Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Getting your resume ready, part two

In my last post on this topic, I talked about the "everything under the sun" vs. the "barest basics" approaches to developing a resume.  In brief, my take on a pastoral resume was that less is more, and the "barest basics" is the way to go.

So what should go onto a pastoral resume?  It's pretty simple.  (It has to be, if it is going to fit on a single page!)

  • Name, address, phone number, e-mail address at the top of the page.  Don't try to get clever with something like putting your name in gigantic letters or whatever-- you're wasting your time and suggesting that you need to distract the search committee from something else on the page.  Put your name on a single line, your address on the next line, and phone number and e-mail on the third line.  If you must, make them a few point-sizes larger than the rest of the text.
  • Educational background.  Keep it basic-- Put the name of the college you attended, its location (city, state), the year you graduated, and the degree you earned.  Same with junior colleges, community colleges, or technical colleges (if you earned a degree, such as an Associate of Arts-- leave it off if you didn't earn a degree).  And the same with seminary and other graduate degrees you've earned.  Do not fill up the page with bullets detailing what fraternity you joined, which campus ministry you were vice-president for, or what your GPA was.  (The guy who gave us our campus tour when we first visited Covenant Seminary put it best: "If you made straight A's in seminary, they'll call you 'Reverend,' and if you barely passed half of your classes in seminary, they'll still call you 'Reverend.'")
  • Professional experience.  By that I mean, what work experience do you have that is considered career-oriented.  If you have enough experience in ministry alone, you might decide to limit this section to only that.  If ministry is a second career for you, you'll have significant experience outside of professional ministry to list.  The work-study job you had in college and that semester you worked making pizza at Little Caesar's doesn't make this list.  (NOTE: don't be afraid to include the internship you did while in seminary and the pulpit supply work you've been doing.)
  • Qualifications for ministry (OPTIONAL).  Include these ONLY if you don't have very much under the professional experience section.  If you went to seminary straight from college and/or the only ministry experience you have is an internship at your church while in seminary, you should list the three or four top skills or abilities you have that make you a qualified candidate for the ministry position you're seeking.  There should not be more than three or four, and they must be skills or abilities; this is not a place for listing your spiritual gifts or your aspirations in ministry.  Hard skills (like "small group leadership" or "strong administrator") and specific abilities (such as "a strong teacher" or "a knack for evangelizing strangers") are what counts here.
It's probably best to put them in the order shown above, with the exception of the "Qualifications for ministry" section-- if you must include that, put it first.  That will give them a reason to read further.

You don't need an objective, even though most resume books will tell you to lead with this.  Objectives exist so that Human Resources departments can pull a file of resumes and match them to the 43 different positions they need to fill.  Most likely, you're applying at a church where there is a single position open, so they'll know what you are applying for.  (On the off-chance that there are multiple positions available-- or if you're simply uncomfortable leaving it unsaid-- then mention in your cover letter what you are applying for.)

Similarly, don't believe for a minute that the resume is the place for listing your spiritual gifts, the details of your family, your hobbies and interests, your references, or the articles you've published in your favorite ministry journal.  There is a place for those, and I'll cover them in another post.

Your resume is a document that gives the frank details of your professional development-- and that means education and experience.  The other essential information (and there is plenty more essential information that you should prepare) will find a proper place in other documents.  Keep posted for details on those.

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