In a recent survey of job seekers, 5% of people admitted to falsifying information on their resume.
I find that interesting for a number of reasons.
First of all, if someone lied on their resume, why would they answer your survey honestly?
But I get ahead of myself.
In our work at Chemistry Staffing, we have reviewed literally thousands of resumes and conducted hundreds of interviews with pastoral and ministry candidates over the past two years.
Pastors would never lie on their resume or at all during their job search, right?
Pastors are tempted to stretch the truth during their job search just like everyone else.
Let me start by saying that most ministry resumes that we receive are accurate and truthful.
Sometimes (perhaps most of the time) the discrepancies are minor and unintentional. But it’s of utmost importance to be TOTALLY truthful and forthcoming on your ministry resume.. Miss on truthfulness and you most likely will get found out and lose the opportunity for the job.
Today, I want to look at the biggest ‘lies’ we see on ministry resumes. As you look over your resume, take a look at each of these areas and be sure that you are being honest and reliable in your representation of yourself.
Here are some, shall we say, inconsistencies that I see most often:
- Work Experience. This is prevalent in ministry resumes since so much ministry experience can be unpaid or volunteer. Unpaid, volunteer, or internship experience IS experience, but it’s not the same as paid, full-time, on-staff ministry experience. Be sure you don’t make your one-time volunteer ministry work look like a full-time position.
- Dates of Employment. This is an easy one to take some liberty on. The most common culprit is the “- present” phrase when you’ve left your previous employment months ago. Another is to leave dates off altogether. Be sure your resume accurately represents your work history. We’ve quite often seen overlapping dates that we ask about on an interview only to find that the candidate has not really taken care in the preparation of their employment timeline.
- Titles of Your Previous Roles. Your resume is not the place to be creative with your past job titles. Be sure that when someone calls your references to confirm your previous employment, that you get the job title correct.
- Your College/Seminary Experience. This is one that is easy to embellish, but a simple background check will most likely show finished degrees. If you didn’t finish your degree or are ‘in progress’, say so. We find that fewer and fewer churches are basing their hires on degrees completed, so don’t make an issue out of something that shouldn’t be an issue. Be completely honest about the state of your past, current, and future education.
- Misrepresenting Your Age/Image. Sometimes we see a resume with a picture that is, upon talking with the candidate, clearly out of date. Be sure the picture on your resume matches what you currently look like. Have a beard in your picture? Be sure you have one in real life? The biggest offender here: including a picture that is clearly 10+ years old.
But why? Why are people… yes… even pastors, tempted to shade the truth on their resume? Here are the answers from the survey:
These seem to carry over into the ministry world.
Two points here:
- Gaps in your employment history ARE a real problem. When you have a gap in your employment timeline, be prepared to quickly and succinctly explain the reason for the gap. That is ALWAYS a better alternative then to try to cover the gap only to have it discovered. (We’re actually quite skilled at reading between the lines. If you know what to look for, the gaps are actually pretty easy to identify or surmise). Lesson: Never try to hide your employment gap.
- Inexperience leads many people to try to fluff their resume. This happens especially with younger candidates or candidates that are looking for their first paid ministry role. Be honest with your experience (or lack thereof). Attempting your first-time ministry role is hard to be sure, but many churches are looking for someone with great leadership skills and a true heart for ministry. Highlight those skills/abilities rather than trying to manufacture or fabricate your experience?
It’s pretty easy to embellish your resume.
But being truthful is the first step of healthy ministry. Integrity is key. Fight the need to make yourself look better than you are, to hide the ugly, or shade the truth.
A good interviewer will find the inconsistencies rather easily. It will make for a very uncomfortable interview (and disqualification from the job).
Today is a great day to look over your resume. Is it completely honest? Does it represent your true ministry experience? Or does it take liberty with the reality of your actual situation?
A few minutes of review under this lens may reveal some things that need changed.
Today’s the day to make those changes!