How a Religious Individual Can Approach a Job Interview

I hope for a day where individuals are not discriminated against for their religious beliefs, being in a nation that enumerates that right within our Constitution. However, that day has not come to fruition, and we still witness our peers and fellow Americans targeted and ostracized because of what they believe. This blog aims to provide resources for UConn students and Alumni who seek guidance on religious questioning in a job interview without being marginalized.

To start things off, every potential employee should know their rights. The 1964 Civil Rights Act (CRA) was the landmark legislation that prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Under Title VII of the CRA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established to enforce the CRA in all private and public workspaces. Title VII also only applies to organizations with 15 employees or more, and it does not apply to openly religious organizations hiring for religiously oriented roles.

When you enter a job interview, your interviewer is legally prohibited from asking you about your religion. They can only ask what your availability is, which may align with the religious holidays you celebrate. Specifically, your potential employer cannot ask you about your:

  • Religious denomination, affiliations, or societies that you are a part of
  • Religious beliefs, practices, celebrations, holidays, or customs
  • Church/place of worship
  • Religious requirements for working on religious holidays

Source: UConn Office of Institutional Equity

However, some situations call for the employee to inquire about workplace culture or express their availability without revealing their religion. Here are some questions you can ask your interviewer:

  1. What is your policy for requesting days off? Can a request of denial be appealed for important familial events?
  2. Does your office offer days off without explanation other than sick/vacation time?
  3. How diverse are the currently employed staff? Is everyone offered days off for unrecognized cultural holidays?

You may also encounter a situation where you need to defend your religious privacy from a prying question from an interviewer. Nobody wants to come off as combative in a job interview, but you should redirect an improper/illegal question to the interviewer. It would be best if you are polite with your response because, in most cases, it is the lack of experience of the hiring manager, or they are simply trying to figure out your availability. Business Insider has written an article providing examples of questions you can ask. A few are listed below:

  1. Are you looking for information about which religious holidays I might observe for scheduling purposes, or was there some other piece of information you were looking for?
  2. My religious beliefs never get in the way of my job. Actually, I can’t think of a time in my life where it affected my results and performance. I don’t know if you have differing views of how it impacts productivity…
  3. I have never been asked that in a job interview. Religion and spirituality are complex matters for me that would consume a lot of our time here; it’s not a simple answer. I want to spend a little more of our time learning about the XYZ aspect of the job. Can you elaborate on that?

For the Complete List of Questions See: Business Insider – What to Say When the Hiring Manager Asks About Your Religion in A Job Interview

Needless to say, as an employee in the United States, your religion is an enumerated Constitutional Right enforced by the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission under Title VII. Always stand up for yourself and others when you are going through a hiring process. Your religion and privacy are sacred.

Other legal and explanatory sources:

Title VII

Justia Explanation of Title VII

Picture Source: Verdict-Justia

By Ethan Couillard
Ethan Couillard Ethan Couillard