I recently moved to a Nordic country in an academic position. For my first grant application, I collaborated with other researchers at the university. As I was submitting the proposal along with the CVs, I noticed that two of the researchers had mentioned their religion. I have never seen this in academia, at least in South-east Asia where I spent majority of my work life.

Here are other details that I think are relevant:

  • Our research domain is engineering, not humanities or social sciences.
  • Both researchers are Muslim.
  • The funding agency is a private one that favors industrial collaborations.

My questions:

  • Is it appropriate to mention one's religion in an academic CV?
  • Does mentioning one's religion help in grant proposals or academic positions? I think in a fair world it shouldn't.
  • Do western countries, especially European, favor candidates who are Muslim?
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    Is it perhaps common in your current country of residence to have the religion listed in the CV? If yes, this may be the reason. Putting stuff into a CV that is not commonly included is however risky - it conveys the message that the writer thinks that the information is somewhat of relevance - and what this means in this case is open for interpretation.
    – DCTLib
    Nov 25, 2015 at 11:54
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    It is not common in the country in question. Of the 15 CVs I submitted (company partners and university researchers), only these 2 mentioned their religion.
    – Prometheus
    Nov 25, 2015 at 12:01
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    @Prometheus: Have you also considered the timespan within which these CVs were created? In other words, is it possible it used to be common in the country in question? I am asking because customs change, and, for instance, back when I was taught how to write a CV in highschool I was taught the current set of guidelines of that time in my place, which turned out to be already quite dated by the time I graduated from university and wrote my very first CV. Nov 25, 2015 at 12:10
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    Related, especially for your last point: Will ISIS attacks hurt my PhD application as a Muslim? Nov 25, 2015 at 12:30
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    Why would European countries prefer Muslim candidates? I hope they just simply do not discriminate in any direction, although I am afraid that some would illegally discriminate against Arabs/Muslims. Nov 25, 2015 at 19:53

5 Answers 5


There are some situations where religion could limit someone's ability to do their job. For example, a Muslim professor may require prayer breaks, which could limit the times at which they can give lectures.

Religion should be mentioned only on a "need to know" basis, unless it's common practice to include it in the country you're applying to. Similarly to if you have a disability, you shouldn't mention it on your CV. It is more appropriate to explain such caveats in the cover letter, during a job interview, or prior to accepting the interview.

We should be judging people on their ability to do the job, not their personal beliefs. Such beliefs are only relevant if they interfere with their work. Unfortunately, particularly as a result of increases in extremism, Muslim candidates in Western Europe are more likely to be at an unfair disadvantage, rather than being favoured for a position.

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    "Muslim candidates in Western Europe are more likely to be at an unfair disadvantage, rather than being favoured for a position." - I agree. However, it could work out the other way around, with Muslims or other groups perceived as disadvantaged (e.g., women) getting preferential treatment in the interest of diversity. If a large part of the student body is Muslim, for instance, a Muslim applicant for a professorship may be perceived as allowing for a better rapport to students, or simply as a good role model. Nov 25, 2015 at 12:28
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    @StephanKolassa The secularist in me is not comfortable with the idea of preferentially hiring someone based on their personal beliefs. You cannot choose whether you have a disability or what sex you were born as, but you can choose your religion. When it comes to diversity, they're very different things.
    – Moriarty
    Nov 25, 2015 at 13:06
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    How is it unfair disadvantage if it interferes with your ability to do your job?
    – Davor
    Nov 25, 2015 at 14:29
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    @Davor The western academic system comes out of the Christian tradition, so things like resting on Sundays and important holidays are already (more or less) accounted for.
    – Kimball
    Nov 25, 2015 at 15:30
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    @Davor Not on topic here, but Sunday was not the Abrahamic rest day. Might want to brush up on the topic. Nov 25, 2015 at 17:23

I would leave it away. It is probably some relict from older days when it was common to include it, so some people might still do it, but it is most likely neither expected nor actually wanted. For example, I vaguely recall that when I was attending high school in the 1990s in Germany, when we learned how to write a CV (from an older teacher, so it might have been outdated already), we still included our religious affiliation. In fact, it was also common to include the occupation of your parents. I highly doubt anyone still would expect information like this any more, and in fact, it seems to be of highly questionable value with a lot of possibilities for discrimination attached. [BTW, in Germany, your religious affiliation has some tax implications, which is why you would have to tell your employer anyway; but the CV is not the place to do it, I guess]

  • 13
    +1 for the fascinating points on obsolete instructions and also on German tax law! Really, you were supposed to include your parents' occupations? That seems custom built for discrimination (positive and negative) and nothing else!
    – jakebeal
    Nov 25, 2015 at 13:52
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    Yes, indeed, it is bizarre. Triggered by your comment, I just looked it up again, and even Wikipedia still mentions the possibility to include the parents' occupation as an optional element: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebenslauf
    – damian
    Nov 25, 2015 at 13:57
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    At least it's relatively easy to tell if you fall into one of the listed religions. In present day America you often have to tell your race or "ethnicity" on forms, which from a non Anglo-Saxon context is very puzzling.
    – Cape Code
    Nov 25, 2015 at 14:31
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    @Davor I'm not saying it's mandatory, I'm saying it's puzzling because unless one grew up in a culture with racial groups, one struggles to know which one to tick.
    – Cape Code
    Nov 25, 2015 at 15:47
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    (slightly offf topic) I once applied for a job in the US and in the space for Race I wrote "homo sapiens". My conscience would not allow me to write anything else. I didn't hear from them again.
    – RedSonja
    Nov 26, 2015 at 13:48

It should be mentioned here that local practices are important. For instance, applicants for positions based in the US should never list factors such as religious affiliation, marriage status, and birth date in a CV, as this runs afoul of equal opportunity and anti-discrimination regulations.

Religion, however, I think is something that is best left off in all cases. There really isn't a valid reason to list it that isn't outweighed by the potential for problems created by leaving it on.

  • 2
    "Never" is a bit strong; there are classes of jobs (particularly those involving a degree of pastoral care) for which discrimination (or at least preference) based on religious affiliation is not only permitted but expected. They are exceptional, though, and pretty clearly delineated. Nov 25, 2015 at 15:16
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    To be fair, I did see an academic job offered at a Christian College, which was primarily a teaching job but had a faith development aspect. But these types of jobs should be pretty obvious. Nov 25, 2015 at 18:01
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    @DanRomik: It puts the employer in a difficult situation. How do they show that the information that they're not allowed to consider in their decision-making process didn't influence the decision? You've made everyone's lives a lot harder if you include information you're not supposed to.
    – aeismail
    Nov 25, 2015 at 21:51
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    ... With that said, I agree that it's highly inappropriate, unprofessional, and suboptimal for a job candidate to include information about religious affiliation on their CV for an academic job. I just don't think it "runs afoul" of anything other than common sense.
    – Dan Romik
    Nov 25, 2015 at 22:10
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    @DanRomik - In my experience on the admin side of US hiring, we would definitely have a problem if a candidate volunteered that information. We would likely try to keep that information from being known by the hiring committee. If any information is known to the hiring committee, it is assumed to be a factor in hiring. It doesn't matter if the information was requested or volunteered, it still presents a problem (in the US). Regulations in your institution may vary. Nov 26, 2015 at 2:37

Some applicants perform significant volunteer work through their places of worship; I would never expect them to elide that on their CVs or résumés. Similarly, attendance at a faith-aligned institution of higher education, or work for a faith-based organization.

Aside from clearly-relevant material such as that, however -- and volunteer work will not be appropriate to mention for all graduate departments; it is for us because we're a professional school for various service professions -- I would not find it appropriate and it would not help the applicant.

  • It's nice to know a candidates' interests in order to judge how well they will fit in at the workplace, but what people do in their spare time is ultimately their own business. I wouldn't expect anyone to include such volunteering in their CV purely because it is faith-based work. For example, if the candidate mentors a youth group from their church, they can just state that they mentor a youth group and not even mention the faith component. A person's religion is only a problem if they make it one.
    – Moriarty
    Nov 25, 2015 at 13:25
  • @Moriarty So you advocate excluding religion even when appropriate. I favor the opposite approach: mentioning whenever possibly relevant. I can also take the opposite position: A person's religion is only a problem if other people are non-accepting, and make it a problem. As my example, I (actually do) lead a ministry that delivers essential supplies to homeless people. The organization is religious and so are its goals; ripping religious details out would leave the remaining details ("leading drivers around town in dark cold") so uninspiring that it would seem senseless and irrelevant.
    – TOOGAM
    Nov 26, 2015 at 12:51
  • @Moriarty Your statement is also slightly unclear... are you saying that "it is faith-based work" is not sufficient reason (by itself) to go onto a CV (and so the work should only be on a CV if there is additional reason), or that being faith-based somehow excludes the work's eligibility to be on a CV? Surely such details may be extremely relevant for a position at a faith organization. For environments so hostile to religion that people actually discriminate against the religious, it may benefit all parties if the CV is just silently skipped, rather than waste everyone's time.
    – TOOGAM
    Nov 26, 2015 at 13:03
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    It was a response to "I would never expect them to elide [faith-based volunteer work] on their CVs or résumés". I simply disagree with the implication that faith-based volunteer work must be disclosed to any employer. If the faith element of the work is irrelevant to the job, then the inclusion or omission of the faith part should be entirely up to the applicant, and mentioned only briefly.
    – Moriarty
    Nov 26, 2015 at 13:36
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    I certainly didn't mean to imply that applicants are somehow required to disclose; they're not. I'm just saying, I wouldn't expect them to hide that they volunteered for a faith-based organization.
    – D.Salo
    Nov 26, 2015 at 21:19

As the ethics require the professor to be religion - neutral, mentioning the religion will not have any impact. As helpful as mentioning your favorite color, the name or your pet or anything the like.

It is generally better to avoid including uninformative stuff into CV, better to use that space for something that may represent you positively.

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