The Dangerous Job Interview Question I Wasn’t Prepared to Answer (Coming to an Interview Near You!)

At job interviews, I’m prepared to answer just about anything. But, I wasn’t prepared for the question I heard from one potential employer. Not just once, but in a series of interviews for a job I found intriguing.

Conversation flowed. We connected. It was going well.

Smiles. Nods. Quiet laughter. Then, a glance at my resume. A mention of my writing –a skill worth noting on a resume. Nothing to hide! Communication skills a plus. Writing talent a boon. Publication an achievement that speaks to excellence, perseverance, and determination.

But, you know, I write for Jesus.

There’s no camouflaging the nature of my writing (and why would I?) since two of three of my books mention Jesus right in the title – so, it’s out there. Which for me is a gift.

It bolsters me against the temptation to obfuscate in moments when my old sin nature beckons me to slink, to be less than God designed me to be, to relegate Him in to the “religion” box in my life.

I see a slight eye flicker as the interviewer glances over my titles. There’s a brief clarification of the genre. Yes, I write for the Christian market.

Another nod and smile, but then, the question. The tone is casual, but the question is not benign: “I’m wondering, how will you keep your faith from interfering with your job?”

I’m sorry, what?

Replaying the chat, of course I see I should have asked a clarifying question before responding. Jesus knew to ask a question before He answered one. “What is your specific concern?” or “Has this been a problem with other employees?” or “Is this a something you ask every applicant?”

But, it’s an interview, I need the job, and we’re solidly in the question/answer mode. Plus, it’s my personality to maintain the relationship, avoid confrontation, look for the work around. God is working on me but it’s still my default.

If we were in court, I would hear the judge respond to my objection, “I’ll allow it since your resume opened the door to this line of questioning,” so, by God’s grace, I respond:

“Well, my faith informs the excellence with which I do my job so I don’t think you want me to keep it from ‘interfering.’ If lying or committing fraud are part of the job, it will definitely interfere, but I don’t think that’s how you operate here, so we’re good. (polite laughter at this) Are you asking if I’m judgmental? I’m not, but that’s because of my faith, not in spite of it. Have I answered what you’re asking?”

Smiles. Handshakes. The interview ends on a hopeful note, but it leaves an uncomfortable aftertaste.

How easily I joined the narrative, the implication that I would naturally understand their assumption that my faith is a problem, that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to contain my judgmental views, that no one wants to hire a trouble-maker so, of course, they have to ask.

Why did I enter that narrative so willingly, with a smile, without resistance?

And as I’ve told this story, some believers have shrugged and said, “Oh, they’re worried you would proselytize or refuse to do something that’s unbiblical. That’s all it was.”

That’s all it was? I’m sorry, WHY ARE WE HOLDING HANDS WITH THE STORY THE WORLD TELLS ABOUT US?

Did my answer give them the idea that I’m one of those “acceptable” Christians? One who believes Jesus would never tell anyone their actions or attitudes were sinful?

One who follows the domesticated, generic Christ who never would have been dangerous enough to have to die like a thief on a cross? Surely not someone who follows the wild-eyed Jesus who wove a whip and said such hard things he turned away crowds! Did I come across as a compliant believer? One who would never cause trouble?

Some would say that’s good, but I know my own tendency to stay quiet, to fear trouble, to avoid making waves, to stink at sharing my faith, to capitulate hard truth, so the conversation unsettled me. How subtly, smilingly, I can be encouraged to “play nice” and only bring the “agreeable side” of my faith to work.

How will you keep your faith from interfering with your job? I replay that moment and consider other answers, better answers, answers that refuse to walk hand-in-hand down the corridor of the false narrative being spun in our times.

“Will my faith interfere with my job? Why? Do you anticipate asking me to lie, commit fraud, steal, or conspire in deception? If so, then my faith may interfere. My faith has taught me that no matter what I do, to do it as for Jesus, so I bring that integrity with me to the workplace, surely you wouldn’t prefer I leave it at home?”

Will my faith interfere with my job? In other jobs, people appreciate the love, compassion, respect, and generosity of spirit I extend to everyone I encounter, as instructed by my faith. Will that be a problem in this workplace? I’m not sure I can learn to work without being kind, honest, patient, and loyal. You may have to consider someone else.”

Will my faith interfere with my job? Why? Is this a place where people must conform, where conversations are monitored and screened, where people check their souls at the door, where ideas pass through a filter before being aired? Is this a place where freedom has been given a shelf on the same locker in which I place my lunch?

When did we start buying into the story that others tell about us? Loving and following Jesus is what makes us someone you want at your place of business. In all we do, we work as if we’re doing it for Him, so our work bears the mark of excellence, integrity, truth, and creativity – because every day we are more like Jesus.

They offered the job. I declined. It’s a small thing – no sacrifice because I had another option. I’m just one person in the smallest state but we have to start, in small ways, to refuse to align with the lies. To say no to any narrative that says the world’s story is the true one, not the one we live.

I only tell this story now so you’ll be ready for the question: How will you keep your faith from interfering with your job? What will be your answer?

How are we preparing to resist the false narrative the world is weaving about our faith? That, my friends, is the question that really matters.

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7 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Bob in Kansas City says:

    Loved your response to the question. Congratulations on not getting defensive. Hope I can remember to respond similarly in a similar situation.

  2. Julie Kaspick says:

    I would, probably, end up saying something like, “Faith IS my life, and I won’t let any job interfere with my faith” and then, get up and leave. Great article!

  3. Joyce M. Sappington says:

    At some point all of us are going to face a very similar situation, whether at work or in a social situation. This is something we need to all pray about before hand, “Father, you promised that when we are brought before kings and rulers you would give us the words we need. Help us, in our work places and in this dark society we now live in, to be ready to stand in your strength and immediately seek your guidance when we are confronted with antagonism towards our faith.”

  4. Sherry Carter says:

    I’ve never faced that question but I’m afraid I would either answer it impulsively or impolitely. I don’t think well on my feet. I think your answer was spot on, polite and honest.

  5. Tim Shoemaker says:

    Hi Lori … once again, great job–and a great reminder. We don’t have to apologize for who we are–or hide it. Your blog gives people some great things to think about before that interview.

  6. Libby says:

    This is so interesting and so close to what I feel about working ALL THE TIME and not just in an interview. I’m challenged by your last sentence to think about what my answer will be, not just in the interview, but in the day to day living out of my faith in my job.
    I have used your blog posts before with my adult Sunday school class (always giving you credit–hey, I’m a librarian) and I think this one might make a great discussion piece.
    BTW, I think what they asked you is illegal, but sometimes the truth seeps out even when we are on “best behavior” while interviewing. Your perspective, “Is this a place where people must conform, where conversations are monitored and screened, where people check their souls at the door, where ideas pass through a filter before being aired? Is this a place where freedom has been given a shelf on the same locker in which I place my lunch?” is exactly right. They showed their true colors and are the poorer for it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m filled with gratitude that I was endorsed for my job when I answered the question “what is your motivation for doing your best every day?” And I was able to enthusiastically say “my faith”. Next words I heard were the job offer.