13 Tips for Pastoral Candidates in the Initial Hiring Process, Part II of II

[This Part II of II; for Part I, click here]

Getting a job in Christian ministry is difficult and time-consuming. This is true whether you are applying for a job at a church doing a large, national search or whether you are applying for a job through your network of friends and ministry contacts, and thus competing against a much smaller pool of candidates (or no other candidates at all). Regardless, it’s hard work. But if you are serious about finding the right job, here are a few more tips to help you during the initial phase of the hiring process. (For “tips” 1-6, click here.)

7. Only send PDFs (not Microsoft Word documents).
Never send your information in Microsoft Word documents (or the Mac equivalent). You can’t control how it will look on another person’s computer screen. You can, however, control how a PDF looks. When I’ve been on search committees, every time I’ve looked at a resume with messed up formatting, it’s proved a distraction. Look, if you spend time getting the formatting perfect, especially on the resume—which typically has difficult spacing—don’t assume the person getting your email has the same version of Word. Rather, send it as a PDF to protect your hard work. If you do not know how to save as a PDF, Google it or ask someone for help. Don’t be lazy with this. It’s important.

8. Only send one attachment.
If you’ve paid close attention so far, then you realize that you’ll be sending several documents—a cover letter, resume, bio with picture(s), references, and possibly even a recommendations. That’s a bunch of documents.

However, do not send an email with a bunch of attachments! Multiple attachments are the pits, especially for the person who is receiving these emails. And there’s a good chance he or she could accidentally not print one of them or not staple or paperclip them together. As I said above, your one attachment should be a PDF.

But you might be asking, “What if each of the documents is in a different Word document—how do I make them one PDF?” This is not a problem. Save each as a PDF and then merge them into one PDF. If you don’t own a program that can do this, you can use one for free here.

9. Send from your personal email account.
Whatever you do, do not send all of this information through the mechanism provided by some job-search websites, such as ChurchStaffing.com, even if that feels like an easy button to press. As a candidate you might not realize this, but when you send your info in this way the final product looks lousy. Instead, try to look up the church’s website to see if the job is posted there. If so, follow those instructions on who to email. Related to this, don’t have a cheesy email address. For example, don’t haveIAmSoOnFireForJesus@aol.com. And I’d suggest not using your student or current work email, as well. This is true for multiple reasons, but mainly because people might try to contact you after you have left your current school or employer but won’t be able to. Therefore, what you want is an email that will stay with you after you leave. If you don’t have an email like this, just create one at Gmail with your first and last name.

10. If you are in a different country, work extra hard. Don’t take this the wrong way, but when my previous church hired people, we posted the jobs on all of the major websites and our favorite seminaries. And each time we received a dozen or more resumes from people out of the country, and almost every time, what these people sent looked sketchy. I have no idea if the people applying were actually sketchy or not—but it was difficult to tell.

If you are applying for a job not in your own country, please know that you have a massive hurdle to overcome, even if only from a financial standpoint on the church that hires you (i.e. it will cost more to fly you in for the interview and to move you). That’s not to say you won’t have much to offer. In fact, you probably do, especially by way of perspective.

Here are a few tips to overcoming this hurdle. First, have someone from the country you are trying to move to look over your material before you send it. Second, if you have references in the country you are trying to move to, put them down. And if you have worked in that country before, or have education there, highlight that as well.

11. Make the follow-up phone call.
If you like the job, after you send your email, call the church to tell them. In fact, I’m tempted to say you should call even if the paper says “don’t call.” I say this because you want to stand out. The search team could be reading two hundred packets and when they come to yours, you want them to have heard from someone, maybe the church secretary, “Hey, this guy called a few days ago and sounded really nice.”

When you make the call, don’t do what I did once. I was so excited about the job, so excited to tell the search team or the receptionist or the pastor or whoever answered the phone that, when someone did, I rambled and mumbled and paused awkwardly because I hadn’t thought through what to say beforehand. Don’t do this. I ended up getting that job, but afterwards, they had a good laugh with me (or was it at me) about it. Here’s what you want to do: know what you are going to say on the call and then keep it short and sweet. You are just saying a quick hello to let them know how interested you are and what specifically attracted you about the job and church. If you want, you might even ask a question, such as “Why do you love your church so much?”

12. Stay positive regarding previous job transitions.
When writing or speaking about previous transitions, keep them positive. I’m not saying you should lie. Don’t do that. If the church is any good, when the time comes they will ask for more details. What I am talking about is in the initial stages choose to stress the positive reasons that you are looking for a job. For example, if part of why you are leaving your current church is because there was a change in the senior leadership and you no longer fit in as well, don’t go into all of that on your cover letter. Anytime there is a transition, we all assume—or should assume—there were reasons. It won’t help anyone involved if you complain about it, especially in the initial contact.

13. Be intentional on your social media, blog, and website.
Finally, as soon as you begin to contemplate a transition, only post content online with this potential transition in mind. As soon as anyone takes you seriously as a candidate, they will Google you, and when they do, they will follow the online breadcrumbs to your social media, and if you have them, your blog and website.

Think about this every time you post something. If you are inclined to post to Facebook pictures of the steak dinner that you are about eat, that’s probably fine. But if you are given to posting links about your love for the Tea Party or, on the other end, how awesome Keith Olbermann is, scale it back. And if you tend to re-tweet people with theological differences than you in order to mock them, don’t. I follow a guy on Twitter who does this, and I enjoy it. He’s good at it, but he’s in a role where it makes sense. You’re probably not.

The general principle is this: anything that you don’t want a search committee to see, don’t post. Remember, the search team doesn’t get your inside jokes. They weren’t there that one time when… Responsible online participation should be true all of the time, simply because you are a Christian, especially a Christian pursuing full-time ministry, but it’s worth the reminder when looking for a job.

[Part II of II; for Part I, click here]