Fraternity membership and your resume

The surveys conducting each year by the National Association of Colleges and Employers to identify important skills and characteristics of job applicants who have just graduated from college routinely report that students who have been involved in extracurricular activities are favored over those who have not. And for many years, involvement in Greek life (fraternities and sororities) has been one of the activities that have helped many students make their way in the world. However, recent reports call that involvement into question. The opening paragraph of a Huffington Post article posted on April 7th sums up the concern:

Thirty fraternities have been shut down by either their university or national headquarters since the beginning of March due to hazing, alcohol-related problems, criminal investigations and other student conduct infractions.

So if you’re a student who is about to graduate, and you’ve been counting on your fraternity involvement to help you fill the “extracurricular” requirement that employers are looking for, what do you do?

The answer is not an easy one, but I think you have to use some judgment about how to present your experience, and the following may help you decide what to do.

  • If you were a member of a fraternity that has been shut down, leave it off your resume unless you are using that resume to connect with alumni of your fraternity.
  • If you were a member of a fraternity with an untarnished reputation, but you come from a college where there have been fraternity-related problems, you may want to leave it off your resume unless you know the employer well enough to be confident that they will recognize that your fraternity is not one of the ones that had problems.
  • If everything on your campus has been fine with regard to fraternities, you still may want to leave your fraternity involvement off your resume. Many people are likely to review your resume before it hits the desk of a hiring manager, and there’s no guarantee that those reviewers will have been involved in fraternities. (Some of them will be women, plus only about 2% of all American men were members of a fraternity.) Individuals who were not fraternity members themselves may assume all fraternities are alike, so any mention of membership may cause one or more of the reviewers to think twice about your application—and it may never even make it to a hiring manager (who also may or may not have been a fraternity member).

If you do choose to include information about your fraternity members, I would recommend that you do so by emphasizing specific accomplishments within the fraternity framework: chairing a committee that raised money for a nonprofit organization, volunteering in a community organization, filling a leadership role such as treasurer. Be sure that the type of activity you described cannot be misconstrued as in any way contributing to misconduct.

One final thought: According to a report published on Workforce.com this past January, roughly 70% of all human resources positions are filled by women. Given the nature of many of the charges of misconduct on the part of fraternity members, women may currently be inclined to look less favorably on fraternities then men—a generalization, but one that I think should be taken into consideration.