Here’s my second installment of my series on getting a job in Children’s Ministry. As I said before, I just hired an Elementary Director and have just gone through the process of posting the job, reviewing resumes, interviewing, making an offer and all the things in-between. It was about 3 years ago that I went through this process as well, so it this part is still fresh on my mind as well.

In this post I’m going to talk about the resume. For most job applicants, this is what will determine what will stop the process immediately or get you to the next level, which for me was an email or a phone conversation. Of the 40-50 resumes that I received, I only read half of them completely. First of all, a quick scan of the resume would tell me if you had appropriate experience. If the experience looked like it was lacking, I would look for anything that stood out, something that would impress me. Perhaps the candidate didn’t have all the experience I was looking for, but they had done something that demonstrated that they had the “stuff” I was looking for. If I didn’t see something that wowed me, then I’d close that resume and file it. If a resume did look like they had appropriate skills and experience, I’d begin looking closer and investigating the candidate. I’d usually check out the webpages of the church the candidate currently worked. Sometimes even from the church websites I could learn a lot about where the candidate was coming from. I’ll even search for a candidate on the web or on myspace. It’s all free and open content and I have learned things about potential candidates from their myspace page… most of the time this did not help the candidate at all.

Here are a few big things I notice about resumes (Be aware that these are just my opinions. However, my opinion matters heavily if you are looking to fill a position that I posted. Remember that when seeking a position, you don’t really know the person who is reading over your resume, so their opinion is what matters):

Quick side-note. These things I list may seem trivial. However, I believe the resume is much more important than some people believe. Your resume is the only thing your potential new boss knows about you and you need to present your best… YOUR VERY BEST! Your potential boss may make assumptions about you based one the wording you use, your choice of format or any other thing. Be sure to invest appropriate time into developing the best possible resume you can.

Resume format and title:
This is a simple thing but super important. When I applied for my first full time ministry job over 7 years ago, both my Dad (had tons of executive management experience) and my brother (an international consultant) reviewed and helped me craft my resume. One thing my dad insisted upon was for me to mail my resume. The church I was talking to asked for me to email my resume, but my dad insisted that I print it out on nice paper and overnight it to them. Why? There was no guarantee what the resume would look like when they opened it up. If they had different fonts, or an older version of MS Word, there is no guarantee that all the time I spend in formatting would carry over to what they open up. They could also assume that my jacked up resume was something I created and would be a poor reflection on me. Mailing them a hard copy was my guarantee that they got what I wanted them to see. I would not recommend mailing a resume today with easy to access programs like Acrobat. I do suggest that you save your resume as a PDF and send this this way. I’ve seen too many resumes designed in Word where the formatting looks a little funny.

Second of all, pay attention to what you name the resume file. Honestly, I’ve got a resume named JoeGoodResume. My inital question is, “if you have a good resume, do you also have a bad one?” I know that when I was searching for a job several years ago, I had 2 or 3 separate resumes, each that emphasized different strengths. I kept each of these resumes saved in separate folders that described what resume it was. Each of the resumes had the same name… KennyConleyResume. I know this one is picky, but I notice these things.

Style of Resume
I read recently on a children’s ministry website that recommended to add lots of color and images to a resume to show creativity and to get it noticed. Personally, I think this is bad advice in most cases (I told you this was my opinion). Unfortunately, people who read that advice may have taken clip art from the web and pasted this into their resume or included lots of pictures and not know the design principles of placement and sizing. No matter how good you may think it looks, it may not look that great to the person viewing it. If it doesn’t look professional, the colors and graphics are going to kill your resume. Unless you are a graphic artist and fully understand the rules of color and design, I would completely avoid anything flashy. As I’ll say later, let your solid experience and skills be the flash, not colors and pictures.

I’ve always had a simple black and white resume that separated education, experience and skills. I paid special attention to follow a nice format and stay true to the format all the way through. I would have 3-5 different people proof read my resume multiple times ensuring that there were no mistakes anywhere to be found. Even Microsoft Word has some great resume templates. The guy I just hired used this one joesmithresume.pdf and I totally loved it. It actually uses color, but I really liked the way it looked. It maintained the professional style, but incorporated a modern look with relevant colors.

Content of Resume
Most people have told me that if you are young or new to the field, don’t go over one page on your resume. Maybe a cover page and a reference page, but keep the resume to one page. As you gain experience, your resume may expand to more pages. If you’ve had a bunch of unrelated jobs, it isn’t important to list the 6-8 things you did in each of those jobs. Also keep in mind that a resume doesn’t have to be long to be impressive. Fluff is quickly noticed, so don’t make it your mission to fill out a resume. If anything, your goal is to make your resume as short as possible yet still adequately describe your skills and experience. Remember, if you don’t meet all the requirements of the job, explain clearly why you should be considered anyway.Â

I believe the style and content are very important in a resume. A very nicely formatted resume speaks to me about a candidate’s ability to be thorough, and orderly. Typos and common mistakes speak heavily against a candidate. If a candidate doesn’t care or repeatedly misses the mark in a resume (a very important document), this tells me about how they may work out in a staff position. Good style and formatting though is the icing on the cake. What matters most to me is the content. I want to be wowed, impressed and intrigued by the content. Get your content down and then worry about style. So for me, your content is going to speak the loudest and either your style/formatting will be the icing on the cake or cause to be concerned.

Wow that was a long post. I hope that helps with resume building. Be sure to search the web for resume help… there are a lot of great tools and examples to follow. I would advise everyone to always have an updated resume on file. You never know when you may need it. Writing a resume from scratch can take a really long time, but spending 20-30 minutes updating it ever 6 months to a year is a manageable task.