By Tracey Cohen Paliath, Esq.
With the election season in full swing, I find myself silently repeating the old adage never to talk about religion and politics, especially with people whom you don’t know. And when you think about it, there is no one who you know less than the person who is reviewing your resume for a potential job. Nothing to worry about there, you might think, because you’ll never talk to that person about anything unless they call you for an interview, right? Wrong! Your resume is speaking volumes to that HR representative, and if you are interested in politics or political issues and have that information on your resume, you are definitely ‘talking politics’ – with someone whose views are unknown to you, but has a lot of power over whether you get considered for this job.
So what do you do when you are applying for jobs and you have significant volunteer or paid employment experience in which you worked on behalf of certain candidates or certain partisan issues? On the one hand you want the employer to see your full breadth of skills and experiences, but on the other hand politics has become so partisan that it’s polarizing – a person could love your resume and then find out you supported a candidate whom they worked to defeat, so what happens? I’d like to think that everyone could just put politics aside and see you for who you are and what your skill set is, but all we need to do is turn on the TV or even read an op-ed column and realize the days of across-the-aisle cooperation and respect are pretty much gone.
If you are looking for a job in the political or think-tank world, then this is not an issue for you, as you are going to be applying for jobs where your political ideology and the employer’s must match, and you will self-select opportunities that make sense for your political leanings. If, however, like most of us, you are looking for a job in which being involved in politics isn’t the focus of the job, you’ve got some thinking to do.
Because you don’t know who is reading your resume, the safest course is to de-politicize it. Remove all volunteer experiences working for candidates or on partisan issues. Should you learn through your pre-interview research that you and your interviewer (or the owner of the company) are supporters of the same politicians or causes, then by all means, use those connections in the same way you would with other commonalities (same alma mater, mutual friends, etc.). Otherwise, don’t bring it up unless you have to. If, however, you worked in politics as a paid job and leaving off that information would create a gap in your work history, then you must include it. I would suggest keeping the explanation of your activities as brief as possible, and in as least partisan terms as possible. If you were a field director for a candidate or issue, say that, but think carefully about the words you use to explain it – use plain English, not political punditry. You worked on a campaign for a candidate and helped design her jobs creation plan (good for a non-political resume) – not you worked to elect the first female Latina to serve as a councilwoman in a majority white, conservative district (appropriate if you are looking to move up in the campaign world).
The bottom line is that when looking for a job, you need to submit materials that reflect who you are as a professional, not whether you are a donkey or an elephant.
By Tracey Cohen Paliath, Esq., JCS Director of Economic Services
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This blog was previously posted as a “Business Buzz” blog in “The Daily Record” on July 2, 2014 at http://thedailyrecord.com/2014/07/02/politics-and-resumes-often-dont-mix/.