Politics and Resumes Don’t Mingle in the Private Sector

In a recent letter to the New York Times Ethicist, a Connecticut attorney wrote:

While interviewing law students for jobs as paid summer interns and full-time associates for my firm, I noticed several had resumes listing their activities in the Federalist Society.  Some of my partners have conservative views similar to those of the society, but I do not.  These students’ politics would not affect their professional function, but my review is meant to consider their judgement and personality (though I don’t need to give reasons for the assessments given).  May I recommend not hiring someone solely because of his or her politics?”

The Ethicist replied…”no, you may not.”

Good answer!

Clearly someone’s political point-of-view has nothing to do with their credentials, work ethic, or even their personality.  It reflects an opinion.  Now, I’m not the Times‘ Ethicist but, ask me if I think you should put your political affiliations on your resume as a job applicant.

If you are not applying for a job within the political realm, then my answer is “NO,” with all caps.

Political discourse in this country is supposed to be even-keeled.  We have a multi-party system in which we should be able to debate differing philosophies on social and governmental issues without wanting to bash each others’ brains in.  But, over the past 10 years especially, we’ve seen how politics is simply polarizing and differing philosophies can even lead to violence and threats.  There’s just no respect for the other side.

I once worked on a resume for a media candidate who had put down on his resume that he worked on Bob Dole’ presidential campaign bid.  The minute I read this, I conjured up an image of the guy — dirty-blonde hair, parted to the side, with a dark blue blazer garnished with gold buttons, khaki’s and brown penny loafers.  From Connecticut.  Country Club member.   Right or wrong it popped up in my head.  Right or wrong, my thoughts went, “ugg, how could he work on Dole’s campaign?”    I realized that this one reference in his resume put an awful lot of preconceived notions in my head.  I didn’t like that it happened, but there was no refuting the fact that it did. And, it also meant that others would do the same.  I told him to take the line out.

The fact that the anonymous lawyer writing to the NYT Ethicist was making  hiring decisions based on a person’s politics supports my  gut that politics have no business in resumes in the private sector.  You should be proud of any work that you have done with political campaigns.  However, make sure when you want to highlight this experience that it works for you, not against you.

Carpe diem…

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