use words all the time”.

Honestly, you know what this makes me think of? There’s a notion among right-wing Evangelicals that Christians are persecuted for their beliefs in the US. I honestly wonder if this guy included the verse so that he could have some ammunition for a discrimination suit in case you don’t move forward with his application. That may be a bad faith interpretation, but like I said, I don’t trust performative Christianity.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:46 PM on January 28, 2021 [33 favorites]


A devout person who loves their religion and hoping to be hired would put something like “active in [denomination] church” in the personal activities section of their resume, not a bible quote on their cover letter.
posted by Melismata at 4:47 PM on January 28, 2021 [15 favorites]


Traditional Christian faith often requires you "witness" which can be interpreted many ways, incuding shoving bible quotes in random places. Twenty years ago, I'd think this was a bit unprofessional but not a deal-breaker. These days, I'd ask their references if they annoyed their co-workers or pressured them to engage in extra-curricular activities, and check their social media for extremist content.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:50 PM on January 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


I'm an atheist, but unless you have reason for thinking that a devout Christian might be bad at the job, I'm not sure this warrants removing them from contention. I mean, I agree it's weird they thought it (or any inspirational quote) was appropriate for their resume, but maybe they got job advice from their pastor or a friend from Church. If you're worried they might have a religious email signature, you could always update your company policy that all email signatures must be neutral. So yeah, if they are a strong candidate and their references check out, I'd at least offer them an interview.
posted by coffeecat at 4:52 PM on January 28, 2021


The specific verse they've chosen says something important about a specific value -- that is integrated into Christianity, but that is probably also a significant value for many people and belief systems -- that shows you something more about the person than their job history.

If you find the value that's reflected to be something you would like in a co-worker, then you should at least talk to the candidate.

The fact that they've included this on their hiring paperwork, to me, indicates that they are trying to find a way to show more of themselves than most hiring processes allow -- or it could mean something totally different. Either way, instant talking point, and a great way to actually learn more about the person than you will probably be able to find out about any other candidate.
posted by amtho at 4:53 PM on January 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


My country also has laws preventing discrimination in the workplace on the basis of political/religious/social beliefs, so even asking the candidate, in an interview, about the context of the quote would be a firm no-no—you can't make explaining one's religious beliefs, or the context of a Bible quote, a job criterion. A hiring committee needs to credibly say that they made decisions on the basis of factors that had nothing to do with the faiths of candidates (or the religions, or lack of them, in the hiring committee!).

It would be a valid, if a bit petty, basis to making a decision, whether or not the candidate had a gauche inspirational quote in their cover letter, but then the right thing to do would be to apply that standard to all the other candidates. Maybe cover letter style is a serious concern to the job you're hiring for, maybe it isn't.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:05 PM on January 28, 2021 [2 favorites]


If we moved this candidate to the next stage, we could assess our job history concerns through an interview and reference checks. The religious stuff, however, is something that opens a Pandora's box that we can't ask about and that references would hesitate to volunteer.

To be clear, you just said that someone being religious is a problem in your workplace?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:06 PM on January 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


To be clear, you just said that someone being religious is a problem in your workplace?

I think the OP was just saying that legally they can't ask about a person's religion during a job interview so asking about the presence of the quote in their resume could open up that legal can of worms.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 5:09 PM on January 28, 2021 [20 favorites]


For fun, include "let all you do be done in love" (1st Corinthians 16:14) in your rejection letter.
posted by parmanparman at 5:24 PM on January 28, 2021 [14 favorites]


I'm assuming that this verse does not express any position incompatible with, e.g., your company's diversity and inclusion policies and does not otherwise have wildly inappropriate content (no raping or pillaging).

On the one hand, it is 100% true that evangelicals will do this kind of thing to try to signal to other evangelicals that they are superior to other candidates because of their religion. 100% true.

On the other, unless you would auto-reject someone based on including a cheesy inspirational quote or mantra on their resume or letter, to do so because they included an otherwise inoffensive Biblical quote there would be to discriminate against this person because of their religion; to my mind, this is unethical, and might even be illegal, depending on your jurisdiction. If you're reviewing candidates, I'm surprised your company's HR has not gone over with you legal and illegal considerations in hiring.
posted by praemunire at 5:28 PM on January 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


If they are a good fit with the position, I'd give them a screening or first-round interview. I think including a quote from someone/somewhere else is weird in a job application context, and I'm a little put off. I don't think it's a dealbreaker-- it might be coming from someone who hasn't worked outside their particular community before, or who got some bad resume advice, or something.

But here's what I think will happen: you give them an interview in good faith, and they either a) knock it out of the park and you hire them and are happy or b) the use of the verse in their application materials was indeed a red flag and you don't hire them, or c) they are one of many candidates who seem OK but didn't turn out to be a standout at the interview stage so you pick someone else. This is what interviews are for. I would definitely be on the lookout for odd behavior and I'd ask about the job hopping in a tactful way, but I'd ignore the religious stuff unless they bring it up first.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:28 PM on January 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


(I should also add--I feel like certain subcultures/groups in the U.S. beyond the white evangelical might have norms more welcoming of this practice, and some of those subcultures are marginalized. Another reason not to treat it as a basis for rejection.)
posted by praemunire at 5:31 PM on January 28, 2021 [11 favorites]


I concur that this is meant as a signal to other Christians. I remember once when I worked at a cafe, I accidentally included a religious song on the shop’s playlist, and the new boss immediately tried to rope me into a conversation about how awesome and rad Christ was. He’d never mentioned it to me before, but the second he thought I was signaling that I was religious, he switched into hardcore Jesus mode.

This person is likely looking for interactions like that, but it’s impossible to say if they’d push it on people who weren’t signaling back. Maybe, maybe not.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:37 PM on January 28, 2021 [12 favorites]


At the end of the interview, just put it to the applicant:
Say, what did you mean by the "..." quote in your cover letter?
I think it's only fair, since they brought it up, even putting it in writing -- and the response will be useful.
posted by Rash at 5:40 PM on January 28, 2021 [2 favorites]


I am not saying he is correct, but I have an ex-boss who would call any unattributed quote plagiarism and the application would not reach the next stage.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 5:53 PM on January 28, 2021 [10 favorites]


This scenario is why it’s a good idea to walk the job candidate out to their car after the interview (if applicable and whenever possible.) Bumper stickers will give an idea which way the wind blows. One needn’t make any comment; simply notice and remember.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:05 PM on January 28, 2021


At the end of the interview, just put it to the applicant: Say, what did you mean by the "..." quote in your cover letter?

Talk to your legal team before you do this.
posted by mhoye at 6:12 PM on January 28, 2021 [28 favorites]


"...would be an strong candidate if not for a lot of short stints unusual for our industry followed by employment gaps."

The candidate's misreading of the room aside, the above is what stands out to me as problematic. Unless this person is the only strong candidate, this detail would be enough for my team to pull the plug on an application.
posted by lulu68 at 6:15 PM on January 28, 2021 [19 favorites]


"To be clear, you just said that someone being religious is a problem in your workplace?

I think the OP was just saying that legally they can't ask about a person's religion during a job interview so asking about the presence of the quote in their resume could open up that legal can of worms."

It's possible to ask the candidate, very broadly, what inspired the writing in their resume? Very innocently, ELI5, of course.
posted by firstdaffodils at 6:20 PM on January 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


I once worked for a company that hired an extremely religious (Christian) person and I was kind of ashamed of how we treated her. This was in a very secular industry in a very secular city. She had religious stuff on her desk, like inspirational-type messaging and religious iconography, and people complained repeatedly about that to HR, which I thought was pretty intolerant. They also sort of froze her out socially. She left after about a year and like I said, I was ashamed of us. We considered ourselves super broad-minded and we would not have treated an observant Muslim the way we treated her.

So IDK. Like other people have said, you should definitely talk with HR or legal before you ask anything about the quote. And I do think it’s safest, and most appropriate, to consider this in exactly the same way as you would if the person had included a non-religious inspirational quote in a cover letter. The fact that it’s religious should not influence you: you should only be influenced by the professionalism question.

But you know, I caution you even on that. In my experience hiring in the United States, I eventually learned than explicit Christianity on a CV very often meant the applicant was Black. Screening out people for being openly Christian in work materials screens out Black people, and even if only for that reason I think it’s super problematic. So I think it’s worth giving some thought to ‘professionalism,’ and who gets to say what’s professional and what isn’t.
posted by Susan PG at 6:36 PM on January 28, 2021 [51 favorites]


HR here, although not your HR. If you were my hiring manager, I'd recommend a hard pass. I think the spotty employment history is actually just as big a red flag as the inclusion of Scripture. That said, I'd give a well-qualified candidate a chance to interview and explain the employment history. But the employment history coupled with a failure to observe cover letter/resume norms? That's a candidate telling you loud and clear: 'I will be trouble.'

I've had many conversations with managers who wished they'd listened to their guts around hiring someone. Once you have a bad hire in the door, it can be time-consuming and exhausting to get them out.

It is not discrimination to pass on a candidate with a spotty employment history and questionable judgment around professional communications. It's the whole point of screening candidates. Some are screened out.
posted by MissPitts at 6:38 PM on January 28, 2021 [41 favorites]


I work in an industry where this is all too common. And, because higher-ups tend to be conservative Christians, stuff like this is an attempt to garner special consideration in a situation that should be strictly professional. I see a lot of this kind of thing being successful and it is very upsetting and unfair. It sounds like your applicant is trying to wink at Christian hiring managers in a way that may not be recognized by non-insiders, but is an attempt to cultivate special consideration all the same. I would not hire this person and find things like this to be evidence of extremely poor judgement and willingness to solicit discriminatory practices.
posted by quince at 7:01 PM on January 28, 2021 [11 favorites]


I'm not an HR pro or a lawyer so normally I wouldn't weigh in here. But not hiring someone because of their religion is pretty explicitly illegal under US federal law. The counter-example of eg finding a random Aristotle quote on a CV isn't applicable because 'liking Aristotle' isn't a legally protected class. A better analogy would be if you found a MLK quote on a CV and were thinking maybe the candidate would be too Black to gel with your team.

Definitely talk to your HR. If not available, invite the candidate in for an interview, assuming they are otherwise qualified, and pretend you didn't see anything. Anecdotally, I've worked with plenty of religious people who come in, put their little cross (or w/e) up in their cube, and do fantastic work day in and day out.
posted by smokysunday at 7:13 PM on January 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


The combination of the job history and the quote would give me pause, but since the bulk of your question is about the potential religiosity of the candidate, I'm concerned that you're already biased against this candidate anyway. You said that you don't want to discuss this with the rest of the committee, but hypothetically speaking if you mentioned your concerns and they wanted to interview this person anyway, would you be able to give them a fair chance? I think I'd let the answer to that guide me.
posted by sm1tten at 7:47 PM on January 28, 2021


I think it's a dogwhistle to fundamentalist Christians and I think it's creepy AF. Hard pass; this is inappropriate. But I would keep in iund that it's illegal to consider religion in hiring, unless it's a Bona Fide occupational Qualification.

I've worked with very religious people and respected them. But this feels like a way too use religion as a way to get bonus points, and I'd rather not work with such a person.
posted by theora55 at 8:20 PM on January 28, 2021 [14 favorites]


With all due respect: if you don't think there's anything wrong with using this as a reason to disqualify a candidate, why would you be reluctant to talk about it with HR?

I'm about as secular as they come, but if a candidate's resume otherwise met the standards, I would absolutely not penalize them for having an unobtrusive Bible verse in their application. Leaving aside any personal feelings about discrimination, it would be creating a huge liability for my company.

You might reasonably argue that it's not really religious discrimination, as long as you would have penalized a candidate similarly for including any other kind of non-religious motivational quote. But if push comes to shove, do you want to be the one who has to testify in court and convince a jury of that?

If there are other things about this person's application that give you reason to believe they would be a bad fit, then you have your answer. Otherwise, give them an interview, and use it as an opportunity to evaluate their level of professionalism, without referring to their personal religious beliefs.

For example, you could ask something like: "Whoever we hire will need to communicate effectively with a diverse group. Can you talk about what that means to you, and how you would incorporate it into your day-to-day activities?" (If it's an important part of the job, hopefully you're asking every candidate something along these lines.)
posted by teraflop at 9:36 PM on January 28, 2021 [7 favorites]


The horse is out of the barn here but the mistake was in Googling the quote, I think. You needed to assess the candidate on the presentation of the communications material, which included an out of place quote, and the work history. But when you looked it up you ended up in a situation where now you are biased on the basis of religion. And I think you are, because you Googled the quote. Simply having any quote on there didn’t cause you to set the resume aside. I’m not saying this with any ire. But I do think you are demonstrating bias.

If you can, and I get it if you can’t, I think the highest ethical choice is to recuse yourself from assessing this candidate. I also disagree that you can’t continue the process and ask questions of references around professional boundaries, although you may only get the “worked here; would/would not rehire.”
posted by warriorqueen at 9:48 PM on January 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


"But I do think you are demonstrating bias."

In terms of consideration of bias: Concern for harassment in the workplace, versus diverse environment, must be balanced.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:57 PM on January 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


Thank you for wanting to keep potential biases on your part in check. Echoing what has been written above, I don't understand why you wouldn't mention this with others you work with. Without mentioning the religious aspect, verify if they found the inclusion of a quotation at all to be questionable. Norms of different industries are different. "Quirky" might play well in some jobs/industries/companies. Although, if I had to guess, this might not be the case in your situation based on what your wrote about the person hired needing to communicate effectively with diverse groups.

Otherwise, look at what your wrote "this candidate would be an strong candidate if not..." In other words, this candidate would be a strong candidate if they had a different professional history. In other words, this candidate is not a strong candidate. Did the candidate address the "a lot of short stints" in their cover letter?

If there are strong (or at least stronger) candidates to consider in the pool of applicants, you don't need further explanation as to why you passed on a weaker candidate.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 10:09 PM on January 28, 2021 [2 favorites]


Yes, you are supposed to pretend you didn't see it.

I mean, your instincts about not talking about this with the interviewing team are good, but it's not "optics." It is almost certainly illegal and in the US would expose you to a massive lawsuit.

I'm going on US law, but: Trying to guess what this particular individual religious person is like by comparing them to Metafilter's mental stereotypes of what kind of religious person would use a Bible passage on a resume is 1000% what the law is supposed to prevent. Using customers' hypothetical reactions as proxy reasons to discriminate is out. Assuming they might be intolerant themselves based on religious belief: Also out. It doesn't matter if there's some statistical correlation based on group membership or not, you just don't take it into account. That's what "protected category" means. You are supposed to judge this person as an individual.

If you've got a professional HR department and they do reference checks on your behalf, you could ask them when they do a reference check to see if unprofessional communication was an issue. They might do an assessment without coming in with strong priors--which you obviously have.
posted by mark k at 10:17 PM on January 28, 2021 [12 favorites]


Religion is a protected category. A candidate's religious expression cannot be used to evaluate a candidate. US law is extremely clear here.

Even a blanket "reject any resume with a motivational quote" is suspect to me, as I would expect it to have an adverse impact on protected groups (both based on religion and race). "Professionalism" is not really a measurable job requirement, nor is demonstrating one's religion an indication of a lack of professionalism.

I'm an atheist and have never been religious.
posted by saeculorum at 10:26 PM on January 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


In my experience hiring in the United States, I eventually learned than explicit Christianity on a CV very often meant the applicant was Black. Screening out people for being openly Christian in work materials screens out Black people, and even if only for that reason I think it’s super problematic.

I want to strongly second this. In my experience (in a location without many white evangelicals) the people most likely to be overtly Christian at work are Black. And question of what is appropriate in a cover letter and resume are also ripe for unconscious bias. I'm an atheist who grew up around white evangelicals, so I definitely relate to the hesitation here, but you've gotta be careful about the assumptions you make. It's also probably illegal.
posted by Mavri at 1:20 AM on January 29, 2021 [8 favorites]


Bible verse in the cover letter should be treated no differently to poor spelling in the cover letter - assume it will turn up in work documents and client communications. If you're fine with that, hire them.
posted by mani at 1:34 AM on January 29, 2021 [8 favorites]


to do so because they included an otherwise inoffensive Biblical quote there would be to discriminate against this person because of their religion;

Since there have been some answers about how it would be unethical (besides illegal) to use the verse as a reason to disprefer the candidate, I want to say that this is a really intersectional issue. The point about it often being marginalized racial groups who use overt religious expressions of Christianity is well taken. At the same time, as someone who is not Christian, I read a quote like that as someone being either unaware of or protective of their privilege. Few Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs etc. are likely to feel as comfortable including a religious quote in professional materials unless they live in an area where they know they're in the majority and in the majority of positions of power. (Note that the OP only uses the word 'Bible', but the universal understanding in this thread is that the candidate is Christian, and that's a pretty safe bet.) The idea of persecution or discrimination against Christianity intersects with the fact that Christianity has a uniquely hegemonic status in the US. Personally, I find the behavior described uncomfortable because to me it signals comfort with and support of that hegemony. So in short, it's complicated.

I currently live in an area where a different religion is hegemonic and omnipresent, while casual displays of other religions, including Christianity, are few and far between, in contrast to the actual demographics. The power dynamic is palpable.
posted by trig at 3:01 AM on January 29, 2021 [12 favorites]


She obviously put the Bible verse in her application as a “dog-whistle”, hoping it would be heard by a fellow-christian. She didn’t pick an inspirational quote from the Qur’an.

My counsel would be if you bring her in for an interview ignore the Bible quote altogether. Treat it as if it was not there. Make it clear via not mentioning it that her attempt landed with a dull “THUD”. She tried to get special “I’m one of you” treatment and failed. Decline to acknowledge its existence.

Focus on the spotty job history. Focus on the interview. But NEVER mention the Bible quote. Make everything about the job, and nothing but.

If she comes in and convinces you that she’s a good professional candidate that she her job history makes sense (there are lots of shit bosses out there) and she doesn’t once mention religion, well then... lots of devout people keep their religious practices to themselves at work. Take her around and show her how the office rolls, what the vibe is.

We’re living in American 2021.
Some Christians consider it a requirement of their faith to actively proselytize whenever they can, even at their place of employment. They kind of wear it like a flag and go out of their way to make sure you know it. Honestly they’re more Christian Nationalist than follower of Jesus.
Some just live their faith as an example and wait to be asked about it. Maybe she’s the latter in addition to being a strong candidate.

If you interview her, the religion quote in the application never happened. But see how she rolls with the interview.

Diversity in the workplace is a good thing, and having people with differing life experiences and traditions brings different perspectives which makes for stronger decision making. That’s America at its best.

But nobody wants a fucking missionary in the next cubicle looking for converts.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:36 AM on January 29, 2021 [8 favorites]


Without the citation, it's really not possible to offer advice. So many Biblical verses have entered idiomatic speech, that it's hard to know if the applicant was proselytizing or simply trying to demonstrate literacy. "The worker is worthy of his hire" is quite different in a resume than "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
posted by SPrintF at 9:52 AM on January 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


I'm sure others have said this, but I'd also assume they were trying to get a religious hiring manager to choose them over a non-Christian, or less religious Christian, for that reason alone. And by making it thinly veiled they are hedging their bets. It is all around reprehensible and unethical, and that's no one I'd want to hire under any circumstances.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:03 AM on January 29, 2021 [5 favorites]


I'd really harken here to comments by Susan PG and mark k, but also really want to lift up SPrintF's comment:

Without the citation, it's really not possible to offer advice. So many Biblical verses have entered idiomatic speech, that it's hard to know if the applicant was proselytizing or simply trying to demonstrate literacy. "The worker is worthy of his hire" is quite different in a resume than "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."


If they're quoting John 3:16 or the New Testament in general, that's something, but "a leopard can't change its spots" and "there is nothing new under the sun" also come from the Bible. There's a lot of Biblical verses that are just taken as generic inspiration without even necessarily knowing their source. Hard to say if that's what's going on without knowing the specific citation (and I definitely understand why you haven't offered it).
posted by kensington314 at 10:20 AM on January 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


The idea of persecution or discrimination against Christianity intersects with the fact that Christianity has a uniquely hegemonic status in the US. Personally, I find the behavior described uncomfortable because to me it signals comfort with and support of that hegemony.

Well, I didn't use the word "persecution," and for a reason. An individual discriminating in hiring against a Christian for their (non-directly-work-affecting) beliefs is unquestionably a different phenomenon than the systematic discrimination faced by, say, Muslims in the U.S. That doesn't mean it's automatically morally acceptable where the latter would not be. It just means that there are different considerations (and countervailing concerns) to take into account. I'm an atheist (of the Got Away From Death-Cult Fundamentalist Relatives variety, not the Grew Up in the Vaguely Spiritual Suburbs and Just Think I'm Smarter Than All Believers and Thus Don't Know Squat About the Phenomenon Beyond Stereotypes type) and would be very glad to see no religious hegemony in this country at all, but, unless the job is specifically about breaking up that hegemony, being comfortable with and supportive of it, expressed in a manner which is not harmful to others, should not be relevant to the hiring decision.

(The assumption that a Christian will most likely be an aggressive proselyte at work that I've seen expressed in some comments here is quite an odd one; given the sheer number of Christians in this country, if you work in even a medium-sized U.S. company, even in the godless corridors of Manhattan or Silicon Valley, you almost certainly work with more than one Christian, and are not being witnessed to.)
posted by praemunire at 11:47 AM on January 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


> The assumption that a Christian will most likely be an aggressive proselyte at work that I've seen expressed in some comments here is quite an odd one

I'm not reading the comments as "all Christians will aggressively proselytize" but rather "someone with the questionable judgment to include this type of quote in their resume and cover letter is likely to have similarly questionable judgment post-hiring." The hiring process is when everyone should be putting their maximally professional foot forward, so anything you encounter there is likely to manifest even more later on, when the person is more comfortable.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 12:09 PM on January 29, 2021 [11 favorites]


The hiring process is when everyone should be putting their maximally professional foot forward

If your definition of "professional" is "not overtly religious in any way", then your definition of "professional" has a disparate impact on religious people and might violate equal protection laws. Unless your work has a policy of "never demonstrate any religious-oriented material at work" (which would be questionable and unlikely by itself), I doubt this particular demonstration of a generic/non-proselytizing quote that is not even attributed as being from a religious origin actually violates any policy of your work. Hence, I again am quite suspicious of judging candidates based on a behavior that itself is (probably) allowable at your work and happens to be not uncommon among religious people.

Religious expression is protected under equal protection law. There is no "professionalism" exception to equal protection law.
posted by saeculorum at 1:31 PM on January 29, 2021 [4 favorites]



Religious expression is protected under equal protection law. There is no "professionalism" exception to equal protection law.


"....Thankyou for your consideration.

PS: Lord Jesus says, 'hire me', good, god-fearing people should help each other!"

Is that sentiment a protected expression too?
posted by lalochezia at 9:57 AM on February 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


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