It takes many hands to run a ministry and managing church employees can be every bit as challenging as managing people in any other business setting. This means it is extremely important to hire right – the first time. When it comes time to hire that new employee, take the necessary time to prepare to interview a job candidate. This simple step can mean the difference between hiring right or dealing with the fallout of a bad hire.
A church is only as strong as the people it employs, and weak employees can affect the ability of the church to fulfill its mission.
As Jim Collins states in the classic book Good to Great:
“Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, the right people in the right seats and then figure out where to drive.”
Employing the right people requires a great strategy to recruit, screen, interview, orient and train new employees.
Each step of the hiring process is designed to help you select the right candidate. Create a structured process and strive for consistency in practice.
One-on-one interviews are the best way to really get to know a job candidate.
And, if you add that to organized preparation, and targeted questions, you are well on your way to being able to determine if the candidate is a good fit for your ministry.
The first step is to prepare for that one-on-one interview with a job candidate.
To do this, you need to make sure that you are familiar with the position you are hiring for and the qualifications of the job candidate.
These steps can help to ensure you are selecting the right person for the job you are interviewing for.
It is always difficult to carve out this necessary preparation time, but doing so can have a significant impact on the final outcome of the interview process.
6 Tips To Help You Prepare To Interview a Job Candidate
- Spend time reviewing the job description and specific skills that are required to perform the job.
- Take time to think about the person vacating the job and what characteristics he or she had that enhanced or took away from job performance.
- Study the candidate’s application and resume so you can ask specific questions about work history and job skills.
- If the person will be answering the telephone, a phone interview might be appropriate to test how well the candidate communicates on the phone.
- Select interview questions that are appropriate for the level and job of the candidate. You will obviously ask a manager different questions than you would an entry level employee.
- Set an agenda and use an interview guide to help keep you focused. Tell the candidate what to expect so there are no surprises.
Tips For An Effective Interview
Make The Candidate Comfortable: Interviews are uncomfortable, so do your best to make the candidate feel welcomed and relaxed.
The more comfortable applicants are, the more likely they will be to let their guard down and have an honest discussion. This is what you are striving for.
Get To Know A Candidate’s Work History: Start with the beginning of the applicant’s work history and go through the person’s current or former position.
Try to find out why the person left other jobs and look for how long he or she stayed with an organization. Job-hopping every couple of years is an indication of instability and could mean that you will lose them after a short time. In other words, look for patterns of behavior.
Not Everyone Interviews Well: Not everyone is good at taking tests and not everyone is good at interviews. Be aware that an applicant’s performance in the interview may not necessarily reflect his or her performance on the job—good or bad.
What A Candidate Has Done Is More Important Than What They Know: Don’t look solely at a candidates credentials, education or what the candidate knows. But seek out specific accomplishments and how the person added value to a prior employer. For instance, ask what they have done to improve a former work environment.
Consider Social Styles: Someone with good people skills may indicate that the applicant has the potential to talk too much. In the same way, an applicant who is detail oriented might have a hard time seeing the big picture.
Choose a candidate with the social style that is needed for the job. Remember, skills can be taught, but personality and social style cannot.
Take Off The Rose Colored Glasses: Be realistic and understand that most candidates stretch the truth or exaggerate at least a little bit, so filter answers accordingly (yes, even Christians do this).
Other Things To Think About
- Past behavior is the best predictor of future success.
- If the candidate has problems with a former boss, he may have the same issues with the current boss. Most people don’t change.
- Ask for copies of former performance appraisals.
- No matter how well you like a candidate, don’t forget to do reference checks. You might be surprised by what you learn about a candidate that maybe she’s not telling you.
Interviewing Mistakes Managers Make
Hiring someone who is like you. This is often done unconsciously. Diversity in social styles is what makes great organizations.
Not probing and drilling down on answers. Candidates often dodge answering difficult questions so keep asking questions for clarification until you get the answer you are looking for.
Asking hypothetical questions. This allows for the candidate to give answers that may not necessarily reflect his typical approach to problem solving.
Asking leading questions. These can take a candidate down a road that she would not have otherwise gone and may not be reflective of their skills, accomplishments or abilities to perform the job.
Hiring on first impression. If you make up your mind early in the interview that you like the person, you will be less likely to probe and give the interview the full focus that it deserves.
Hiring on gut feeling. Our “gut feelings” are sometimes accurate, but often they are wrong. Make sure hiring decisions are based on objective data obtained from the interview process.
Interviewing job candidates is a developed skill. Take the necessary time to prepare for an interview as this is the best way to practice and develop that skill. Get to know the job candidate by asking predetermined interview questions, consider your own personal biases and you will improve the likelihood that the candidate you hire will be a great fit for your organization.
You can access a copy of our interview guide and questions in our expanding library.