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Why You Need an Applicant Tracking System-Friendly Resume for Church Jobs and Pastor Positions

By Staff reported that on average, each corporate job offer attracts 250 resumes. Of those candidates, 4 to 6 will get called for an interview, and only one will get the job. In the white paper, “This Is How Google Hires Their Talent,” Kalibrr Technology Ventures, reported that "every year, Google receives over one million resumes and applications. Only 4,000-6000 applicants will actually be hired — that's less than a 1% hiring rate."

The ease of a job seeker applying to jobs on any given job board (such as, PastorJobs.Net, and has been beneficial and challenging for recruiters and applicants alike. Applicants have the tough job of finding a way to stand out from the crowd behind a computer screen, and employers can be overwhelmed with large numbers of resumes from applicants who are not qualified for the jobs being promoted online.

Many churches and ministries significantly smaller than Google will receive more than 100 resumes for posted church jobs and pastor positions such as senior pastors, youth ministers, worship leaders, house parents, teachers, and others. Studies show that resumes only receive 6-30 seconds of time from an employer, making the format and content within a resume key to recruiters and search committees choosing your resume.


What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?


These days, many resumes initially are not seen by a human eye but are reviewed by an applicant tracking system that scans for keywords to determine if your resume goes on to the next step to be reviewed by a hiring team or goes into the "No" pile. Employers, including a growing number of churches and ministries, use an ATS as an initial screening of resumes as they seek potential candidates. This can save the church search committee, recruiter, or hiring manager a lot of time as they do not need to view resumes that do not describe a baseline of skills and experiences needed for the job.

Pastor jobs, church jobs, and ministry openings require specific skills sets that need to be highlighted on a resume for the applicant tracking system to pick up. The ATS system works by screening out and rejecting resumes submitted that do not have the desired qualifications for the job. And even if a resume has the needed skills and experiences, an ATS system can reject resumes that are formatted with columns and tables as the system has a specific way of analyzing resumes. Creating an "ATS-friendly" resume ensures the majority of ATS systems recognize your skills for the ministry jobs that are of interest.


What is an Applicant Tracking System-Friendly Resume?


An applicant tracking system-friendly resume is one tailored to the unique software resume-reviewing system known as the applicant tracking system. A few ways to do so are including the required skills more than once in a resume, creating a Summary of Qualifications, using correct formatting, and submitting it in the correct file format.

Even if the employer does not use an applicant tracking system, you want to tailor your resume for the job description's skills, knowledge, and experience. Customizing your resume for each ministry job you apply for is critical for showcasing how you can meet an employer's needs.

This article will walk you through how to create an applicant tracking system-friendly resume step-by-step. It may sound like a lot of work, but customizing your resume for church jobs, pastor jobs, and ministry jobs is not difficult. By following the steps below, you increase your chances of having your resume get through applicant tracking systems and stand out to ministry employers.


How do you Develop an Applicant Tracking System-Friendly Resume?


1. Analyze the skills of the church jobs that are of interest.


Review the job postings that you are interested in, identifying three key skill groups: transferable skills, personal skills, and content skills.

Transferable skills are skills that can transfer from one job or career to another. When you describe your job duties, you are expressing your transferable skills. For example, when analyzing pastor jobs, you will typically see transferable skills such as preaching, teaching, leading, shepherding, managing, and others. These are skill names that should be emphasized in a resume as you describe your work experience.

Personal skills represent aspects of your personality. Unlike transferable skills, which develop over time, personal skills are more inborn. Examples of personal skills for a pastor could include being warm, friendly, curious, empathetic, patient, self-controlled, encouraging, insightful, humble, and passionate. Your personal skills can help you to stand out from other candidates during the hiring process.

While a church may be willing to teach an employee a new transferable skill or knowledge, they generally will not take the time to train someone in developing a needed personal skill, if that was even possible. Churches and other ministries need candidates who already have the required personal skills, so it makes sense to highlight applicable personal skills on your resume.

Content skills are knowledge areas needed to do specific pastor jobs, church jobs, and ministry jobs. For example, a church accountant would need content skills such accounts payable, payroll, figuring taxes, and using computer accounting programs. A pastor would need to have content skills such as knowledge of the Bible, theology, church history, evangelism, and others.

When you are enthusiastic about the content skills you are using in work, you will find more meaning in your career, especially if your content skills help you to meet needs in the world that you are passionate about.


2. Incorporate your key transferable, personal, and content skills into a Summary of Qualifications.


To stand out from other applicants, create a keyword-rich Summary of Qualifications on your resume relevant to the specific job posting to stand out from the crowd. Your Summary of Qualifications is where you can tailor your resume in five minutes or less. Having a Summary of Qualifications at the top of your resume also positions your skills where applicant tracking system software is more likely to pick each relevant resume keyword. You can create a short paragraph highlighting your relevant skills or lay it out with a few bullet points at the top of your resume.

Each statement in your Summary of Qualifications should showcase your most impressive work-related skills and accomplishments. If applying to various church and pastor jobs, you may need to make your bullet points relevant to each job and create a different summary. Below is an example for a pastor job.


• More than eight years of ministry and pastoral leadership experience as a missionary, Children’s Ministry Director and Associate Pastor.

• Strong motivation and enthusiasm for growing members as disciples and showing the love of Jesus to the community and world at large.

• Passionate about using communication, biblical teaching and preaching gifts to build up the Body of Christ.

• Vision and passion for community service, evangelism and global outreach.

• Proven organizational, leadership, and interpersonal skills; able to motivate and train staff members to excel in the use of their gifts as servant leaders.

• Strong ability to create compelling visions and goals for church growth and outreach.

• Creative, self-motivated, patient, adventurous, warm, friendly leader sold out to Jesus Christ.t t


3. Use the key required skills in your resume more than once.


The best practice is to use the most important keywords more than once if possible. If you have a wide variety of skills, customize each on your resume to the specific church jobs you are applying to, ensuring the ATS software will pick up your resume. Analyze the job posting for the skills recruiters and ATS software systems are looking for, then incorporate those skills within your resume as much as you can. Typically, ATS software systems tally points at every mention of a critical asset.


4. Prove your skills.


Proving your skills (whether they are transferable, personal, or content skills) means giving examples of how you have successfully used key skills in the past and demonstrating how your experience will transfer to the current job opening. Studies have found that a significant reason for extended unemployment is that 80% of job applicants cannot prove their top ten skills to a prospective employer. In other words, they cannot communicate effectively that they can do the job.

Whenever possible quantify your achievements with metrics and numbers. Drawing attention to quantifiable achievements shows church search committees and recruiters the results you have achieved with your skills. Church jobs, ministry jobs, and pastor jobs require unique skills that you can highlight with quantifiable achievements. Here are two examples:

• Teach and preach the Bible, to a congregation of 600, with the ability to inspire, encourage, exhort and make messages relevant.

• Speak at churches across America to challenge and train Christians related to missions and reaching Muslims. Several churches have reported a 20-35% increase in their outreach to the Muslim community in their community.


5. Choose the correct file format


Unless the employer specifies what file format to use (PDF or Word doc) there are pros and cons related to which file format is best for resumes. Saving and sending a PDF version of your resume will keep the formatting intact. In other words, how you see your resume will be how the employer views it as well. PDFs, however, may not be compatible with some applicant tracking software systems. On the other hand, while Word docs are typically more accurately analyzed by ATS software, there can be compatibility issues with different Microsoft software versions that may alter the format of your resume. So, in deciding what file format to use, you may want to send a PDF and a Word doc version if their application process allows you to do this. If it does not allow for this, then sending a Word doc version is best.

You can find a Word doc template in the article 14 Keys to Writing a Winning Resume For Church Jobs and Ministry Openings.


6. Format your resume to be read by an applicant tracking system.


Formatting your resume to be easily read by ATS software is similar to best practices for formatting your resume for an employer to read. For example, your name and contact information should be at the top followed by your Summary of Qualifications, followed by your work history (in a chronological resume) or your relevant experience (in a functional resume). You can learn more about these two styles of resumes here.




By focusing your job search on the right ministry job opportunity, and then custom tailoring your resume and cover letter, you have a much higher chance of being seen by an applicant tracking system as a qualified candidate. The recruiting process for ministry jobs and church jobs is much easier to understand when you consider what the employer is seeking in potential candidates and how they may be using applicant tracking software.

Although there may seem like a lot of steps to ensure your resume gets successfully through an applicant tracking system, becoming a candidate for a dream ministry job is worth it. When applying to church openings and ministry jobs, highlighting relevant skills, using keywords in the job description, and creating a Summary of Qualifications are a few ways to make your resume more ATS-friendly. By following the steps in this article, you can ensure your resume for any given job listing has the best chance of success with church search committees or recruiters.


Next Steps 


In addition to the steps above, you can find more help for resume writing in the article 14 Keys to Writing a Winning Resume For Church Jobs and Ministry Openings

Not sure what type of ministry or church job your resume should target? We can help you to find work that fits your God-given design. Learn more here.


 © Article copyright by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck,, and