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How To Spot Lies On A Ministry Resume

In recent posts we have been sharing the importance of character in interviewing and how to interview for character. Another way to interview for character is by taking a forensic approach to examining candidate resumes. Unfortunately, ministry candidates are just as likely to be untruthful on their resumes as those applying for secular jobs, so be careful in giving a candidate “the benefit of the doubt.” I’ve seen everything from a slight embellishment to outright lies on resumes. Let’s take a look at six of the most common ways people stretch the truth on their ministry resumes.

6 Discrepancies To Look For On Ministry Candidate Resumes

The reality is that most ministry resumes I have reviewed appear to be truthful. And the discrepancies I have found are typically minor or possibly unintentional. That said, ministry candidates are human and are just as tempted to fudge on their resumes as anyone else. And, if they are being untruthful on their resume, and you miss it, you can count on that character flaw raising its head sometime in their ministry career. Here are the most common ways I have observed that ministry candidates tend to stretch the truth on their resumes:

#1. Gaps in Work Experience: Surveys show that this is the number one reason people lie on their resumes. Gaps in work experience can be an indication they are trying to cover something up. Reasons include that they don’t want you to be aware of a time they were unemployed, or a time when they were fired, or possibly that they don’t want you to know the type of employment they had during a specific time frame.

#2. Ministry Experience: Surveys show that work experience is the second most lied about aspect on resumes. Many younger candidates will list literally every ministry experience they have had in an attempt to fluff their resumes. But being a participant on a mission trip or volunteering as a camp counselor are vastly different from a full-time ministry position. These and other experiences, like internships, can appear on resumes as if they were paid positions when in actuality they were not.

#3 Misrepresenting Image: If a picture is provided with the resume, it can often be dated. This is especially true for older candidates who want to appear younger.

#4. Dates of Employment. The most frequent culprit here is when a candidate lists a start date to “Present” when in reality they left the position months ago. In such cases I’ve found that often they were fired or left under adverse circumstances. Another red flag is when they leave dates of employment off all together or have overlapping dates of employment. This can reveal carelessness in the preparation of their resume.

#5. Educational Experience. This one is easy to fudge because most churches won’t confirm a candidate’s college or seminary background. The most frequent lie is to indicate that a degree was finished when in fact it is still in progress or long ago abandoned. This is done by listing the dates they studied in the program leaving the impression that they graduated when they did not. The second most frequent education lie is misrepresenting a program or degree.

#6. Titles in Previous Roles. Title discrepancies are typically uncovered in reference checks. At times a candidate will use a different title that they feel sounds more important or is more consistent with the job they are being considered for.

In addition to looking for discrepancies, look out for these red flags that could indicate a cover up.

  1. Just because someone has served at a number of churches, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily competent or successful. Don’t just look at how many places someone has been but rather how long they have served at each place. Frequent moves are often indicators of relational or commitment problems.
  2. Not listing references from previous churches can indicate that there is no one there who would provide a positive reference.

A good interviewer will spend significant time combing through a candidate’s resume, verifying the information provided and following up with references to confirm the accuracy of the resume. The information gleaned can provide questions for later interviews or even eliminate a candidate from further consideration.





Posted on May 9, 2023

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5