4 Things Smart Search Committees Look For In A Resume

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Let’s face it, not all ministry resumes are created equal. Some people have known what they wanted to do since first grade and have focused on education and activities that are attractive to potential employers in their desired career path. Many others discover a later-in-life calling to what they were made to do.

Relevant ministry experience can vary greatly from more-than-enough to none-at-all. As a result, what gets put on a resume can (and does) change greatly from applicant to applicant. Search committees and church staff members who make hiring decisions have a tough task of filtering through all of those names, dates, and employers to find out who is going to fit their church’s needs. It can be very tedious.

There are a few things that smart search committees look for to help them narrow the field down to the group that needs the most attention. Here are a few things they look for beyond the basics.

1. Relevance 

How relevant is this cadidate's experience to our church context? Smart Search committees take time to research not only the previous employers, but also the relevance of that employer to their own context. Not only that, but position titles can mean drastically different things in different churches given a change in size, leadership structure, and cultural context. For example, Student Pastors with a Youth Ministry of 80 might be amazing with students, while a Student Pastor with a ministry of 300 might be amazing with volunteers and parents. Context matters much more than position titles.

2. Competence

How competent is this applicant based on the language they use to describe what they do? Sometimes reading a resume is like hearing a book report from someone who didn’t read the book. They mentioned the author’s name a few times, but they didn’t really get it. Smart Search Committees consider the language used in a resume, because the language we use displays our competence in a subject. Also, the language can reveal relevance as well.

What a candidate highlights in a resume will reveal what they value.Tweet: What a candidate highlight in a resume will reveal what they value.
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3. Self-Awareness 

How does this candidate talk about themself and what does that reveal? Smart search committees pay close attention to the tone that is used in a resume because it reveals much about a candidate’s inner life. Does a candidate take full credit for ministry growth or do they approach successful ministry from a humble position of gratitude? Does a candidate own up to their deficiencies with grace?

4. Story

What is the common thread in this candidate’s experience? All of us are on a journey - one that involves trust, obedience, and choice. What candidates have chosen to do with their time says a lot about whom they are becoming and what they were made to do. If there is no continuity from position to position, maybe they are still searching for clarity on what they do best.

Smart search committees take the time to consider the threads that candidates are following and a good resume should leave no doubt what those threads are. Ultimately, that story should be leading to whatever position they’ve put their name in consideration for, because that is what smart search committees expect to find in a candidate’s story.

Are there other things that smart Search Committees look for? What would you add to this list?

If you liked this, you'll also enjoy What Not To Put On Your Ministry Resume.