Assessing Religious Inclusion in the Workplace

As you continue to navigate your job search, you may be curious about how best to integrate your faith with your future workplace. While it is illegal for an interviewer to ask about religious affiliation and beliefs in an interview and it is illegal to discriminate based on these practices, you may be inclined to assess how an organization’s current company culture reflects the company’s stance on religious inclusion. If you’re curious about where to begin your search, here are some tips that may serve as a guide on researching company culture as part of your initial interview preparation, assessing the subject of religious inclusion during a job interview, and what questions you could ask your interviewer to get a better understanding of whether an organization’s company culture reflects religious inclusion.

Prior to the interview itself, it is recommended that you conduct your own research on the company you are interested in working at to get a better understanding of their company culture and how well their values may reflect your own. Something that might help you assess how diligent a company might be to ensure religious inclusion in the workplace is to browse through their social media accounts. Social media posts may help you gather greater insight into how or whether a company honors or observes religious holidays or events, and in what ways, or if the company is inclined to give employees time off to observe their respective holidays and traditions.

Furthermore, you can conduct some research about company ERGs, or employee resource groups, to see how a company supports different identities. Employee resource groups are employee-led groups that aim to promote diversity and inclusion by focusing on the representation of various communities in the workplace. Many companies readily provide information about their employee resource groups on their company website, usually in a Diversity & Inclusion section. If you discover an employee resource group that reflects your own values, then this may be an indicator that the company currently has employees that may hold beliefs similar to yours and the company may be more inclined to provide you with suitable arrangements to meet your needs.

You can also schedule informational interviews with people that work at the company to hear a firsthand experience of what efforts the company has made to ensure religious inclusion. One way to find a person to schedule an informational interview with would be if you actually know someone that works at the company, but if you do not, then you could navigate to LinkedIn and browse the list of company employees to see if there is someone that seems like they’d be open to connecting with you.

During your job interview, you may become cautious if an interviewer asks about your religious background. An example of an illegal question about religious beliefs that an interviewer may ask is, “Our business is normally open on weekends. Do you attend church regularly?”

However, your religious beliefs may be assessed in a legal question that does not directly inquire about religious beliefs, such as, “Our business is open on weekends. Are you available to work during weekends?”, or “Are you able to work during all normal hours of operation, including evenings and weekends?”

If you feel comfortable enough discussing your religious identity during the interview, then these questions can be used as an opportunity to bring up your affiliation and the types of accommodations that you anticipate requesting later on. By doing so, you are letting the employer know ahead of time how they should prepare for your onboarding process so that they can sufficiently meet your needs. Evaluating the employer’s response to your disclosure may also help you understand if religious inclusion is a priority for the company, or if you should anticipate issues in the workplace.

If you choose not to discuss your religious identity during the interview, a helpful way to address these questions might be to redirect the question during the interview by shifting the focus to strengths and skills that will allow you to contribute to the position you are applying for. For example, if you’d like to emphasize your professionalism or your work ethic during your interview, you might reiterate to the interviewer that during your time in the office, you are able to work well with others, manage your workload efficiently, and demonstrate integrity when interacting with colleagues. This response highlights the strengths and skills you’ve gained from past experiences while exhibiting your commitment to do your best work for the company.

You may also prepare some thought out follow-up questions to ask during your interview to assess how well the company provides religious accommodations. Some examples of relevant follow-up questions on this topic can include:

“My practicing beliefs are very important to me. Does your office provide a dedicated space for my daily prayers?”

“Do you provide meal accommodations and alternatives during holidays?”

Or more broadly, “How would you describe the company culture?”

You can use the interviewer’s responses to these questions to gather a better understanding of how well your values and beliefs might be included within the company.

Choosing to disclose your religious identity needs to be comfortable for you and is not required, so if you choose not to disclose information about your beliefs, there are still ways that you can assess how a company might accommodate your needs. Remember that you’ll do your best work when you feel safe, valued, and comfortable. If you have any questions about how to address your religious identity during the job search process, feel free to schedule an appointment with a Career Coach at the UConn Center for Career Development to discuss some options.

By Victoria
Victoria Victoria