Without fail, the vast majority of candidates who apply for positions in churches won't make it past the initial review or first-round interview. Here are some of the reasons why, along with a few tips for landing a great new ministry role:
- You Didn't Stand Out. While it's important not to over exaggerate your experience, you must find ways to separate yourself from the crowd. For every worship leadership job I've posted, I've generally received more than 75 applicants. It's your job to make sure you capture a church’s attention. Tips // Be creative. A well-designed resume shows a potential employer that you're creative and really want to be considered for their position. Church ministry isn't corporate America - conventional "rules" about resumes don't necessarily apply in the same manner. Also, be sure to save and send your resume as a pdf (not a Word document).
- You Didn't Proof Your Resume. When you're trying to make a good first impression, nothing is worse than errors that make you look unintelligent. Tips // Proof your resume. Then proof it again. Then ask someone to proof it for you. And then proof it one last time. Check grammar, spelling, and factual accuracy. Make certain that EVERY link works as intended. Remember that computers are glitch-y and sometimes links break. Take the time to email your resume to yourself and make sure everything works as intended.
- You Didn't Provide A Video. A demo reel is a non-negotiable part of your resume. Churches expect video samples to accompany your application materials and without them, you won't make it past the first cut. Tips // Put together a quality demo reel. Keep it within 5-6 minutes and show snippets rather than entire sets/songs. Show diversity - lead a song with an instrument and another without. Make sure to include a moment when you spoke to the group you were leading. For young leaders, this can prove challenging because you may not have access to stellar footage of you leading worship. Take heart - churches are willing to look past this if you're creative and put together a reel that captures their attention. Think outside of the box.
- We Couldn't Figure Out Who You Were. Don't underestimate the importance of helping people to put a face with your name. The sooner you can make a personal connection with a potential employer, the better your chances of moving forward in their hiring process. Tips // Include a photo in your well-designed resume. Also, remember these helpful tips when creating your demo reel: (1) Ensure that you're the FIRST person seen in the video. Busy leaders don't have time to scan through footage in an attempt to figure out who you are. It’s frustrating and they won't spend much time doing it. (2) Start your demo reel with a brief introduction. Keep it under one minute and in a setting that's comfortable, welcoming, and endears you to the viewer. (3) Make sure you're visible in the video footage. Capture it from the front row, not the back.
- You Didn't Do Your Research. Churches are looking for high-capacity team members who'll commit to a great season of ministry. Pastors are looking for partners, not employees. Leaders want to know that you'll invest in God's work there because you took the time to understand the DNA of the church. Tips // Be strategic. Don't just send a resume to every church that has an opening. Take the time to get to know whether or not you'd be a good fit for them and if you'd find fulfillment at that church. Watch videos of their services. See if you connect with their teaching pastors' messages. Consider theological differences. Be proactive about helping a church understand that you've done your research and want to be part of what God's doing there.
- We Didn't Like What We Saw On Social Media. The Internet can be a job seeker's best friend and worst enemy. You can be 100% assured that a church will Google you and check in on all of your social media outlets before they ever send you your first follow up email. Tips // Be careful what you post.
- You Didn't Ask Good Questions. Remember that a church is evaluating everything about you - not simply the obvious things you'd expect. In addition to the way you respond to their questions, leaders are paying attention to the types of questions that you ask. Tips // Ask good questions. Prepare for interviews in a multi-faceted way. Don't just think of your answers, think of your questions. Be strategic - take the research that you've done and put it to good use.
- You Seem To Lack Self-Awareness. Churches want to be assured that you know who you are and are comfortable with yourself. Tips // I ask every person I interview, "If you were to describe yourself in 4-5 adjectives, what would they be?" I'm always surprised when the most seemingly self-aware person has a difficult time answering it. It's Interview 101 and you should be prepared with a response. It helps convince a church that you're aware of your own strengths and areas that will require intentional growth.