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6 Things to Look for in a Ministry Resume

By: Nicole Cochran, Vanderbloemen Search Group

It's easy to look good on paper. Some job searchers are adept at creating impressive resumes, even with little real or pertinent experience. Others may possess the skills and experience needed, but you may have to dig a little past the resume to find that out. While a resume is (or should be!) a good summary of a person’s work experience and accomplishments, it is important to remember that it is just a snapshot, and sometimes that can be misleading. 

Here at Vanderbloemen, we see a lot of resumes on a daily basis. Resumes for pastors and church staff members are quite different than resumes in the secular world. Sometimes there are more gaps in work history, experience may include volunteer positions, or the level of detail may be extensive.

Here are 6 traits to consider when reading a ministry resume.

1. Organization/Presentation

The first thing to look at is presentability. Is the resume an overdone graphic, or is it simple and easy to read? Context of the role can factor into this as well. For example, are you hiring for a Graphic Designer, a Worship Pastor, or an Executive Pastor? An Executive Pastor needs to be organized and detail-oriented, and that should be reflected in their resume. A Graphic Designer or Worship Pastor is likely to show more creativity in their resume.

Formatting and consistency is another thing to keep in mind. Are some of the position names italicized and others bolded? Are some details bulleted and others not? These things may seem small, but depending on the role you are looking for, they may be telltale signs of how meticulous the person is.

2. Spelling/Grammar

Similar to formatting and consistency irregularities, grammar and spelling errors can be an indication of how detailed a candidate is. A resume should be a representation of an individual. What I keep in mind when reading through a ministry resume is, "Have they used their resume to 'brand' themselves?" You can expect most candidates want to use their resume to put their best foot forward, but some do it more effectively than others. Paying attention to these small details can be an indication of their self-awareness and desire to present themselves favorably.

3. Lack of Information/Time Gaps 

Often when there’s some missing information or gaps in between employment, red flags are raised. While it may be necessary to be cautious with these candidates, other times there are very reasonable explanations for the missing pieces.

One thing that we see quite often with ministry resumes is candidates leaving off their secular work experience. They may think it is unnecessary to include their ministry history since it may not directly relate to the position they are currently applying for. Another common time gap in pastors' resumes is seminary training. Many go back to school for Divinity or Theology degrees once they have already begun a career, and thus what appears to be a gap was spent working towards their education. Sometimes ministry resume gaps include long stints serving as a missionary overseas.

There may be other reasons for breaks in employment, so a candidate who has them should not necessarily be discounted or looked past immediately. Be sure to ask your candidates about the gaps on their ministry resume.

4. Length

We’re usually told that a resume should be kept to one page, and while that is not always true, too long is unwarranted. Again, a resume should be a snapshot of a pastor’s experience. It should tell where a person has been, what they did there, and why it makes sense that they are applying for this role. Excessive details can obstruct from the facts that matter. 

Length of a ministry resume can also depend on the context of the position. Someone applying to be a Senior Pastor is likely to have more pertinent work experience and therefore a longer resume. Too little information can be a red flag however. What aren’t they telling you, and are they trying to hide something?

5. Cover Letter/Objective 

Cover letters can be a great way for candidates to share why they think they would be a good fit and why they want to work for you. It provides them an opportunity to give you a few more specifics than can be provided in the resume. An objective statement can serve a similar purpose.

It is usually fairly easy to tell if a person is being genuine and sincere when discussing their desire to work for your church or organization. Generic cover letters may indicate that they are sending out resumes in mass. Customized, personal letters prove their level of interest and time spent on researching the position and your church.

6. Experience

The bulk of a ministry resume should contain a candidate’s experience, work history, and anything directly applicable to the position. This is an area where ministry resumes can be very different from many other industries. Very often, relevant experience may include volunteer experience, board membership, or other indirect work experience. These items can be just as important as a paid position, as they offer value and display an individual’s ministry experience and gifting.

This information can be misleading at times, however. A volunteer position could be very in-depth and require a lot of time and commitment from someone, or it could be a two-hour responsibility once a week. Something to keep in mind is whether or not the information is truly applicable, or if it is being stretched to fit the position being applied for. Stretched to fit doesn’t have to mean the information is untrue, but the wording may be misleading and construe the idea that the person has more experience than is actually the case.

Don't take a ministry resume at face value or dismiss them too quickly. Taking time to dig a bit deeper when assessing an individual’s abilities and fit can be the difference between a good hire and a bad hire. 

 

This article was provided by our church executive search partner, Vanderbloemen Search Group. To learn more about Vanderbloemen Search Group's recruiting services and how they can help you fill your open position, click here. To read more insightful articles on Vanderbloemen's blog, click here.

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