Every month I have people send me resumes. It’s smart, actually. On average, I have a position come available every year. I have a position coming available in a few months that I haven’t started promoting yet. I often know people who are hiring, as well. I admire those who take a risk and send their resume like that—it shows initiative.
Unfortunately, though, most resumes I receive are junk.
This weekend someone sent me a resume, and I was prompted to write back immediately. I actually wrote a long response because I truly wanted to help. However, my first paragraph contained the sentence, “Your resume is awful.”
But these are the same situations I see play out when someone makes a fool out of themselves on American Idol
auditions. Who wasn’t a good enough friend to them to say, “You should NEVER sing in public!” I’d like to be that kind of friend.
I’ve responded to resume emails like this a few times, but no one ever responds. Maybe my technique is off. Seriously, I’m not a jerk. If someone feels a calling to full-time ministry, I want you to make it. However, if your resume is junk, you’re not going to get the opportunity you were hoping for.
All that being said, I’d like to share four resume tips that will help anyone’s resume become 10,000 times better.
1. Less Is More.
The resume I received the other night was almost 12 pages long. That’s not a resume; it’s an assault on trees. I’ve worked in churches of less than 100 and churches of more than 5,000, and my resume has never been longer than one page front and back. I’ve worked at five different churches, and I can still fit everything in the same space.
Here’s the hint that will help you. I didn't include that I was a lifeguard in high school. When I was first looking for a job, I was looking for content to fill the page. The first ministry job I had lasted four years. Now it fits on two or three lines on my resume.
NewSpring Family Church | 1996-2000 – Part Time
Children’s Pastor (Four Years – 5th Grade)
Led ministry through 500% growth in ministry
If I’m applying for a ministry job, I don’t need to explain what my tasks were (something we often do). No one cares that I selected curriculum, led a Wednesday night program and took the kids to summer camp. Those things are assumed. However, you see what I did there? In those three lines, I created curiosity. You want to know how in the world I led 500% growth in four years as a part time college student, don’t you? Well, you’re gonna have to call me to find out what happened.
That’s the point of a resume. Create curiosity. Make them want to call you. Tell them what they need to know, but don’t tell them everything they’ll ever want to know. The goal of a resume is to win an interview. Write you resume in such a way that they’ll call you.
2. Presentation Matters.
This is something my dad taught me, and I believe it with all my heart. When I applied for my first full-time job, I spent a week polishing my resume. The guy I had been talking to about the job asked me to send it to him ASAP. This was back in 2000 and I was planning on sending him my resume via a Word doc. My dad insisted that I didn’t. He instructed me to buy some really nice resume paper (the thick linen type), go to a print shop so that it’s a clear and crisp print from a laser printer rather than my inkjet and then overnight the resume to the church.
Dad, that seems like a bit much. Really? This isn’t the 1970’s. We have email today.
He was right, though. I could spend hours formatting my Word doc, but there is no guarantee that when my future manager opened my document, it would look the same way it did when I saved it. What if the only font on his computer was Comic Sans? Yes, my resume would look like a kindergarten teacher wrote it. Not my resume. In a tall stack of resumes, mine stood out. Crisp. Clear. It even felt different.
I've never mailed a resume since then, but I've never sent my resume as a Word document, either. That’s risky. I save the file as a PDF and have confidence that when printed, it will look the way I intended it to look.
Ninety-five percent of resumes are identical. Yes, content matters—but sometimes the presentation is what brings it to the top. Consider a strategy other than opening up the “resume template” on Microsoft Word. I’d even suggest paying a designer to make it pop. Yes, it needs to look like a resume, but how can a little color, typography and design make your resume someone’s favorite to look at?
Last thing I’m going to say about this, but I’m passionate about it. If there is a single typo or grammatical mistake in your resume, you’re a moron. Yes, that was harsh, but you need to understand the significance of this mistake. I get resumes riddled with typos. This is the ONLY part of the job process that you have 100 percent control over. If you can’t make the effort to get this part right, there is no way that I would ever hire you. I have at least five people read, review and correct my resume before I send it off.
3. It’s All About the Details.
Getting a job, especially if it's a job you really want, is worth the time it takes to land it. Pay attention to the details and your efforts will pay off.
Too often I get that resume that completely perplexes me. I glance over it and wonder what job they’re really hoping to get. I know exactly what they did. They sent their resume to every job opening they could find. They hope that by sending the resume to dozens of openings, they’ll get a reply to one or two. It’s a strategy that seems logical, but it’s tragically flawed. Let me fill you in on how the hiring manager feels about the hiring process.
I hate it. I have an open position meaning that I’m probably juggling roles in the ministry. I’m a little stressed. When I sit down to look at the 30 resumes in my inbox, I’m usually frustrated by the process. Why? Because most people applying for the job are using the shotgun approach to getting a job. I’ll spend 80 percent of my time wading through junk resumes to find the two or three people who are at least qualified or seem like they could be a match. Everyone else wasted my time. It took them five seconds to submit their resume, but it took me several minutes to see that they aren’t qualified.
I’ve worked at five churches and have written four resumes (yes, it’s a mystery). However, I've only sent my resume to less than ten churches. Ever.
Here’s the secret: I applied to the churches where I wanted to work and the churches where I believed I met the qualifications and would be seriously considered.
When you are selective with where you apply, you can focus on the details. My cover letters were personal. They were written for each church and the position I was applying for. My references knew about the churches I was applying for because I told them about them. When I sent my resume via PDF, I named my resume KennyConleyResume.pdf, so that when the hiring manager was looking for it, it was easy to find. I’d politely email the hiring team/manager if a few weeks go by since I heard anything. This attention to detail pays off. It shows the hiring manager what I’ll be like to work with, something most applicants never can because of their approach.
Take time to think of the details that will help the hiring manager understand who you are and what it would be like to work with you without overwhelming him/her with emails or phone calls. Spend a little extra time than the other candidates do. You’ll stand out.
4. Do Something Worth Writing About.
What if you don’t have awesome content for your resume … meaning your experience is less than exciting. Maybe you've been a volunteer at a church and you just don’t have enough experience to put much down on a resume. Perhaps you’re at a church that’s been in significant decline. Spinning that situation might be tough. This is a problem, but it’s not a problem that can’t be overcome.
Here’s how you write a winning resume: Get some wins under your belt. Build something from scratch. Take something that’s failing and turn it around. Yes, this takes a little time, but you’d be surprised by what you can do in a year that will drastically improve your resume. You’ll fill your resume with reasons why someone should hire you.
You might even consider quitting your job and relocating specifically for the purpose of developing your skills. Become the star volunteer at a church that’s winning. Get the experience you need while you learn how the best do it. Many people quit their jobs and move in order to get an education. This is a viable option.
Here’s the biggest obstacle I see. You may be reading this article and you think to yourself, “I don’t want to spend the next two or three years at this church,” or “I’d rather just find a job now. I’m X years old and I’m just ready to do this full time.”
I get it. I totally get it. However, your resume will only unlock certain opportunities for you. Your options are going to be limited. The jobs could get now might not really help you in getting into the kind of church you really want to be in a few years from now. Instead, you might find yourselves stuck, and five to seven years from now, you’ll wish you had taken the last couple years to really develop at the kind of church that fits your DNA.
You are your resume. What are you going to do differently to have the resume that unlocks incredible opportunities?