Most people in vocational ministry will be required to send a ministry resume at some point. I often hear from many ministers that they can’t seem to get a positive response from churches or other organizations where they would like to be considered. Perhaps the problem is with their resumes.
So I spoke to several church and organizational leaders who were responsible for culling through ministry resumes. I asked them what made a particular resume stand out from others. Here are their top nine responses.
- A highly qualified person proofread the resume for grammar, style, and appearance. I am amazed at the number of resumes that were rejected because of poor grammar and style. One leader on a search committee said, “If they are sloppy on their resumes, we assume they will be sloppy in their ministries.” This factor, by far, was number one. Simply having your resume carefully proofread will make it stand out from the crowd.
- There are no gaps in dates of employment. If you had a season of unemployment, it is best to explain it on the resume. Any unexplained gaps may cause your resume to be put aside.
- The resume had a great photo. First, the leaders with whom I spoke very much wanted to see a photo on the resume, either an individual or family shot. Second, the quality of the photo must be excellent. Again, a photo of poor quality communicates that the applicant is sloppy and uncaring. One search committee member told me that two-thirds of the resumes included “terrible quality” photos.
- The resume presented statistics clearly and truthfully. While most of those with whom I spoke really appreciated seeing such statistics as attendance, receipts, and others, they said that often the statistics could not be confirmed with other sources.
- The applicant only sent what was requested. If only a resume was requested, send only a resume. Those in the search process are often put off by unrequested supplemental information.
- The resume included a narrative of accomplishments, rather than just positions with dates of employment. Those in vocational ministry are often reticent to “brag” about accomplishments in ministry. Don’t be shy. Those on the receiving end desire to hear from you about these matters. Many good resumes, I was told, label this part of the resume “God’s Work at ABC Church.” That approach provides a good summary of the accomplishments while giving credit and glory to God.
- The order of the details on the resume reflects the priorities of the organization more than the applicant. So an applicant for a professorship at a seminary might begin with academic credentials. An applicant for pastoral ministry might begin with ministry experience.
- Most of the resume uses the active tense. I personally use the passive tense in some of my writings, but resumes sound better in the active tense. “I fulfilled the assignment” thus sounds better than “The assignment was fulfilled by me.”
- Good resumes avoid “cutesy” attempts to stand out. One rejected resume had five different font sizes. Another used four different font colors. And even another sent the entire resume as a QR code. All were rejected.
These nine items are not radical matters. They do not require huge investments of time and money. But, if a person heeds the advice in all nine of these matters, his or her resume will likely stand out from over 90 percent of the other resumes.
Let me hear from you about your perspectives on ministry resumes. I know you readers will have much to offer.