How to Read a Résumé

An important role of a pastor is that of employer. An experienced pastor knows that having the right people makes a difference in his ability to provide services to his parishioners. When a position requires a new employee, the pastor is faced with the challenge of finding the best person for the assignment. 

One common tool for screening prospective employees is the resume, or in some cases, the job application form. A resume may reveal a good amount of information to a prospective employer. The obvious information is that of stated qualifications and accomplishments. There is, however, potentially much more information not stated. This article will provide some tips for “reading between the lines” of stated information. 

By way of a preamble, however, it is important to note that most of the author’s comments are aimed at increasing the awareness level in reading a resume. It may appear as though the author is stereotyping individuals, which is not the intent, rather, that some patterns of behavior may provide insight into the suitability of an applicant for the position sought. 

Starting with the very basics of a resume, the top of a resume will include the applicant’s name, address, telephone number and usually an e-mail address. There is not much an applicant can do with the name given them, though they sometimes parenthetically include a nickname that may reveal something about the person. Oftentimes, nicknames are given to people by others and reflect something about their personality, size or appearance. A pastor may see the necessity for caution if the applicant’s name is John (The Big Hurt) Doe, especially if the position is for a kindergarten teacher. 

Another way in which an applicant reveals something about himself or herself is the e-mail address. An e-mail address affords the opportunity for people to give themselves a nickname, rather than having one imposed upon them. If the e-mail address is, a pastor may want to discuss it with the applicant, especially if the job opening is for the development director or parish bookkeeper. 

The first paragraph of a resume usually includes an opening statement typically termed an “objective,” such as: “To obtain a managerial position in a company in which my skills and experience can be fully utilized.” Most objectives are generic and an employer may tend to skip over its meaning. The objective, however, may reveal certain attributes of the applicant. In this day of computers and copy equipment, applicants have ample opportunity to customize their objective statements in a resume. In the brief example above, the applicant did not take the time to change the objective of obtaining a position in a “company” to that of the opening offered at a parish. This could indicate that the applicant prefers to do the minimum amount of effort to satisfy a requirement. 

An applicant may also reveal in the objective the level of common sense he or she possesses. If the job opening is for a receptionist position, and the objective statement indicates that the applicant is seeking a managerial position, the employer should take pause and ask, “Does this applicant really believe that the position of receptionist is a managerial position, or one that would naturally lead to a managerial position?” 

In next month’s column we will discuss the manner in which an applicant describes his or her work experience on a resume, what the descriptions say and don’t say, and how some seemingly irrelevant experience may not be irrelevant. TP 

MR. LENELL, C.P.A., Ph.D., is the director for financial and administrative services for the Diocese of Rockford, Ill. Dr. Lenell’s book Income Taxes for Priests Only is published by “Fathers Guide.” He lectures and conducts workshops and does consulting to several dioceses on priests’ taxes, compensation, and retirement planning. Write to Dr. Lenell, c/o The Priest magazine with questions, or e-mail him at