As a search consultant I look at pastoral resumes every day. Some are terrific and some, well…not so much. Pastors often ask me to offer suggestions for improvement. So here are my top ten ways to improve your resume.

  1. Understand the purpose of a resume. The goal of your resume is to effectively convey your background and experience in a way that gets you an interview. The goal is not to tell every last detail about yourself. You want to pique interest so that you are invited into a personal conversation.
  1. Tailor your resume to the job you want. If you are applying for a Senior Pastor role then submit a resume tailored to that role. Don’t submit a resume that states you are open to a Senior Pastor, Discipleship or Student Ministry position. If you are confused about your call, others will be too. Even if you are open to a variety of positions, adapt to your audience.
  1. The edit button is your friend. These are words to live by when writing your resume. Say what you want to say and then think about how to say it more succinctly. The old adage that your resume will get an initial “30 second look” is true. Try to keep the length to 2 pages and make sure the content is relevant and to the point. Rather than list 20 highlights for each position, share your top 3-5 highlights.
  1. Quantify your experience. Numbers matter. Every number represents a person that you had the opportunity to influence. Numbers help others to understand the size, scope and context of your leadership. What size congregations have you served? How many paid staff have you managed? What is the total budget of the church? Sharing these kinds of numbers can give you a leg up in getting your resume noticed…especially since many leave out these descriptive metrics.
  1. Clarify accomplishments. Pastors often have a hard time articulating their accomplishments. They feel it will be perceived as prideful or self-serving. But it is important to articulate what God has done through you in your ministry. Ask yourself, how has the ministry changed or grown under your leadership? What was the best decision you made during your tenure? What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in your role?
  1. Be specific. If you received an award in seminary or an invitation to participate on a select leadership team, make note of it on your resume but clarify what made it special. For example, rather than “2015 XYZ leadership program participant,” try “one of eight young pastors selected out of 300 applicants to participate in the 2015 XYZ leadership program.”
  1. Keep it real. Make sure that any numbers or accomplishments you include on your resume are accurate and verifiable. If you state average attendance, annual budgets, or growth that occurred under your leadership be sure that all numbers are accurate. References will be contacted. There is no quicker way to get knocked out of a search process than to exaggerate your accomplishments.
  1. Spelling and grammar matter. Search teams expect to see the best version of a candidate during the interview process. If you don’t care enough to proofread your resume when trying to get a job, why would they believe you would proofread your written material once you have the job? Use spell check, proof your resume and then ask your spouse, a friend or other trusted individual to proof it for you.
  1. Picture perfect. A picture is a great addition to a resume, but be thoughtful about the picture you choose. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Choose a picture of you, or you and your family that is high quality and good resolution. No picture is better than a bad picture.
  1. Choose interests that are interesting. Most pastors include a few lines about what they enjoy outside of ministry and leadership. Make yourself stand out by including interests that are actually interesting. Think about how to describe your interests with some distinction. Rather than “I enjoy reading, running and spending time with my family,” try “In addition to ministry focused books, I enjoy spy novels and biographies. Last year I ran nearly 600 miles and I can sing along with almost every Disney musical movie made in the last five years. My two daughters think I’m amazing.”