5 Things You Can't Learn From a Resume

Beyond the Resume

You've probably heard the phrase, "Don't judge a book by its cover."

The same applies for hiring. It's easy for a candidate to look good on paper. Most times, however, a resume just scratches the surface.

A resume sometimes reflects more of candidates' abilities to paint themselves in a flattering light than their cultural fit or the actual value they might provide.

While the presentation of a resume is important – it shows the professionalism and attention to detail of a candidate – it doesn’t tell the whole story.

That’s why, in order to make a good hire, you have to be able to look beyond the resume.

So how do you know what to be looking for? What are some qualities that separate the excellent candidates from the good ones in a group that is highly qualified?

Here are 5 key characteristics of top candidates that you can’t learn from a resume.

1. Their excitement about the role.

When we ask candidates what interests them about a specific church or role and they respond vaguely, that suggests they haven’t done much research on the church, or they are just looking for any job.

Job seekers, make sure you know the “why” behind wanting to work somewhere, and articulate that to the people who are interviewing you. It will go a long way! You can tell when someone is excited about the potential of joining a specific ministry that fits their passions or when they are simply looking for any new job.

If a high-capacity candidate has made it past the initial stages of the interview process, they will tend to ask the right sorts of questions. After all, they are trying to assess if the role is a good fit for them as much as they are trying to land it.

Smart candidates ask a lot of questions to determine how well they will fill a position, and smart leaders are curious by nature - always looking to learn as much as to teach or speak.

You can't use a resume or a cover letter to convey excitement – after all, they're static documents. If you're on the fence about bringing in a candidate or interviewing them over the phone based on their resume, give them a shot.

2. Their culture fit.

Culture trumps competency. A culture fit is intangible, and can only be assessed through phone or (ideally) face-to-face conversation.

Prior experience, even in similar environments, doesn't allow you to assess how a candidate will work within your team and your organizational culture.

The best hire is sometimes not the candidate with the most robust resume, but rather the one who has the most potential to fit in with your organization.

As you go through the interview process, have the candidate speak with a variety of staff to help you get to know the candidate on a deeper level.

3. Their responsiveness.

People have obligations and boundaries and are not always accessible 24/7. But if a candidate regularly takes a long time to respond, that communicates they are not that interested in pursuing the role. If a candidate receives an email to set up a next-step interview and they take three or more days to respond without a specific reason, that is a bad sign.

Candidates, if you know you won’t be able to respond to an email or call within 24 hours, give a quick response explaining why and when you will respond, even if it’s just a few words that acknowledge you've received the email and are still interested in moving forward.

If you're on the hiring side, take stock of a candidate's communication. If they are responsive, respectful, and clear in their communication, that suggests they already have built good habits in these areas.

4. Their coachability.

As your organization grows and changes, your staff has to be willing to grow and change along with it.

Resumes regularly fail to show whether a candidate is truly open to changing and molding for the needs of the applicable position.

Will you consider hiring on potential over prior experience? Sometimes, depending on the role, this is the best route to take. If a candidate is eager and has a growth mindset, they may be a great fit for a role that has growth trajectory if surrounded by mentors and the right resources.

Even if a specific role doesn't have a great growth trajectory, having a coachable mindset will allow for a quicker transition into the role and increase the likelihood of retention.

Ask the candidate about how they've received feedback and correction in the past. The resume, in this case, can guide the conversation, but only a conversation can reveal a candidate's coachability.

5. Their spiritual maturity.

As a church or leader in a Christian organization, determining a candidate’s spiritual maturity simply by looking at their resume is impossible. A heavy burden is placed on leaders who are in charge of hiring. They are trying to ensure that the candidate they are bringing in is in a place spiritually to lead, guide, and direct, not only onto their staff but also their community.

A great seminary education does not always make for a spiritually qualified candidate. Even years of church staff experience does not always mean that candidate is in a place to lead spiritually – you can’t tell from a resume if someone is on the verge of ministry or relational burnout. One of the ways we try to get to the heart of a candidate’s spiritual walk is to speak with his or her spouse. How a candidate is leading in his or her home can correlate to how they will lead spiritually.

The resume is the starting point, but it never tells the whole story. Next time you're hiring, make sure you look for these 5 characteristics. If you want candidates who genuinely want to work for you, will be a culture fit, and will grow at your organization, start by looking beyond the resume. 

If you're in the hiring process and aren't sure about compensation, we partnered with Pushpay to put together a Church Staff Salary Guide to give you the latest data on different roles.

At Vanderbloemen, we understand the importance of seeing beyond a candidate’s resume. Our search process helps us truly understand a candidate and if they will fit the DNA of the organizations we serve - churches, schools, nonprofits, family offices, and values-based businesses. If we can help your team with your next hire, let us know.

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