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Three documents are required to make initial contact with a search committee: a  résumé, an OTM Portfolio, and a cover letter. Each of these documents should be concise and polished, as search committees often begin with fifty or more potential candidates. The initial screening of that many inquiries is likely to be cursory. The important information about a successful applicant’s ministry needs to jump off the page of each of these documents.

The résumé should be no more than two pages long, with all of the important information on the first page.   The first review of a résumé tends to be cursory.  After all, a search committee member may have a stack of forty applications to read.  The résumé should communicate the message, “explore this candidate more thoroughly” within thirty seconds of reading.

A combined chronological/functional  résumé is the preferred format.   Christopher Moore has written an excellent article on chronological/functional résumés, including a sample combined  résumé format can be found on the OTM website: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/CDO_clergy_resumes.pdf.

I prefer a slightly different format.  Instead of the usual “ministry objective,” lead the résumé with your “powerful purpose statement,” a concise statement of your purpose and values.  This topic is covered in a previous post, Ministry Objective vs. Provocative Purpose Statement.  I also prefer to list what Christopher Moore refers to as “ministry specialties” as part of my chronological employment history.

Your base résumé should be a fairly stable document, but you can tweak each résumé to highlight skills that may be appropriate to a given parish search.  Pay close attention to the formatting to insure the résumé is easy to read.  These days, I wear reading glasses and look favorably on larger fonts.

The OTM Portfolio is a standardized document that will be used by almost all search committees and diocesan transition ministry officers, whether or not they use the OTM keyword search program to match clergy and community ministry portfolios. The OTM Portfolio is a much longer and more comprehensive document than the CDO profile it replaces. Clergy should allot a few days to complete the entire document, including all of the narrative essay questions.  For a lengthier discussion of the OTM Portfolio, see my earlier post,  How to use the OTM Portfolio.

The cover letter is a chance to tailor the more generic information in your résumé and OTM Portfolio to the interests of a particular search committee. Like the résumé, the cover letter should be short. Within a page, you should try to highlight why you feel called to that parish, and how your particular skills and passions may match their described needs.

Before writing a cover letter, read published materials about the parish and its search thoroughly. The OTM Community Ministry Portfolio and the parish website are the most easily accessed information. Parish profiles are now commonly posted on the parish website. Results of parish surveys may also be found there. Read this information to understand what a parish is looking for in a new leader. Discern whether you can fulfill those hopes. Then condense your vision of fulfilling their hopes into your cover letter.

A cover letter needs no more than three paragraphs. The first paragraph should indicate your interest in the position, state how you became aware of the opening, and state why you are interested in that particular position at this particular time. The second paragraph should summarize your purpose, values, and skills, and indicate how they relate to the job description and qualifications stated in the position profile. This paragraph is the heart of the cover letter and should be clear and succinct. The third paragraph should note your enclosures (OTM Portfolio and résumé) and offer to supply additional material. A final closing line might thank the recipient for considering your application and ask God’s blessing on the process.


In recent years, the clear line I draw between entering a search process (covered in this post) and responding to a search committee’s questionnaire (covered in the next post) has become fuzzy.  When I began coaching in the pre-internet age, clergy would mail their basic documents to a search committee and wait to see if the search committee responded by mailing back a glossy parish profile and questionnaire.  Search committees usually screened their initial applicant pool to a manageable number based solely on the candidates’ résumé, CDO profile, and cover letter.  Only twenty to thirty applicants “made the cut” and were asked to respond to a questionnaire.

Given the speed, ease, and low cost of internet communication, many search committees are skipping this first step in the winnowing process.  For example, I received an e-mail invitation from a parish in another diocese last week.  The e-mail directed me to their website, parish profile, and an application form requesting a résumé, OTM portfolio, sermon, and seven essay questions.  Anyone who finds this parish opening, which is listed on the OTM site, can apply.  In my recent experience, this is a fairly typical request for information.

I don’t know how many applications this church will receive, but think about the size of each application package.  An application will include a one page cover letter, two-page résumé, a seven-page OTM Portfolio with links to countless other pages of information, seven essay answers of indeterminate length – another five to ten pages, and a written sermon.  The average application package may run twenty pages.

If this parish receives thirty to forty applications, that implies six to eight hundred pages of reading for the search committee.  How can a search committee effectively evaluate that much information?  How will they go about evaluating the applications?  Will they read each application thoroughly, or will they review the résumés first, before deciding which applications to read thoroughly?  Are search committees using the short essays on the OTM Portfolio, or do they prefer essays responding to their own questionnaire?

Perhaps requiring clergy to complete a time consuming application effectively limits the size of an applicant pool to a manageable number.  I am less likely to enter a search that requires a large application unless I have discerned that position is a close match for my skills, values, and purpose.

Advances in internet technology allow participants in the church deployment process, both search committees and clergy, to share copious amounts of information.   We seem to operate under the assumption that more information is better, but is that always the case?  Do we understand how much and what kind of information search committees and clergy need at different stages of the discernment process?

NEXT POST: Discern what search committees are looking for and respond to their questions