When we think about these kinds of issues, we have to keep two things in mind: (1) while God looks at the heart, man often looks at appearances; this is not only a fact of life, it is a necessary reality in the search process (when search teams aren't yet able to know—much less consider—the heart of a candidate yet). And, (2), when you're a search team with 75, 100, 150, or more résumés in front of you, inevitably you will look for any and every reason to eliminate a candidate and move on to the next guy. This, too, is a cruel fact in the pastoral search process.
So what are the pebbles that you can easily remove from your path? Any of these…
- A goofy picture of you (or of something else) on your social media page
- Misspelled words in your information packet
- An e-mail address that suggests you don't take yourself seriously
- Not bothering to get the addressee information right (wrong or misspelled name, etc.)
- Evidence that you copied and pasted the e-mail/cover letter/other material
- Obvious grammatical mistakes
- Using Comic Sans, Papyrus, or other "casual" style font/typeface on your documents
…and a world of other possibilities.
These are so easy—yet, they are so easily and frequently overlooked. I see résumés and other materials regularly that make me wonder, "Did they even bother to proofread this?" And I get connections from would-be candidates ("would-be" because no search committee has advanced them beyond the initial stages) on Facebook with ridiculous pictures on their profile.
When I was teaching in seminary, I had a student who's e-mail address was something like "packer-fan@…" That was 11 years ago, and that former student is now a lawyer. I can still reach him via "packer-fan" but now he also has an address with his name and nothing cute as his main contact. He grew up, and it shows.
So what should you do? How do you "clean it up" and get things in proper order?
Some of these deserve their own post (I'll probably do something like "Facebook for Pastors" down the line). But some of them are simple.
Set up (or just start using) an e-mail address that shows you are serious—and that you take yourself seriously enough to be their pastor. You don't have to register a special domain; Gmail or Yahoo are fine. But avoid stuff like "WonderBob@gmail…" or "wildcats_rule@yahoo…" These were fine in college. Now it's time to move on.
Check over your social media profiles. Make sure that your profile pictures are you, or at least you with others—take down the pic of the sports team logo, the cartoon character, or that funny mash-up your friend did where he pasted your face onto Richard Simmons' head. (You can leave these in your photos, if you want, but just not as your profile picture.) And make sure that your other information is accurate and, again, taking seriously the fact that people are going to be measuring your potential as their future pastor, in part from what they see on Facebook (and Twitter, and LinkedIn, etc.).
Use a traditional serifed font. Sure, Times New Roman is a bit dull, and you're probably tired of looking at it after all of the papers you've typed. But there are many great traditional typefaces that are quite beautiful and functional at the same time: Garamond, Minion Pro, Georgia, Goudy Old Style, and Baskerville are all great alternatives to Microsoft's default. (One study determined that Goudy Old Style communicates trustworthiness the most of all typefaces; isn't that something worth communicating?) And yes, it's perfectly fine to use the same typeface for all of your documents—preferable, actually.
Proofreading your documents. And get your wife, girlfriend, roommate, or best friend to proofread them, too. That goes for cover letters and e-mails as well, if possible.
Listen to your voicemail greeting. This one is easy to overlook; most of us forgot what our voicemail greeting sounded like 5 minutes after we recorded it (and that may have been years ago)—but a search committee chair will probably hear it the first or second time they call you. Is it clear? Does it have loud music in the background? Have your friends hacked your phone and recorded something silly? Change it if you need to, but be sure you know what they are hearing (and that it is something you are okay with).
These are good starts. What are some "pebbles in the path" that YOU'VE seen?