We have the great privilege of interviewing candidates every day and hearing how different churches approach their own personal interviewing process. I want to share a few easily applied tips that have impressed me along the way. This is not a comprehensive list of best interview practices, but I hope these few ideas help improve your ministry's interview process.
1. Spend informal time together.
You should hire someone you want to spend 40 hours a week with.
The best way to determine this is by spending some informal (non-working) time together. Create some space to have a casual meal or some sort of activity. Use this time to see if you truly enjoy this person and if they seem to enjoy your company as well. Compatibility cannot be discovered over the phone like it can be over coffee or a meal. Does this person make you feel on edge or relaxed when you are talking to them?
Discovering how this person interacts with you in a casual setting will help you understand how they will interact with new people at the church. Observe how they treat other people while you are in these environments. Sitting in the church office does not give you the opportunity to see how a candidate treats the wait staff at a restaurant or the barista at a coffee shop.
2. Evaluate the right factor at the right time.
Competency should be interviewed for before the face-to-face interview. The face-to-face interview explores culture and compatibility fit, so competency should already be tested at that point.
You should not be spending your time in a face-to-face interview understanding the candidate’s familiarity with different software programs or asking for metrics on the size and growth record of their experience. Those are questions for initial phone conversations. You should instead be discovering how they interact with you and asking about how they have interacted with other people in previous roles.
3. Listen now, decide later.
You should not be making a decision on who to hire during the interview. Rather, you should be collecting all the information you can to inform a healthy decision with your team in a follow-up meeting. Use the time in an interview to listen and understand.
Stay curious in your interviews.
4. Make sure the right people are involved in the interview.
This person should not only interview with the person they would be reporting to. They should also interact at some level with the team they will relate to or supervise. Be intentional about how you involve those individuals so that the responsibility of the hiring decision is well understood, but take their feedback into serious consideration.
5. Have a list of questions, not a list of desired answers.
If you go into the interview with a list of things you are looking for instead of a list of questions, you will likely ask leading questions or have significant confirmation bias. Your first priority is to interview this individual, not to educate them on the profile of the desired next hire.
If they feel like there is a list of “right” answers then they will be less likely to be honest. This approach should also impact how you approach initial conversations with candidates who may look like “wild cards”. Make a point to reach out to a few candidates who you have significant reservations about for short phone conversations. Give yourself a chance to be surprised.
We all have biases that we bring into interviews. We should not seek to get rid of our biases, but understand what they are and why they are valuable and also potentially harmful. I hope we all listen well, and set ourselves up for appropriate evaluation with the right environment and people involved in the process.
What are some ways you've improved your interviewing process in the past?