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Handy Job Interview Tips For Muslim Men

Another fine public service from Muslim Matters.:

Job Interview Tips for Muslim Men

By ibnabeeomar, June 30th, 2008

Interviewer: “So do you have any questions about our company or the position?”

Muslim: “I need off every Friday from 1pm to 3pm. Is there a room I can pray in a couple of times a day? Also sometimes I need to wash my feet in the sink, is that ok? Which restroom should I use? Do you have lotas? Can I borrow the watering jug?”

Interviewer: “Thanks, we’ll be in touch….”

Let’s face it, we are special. We are the strange ones. How do we manage to land that nice job in the corporate world without assimilating and changing our names from Muhammads to Moes and Tariqs to Terrys?

So you have a spiffy new resume, you have been applying to every job you can find online, and you finally get the initial phone call. You get through the preliminaries and now you are set to go interview in person. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Resume Tips

Before getting to the interview, it is essential to have a good resume to help land the interview. Without going into too much details, the most important resume tips can be summarized as such…

Don’t sell yourself short. Your experience is used to gauge your ability to adapt and learn skills, not necessarily replicate the work you do at one job in another.

Use buzzwords as much as possible – search job openings online and see the words that are in the title headings and use them. Even though you might not officially be a “project manager”, this doesn’t mean that you haven’t ‘managed projects’ – so include the buzzword.

Don’t lie. This should go without saying for a Muslim.

Now, getting to the interview.

Appearance

Looks count. “‘Beauty is on the inside’ is just something ugly people say to feel better about themselves” – that is not exactly true, but don’t bank on your internal beauty when interviewing for a job. It is naive to think you can live in a materialistic society and then not be judged on your looks.

Get yourself a nice suit. Wear something conservative. A black suit or dark gray suit should do fine. Don’t wear a loud colored shirt or a loud tie….

Make sure your beard is well groomed. I do not mean that it has to be short. A beard can be short, and still look scraggly or “jungly” for all the desis out there. It can be long, and still look well maintained (Tableeghi brothers have this down). It is important, and it’s the Sunnah, to be neat. This is a direct reflection of your personal hygiene.

Anyone who has worked in an IT office knows how people respond to the pungent curry smell that is known to emanate from the break room microwaves at lunch time – when you walk in with a big beard, you have been branded with this type of stigma, so make sure hygiene/smell is not an issue.

Speaking of smell, make sure to put on a nice dab of good cologne. Do not put on your favorite attar oil, or your imitation 3 dollar vial of “CK ONE” – it doesn’t smell that nice, and it’s a bit too heavy for this type of environment.

First impressions count, so make it a good one. I didn’t want to focus too much on appearance, but Muslim men do have style issues. Please see the Muslim Man’s Guide to Style for more information.

Preparation

This is the general stuff you will find everywhere online. Read up about the company. Check out their ‘about’ page and understand their business. Make sure you are familiar with the job description of the position applied for…

Small Talk

When you get to the interview, prepare to make small talk. Often times your interview will not start right away and you will be talking to the receptionist, or the interviewer may be waiting on another team member to come before starting the interview. I have been asked all types of questions from “How far do you live from here and how was the traffic coming in?” to “What are you favorite books?” or “What is your favorite TV show?” and other such questions. This is probably not the time to tell them that you’re currently engrossed in an advanced textbook on Usul al-Fiqh, or that TV is haram and they need to fear Allah.

I often try to mention the name of a secular book I’m currently reading, or one I finished recently. In regards to TV and other such questions, I try to bring it back to sports. Even when music is brought up, I simply mention that when I am not a big fan of the radio, and that when I do listen to it, it is usually ESPN radio. Sports is the ultimate ice breaker in small talk, especially in the workplace.

The Actual Interview

*Regarding shaking hands read this article for advice.

Being at the actual interview means they’re already somewhat confident of your abilities. The main thing that most look for at this stage is how well you fit in with the people already there

Make sure you are personable. Be confident in your answers and your abilities. If they ask you how you feel about something you do not know – as we are taught Islamically – do not be afraid to say you don’t know…

Make sure to show that you are someone that is easy to get along with, a hard worker, and a quick learner. When you walk in, especially if you ‘look’ Muslim, you need to take into account stereotypes people will have. Break them. I have found that simply acting professionally and sounding articulate (it is not hard to sound more articulate than the average Joe Schmo) can go a long way.

Some companies adopt a behavior based interview, read this article for more tips on handling those questions as they are tougher than the general interviews.

Salary

Know your worth ahead of time. Check out market (salary.com) values for your position with your level of experience and education. Don’t be timid to ask for your fair rate…

After the Interview

Make sure to send a thank you email to whomever interviewed you, or arranged the interview, and let them know you thought the interview was positive…

Muslim Needs

I have found that after the interview and when you are starting or being extended an offer is the best time to bring up your Muslim needs. The best way to talk about Juma is explain that you have a religious obligation every Friday from 1pm-3pm, and that you are free to work early/late or on another day to make up the time. Don’t come across with a sense of entitlement. They are working around their schedule to let you attend Juma, so make sure to return the favor and be flexible in making up the time. Another quick tip that I utilize is, block out your calendar with a recurring appointment as “Off Campus” – I have found that this has gone a long way in keeping people from scheduling meetings with me at this time.

In regards to daily prayers and things like that, the approach I found that worked best was to simply ask my team lead where there is an empty meeting room I could pray in. I don’t feel this is something you need to work out before getting the job, it can easily be done afterwards.

Also make sure to have some tact in the workplace. I have heard stories of Muslims who are surgical techs, residents, etc., doing things like foot-in-the-sink in the O.R. rooms. Come on

Final Advice

Before taking any job, make Istikharah

See also: Observing the Sunnah in the Professional World

In other words, make sure you hide your special "Muslim needs" until you have legal standing and then you can sue.

It’s their tough luck if they don’t want someone who has to stop to pray five times a day. Or who can’t shake hands with women, or speak to them, or even look at them.

And remember it is your right to have every Friday afternoons off.

Lest anyone think we are being too harsh, they should read the comments to this post. Such as:

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee said:

“I have found that after the interview and when you are starting or being extended an offer is the best time to bring up your Muslim needs. The best way to talk about Juma is explain that you have a religious obligation every Friday from 1pm-3pm, and that you are free to work early/late or on another day to make up the time. Don’t come across with a sense of entitlement. They are working around their schedule to let you attend Juma, so make sure to return the favor and be flexible in making up the time.”

I agree with what you say here but feel it should be mentioned that everyone should also know that it is of course completely illegal if the employer were to make any employment decision based on religion. It is also the obligation of the employer under the law to make ‘reasonable accomodations’ for one’s religious practices. As I said, this doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t be as polite and flexible as possible in working with the employer as you suggest, but one should also be aware of his/her rights. Above all, one should be aware that provision comes from Allaah and do not fear that your employer will look down upon you if you practice your religion.

I believe and I hope inshAllaah that Muslims who have grown up in this country will be more comfortable practicing their religion openly in all types of environments but I still fear that there are many people out there who are afraid to rock the boat by even asking for things like time off for jumu’ah when the employer would be both legally required but also probably willing to work with you in any event if you came to them with the correct attitude.

As for myself, I have worked in public and not for profit sectors which are very religious and conscience friendly and could never really see myself in a corporate environment at all. But that’s another issue.

Allaah knows best.

Many of the other comments are also eye-openers.

And click on the links within the article itself for further edification.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, July 7th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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