Funny thing about leading in the church is that it often requires a lot of interviewing – both for staff and volunteer positions.
Another funny thing about leadership in the church is that Christian college and seminary do not prepare you for this role.
This is a funny thing that really isn’t all that funny because when you hire the wrong person it isn’t just “oops,” it’s “oops” for a couple of years.
Maybe you’ve been there.
Over the years, I’ve become decently skilled at interviewing prospective employees. But honestly, I don’t have much wisdom to share in this area.
However, my boss, he interviews, well…like a boss.
I thought I’d share some of the techniques and strategies that I’ve seen him use in interviews.
What follows are not his words, but the words I’ve chosen to describe what he does. I hope you find it helpful.
1. Windows…Not Answers
When I interview someone for a staff or volunteer position, I often find myself looking for specific answers so that I can check off an imaginary or real box.
However, what I’ve learned from my boss is not to look for answers so much as windows.
By windows, I mean glimpses into the real person.
It’s not as much the answer the person gives, but the way they give it.
Or, perhaps said another way, it isn’t as much the WHAT of their answer as the WHY of their answer.
Often, the way we interview people, you’d think we were hiring just a skill set.
He’s a great preacher.
She’s a great worship leader.
But here’s the thing that is easy to forget.
We’re hiring people!
And, these are people we will spend an incredible amount of time with.
So, when we interview, don’t just listen for the right answers, listen for windows that provide a glimpse into the real person.
2. Keep Asking
I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’d liked to be interviewed by my boss.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice guy, but his questions get right to the bottom of things.
The way he does this is through repeated questions.
Tell me about a time that you blew it and had to repair something with another person.
The person tells a story.
Can you tell me more about that?
The person shares a little more.
How did that affect your relationship?
Now, things are getting real.
How has that experience shaped the way you lead?
Often, when interviewing someone, we ask a question, listen to the person’s answer and then move on to the next question.
The thing is, there is much to learn about the person through follow up questions.
At the very least, deeper and deeper questions uncover the authenticity of an answer.
If you want to interview like a boss, keep the questions coming until you get to the bottom of the issue.
3. Embrace The Silence
While we’re on the subject of making things awkward, something else that I’ve noticed in my boss during interviews is that when the question is about one of our core values, he will not help the person find a good answer.
Here’s an example:
Tell us about a time that someone gave you feedback and you changed the way you lead.
Hmm…this is a tough question.
The temptation here is to offer the person a line or a clue.
We all naturally want to do this because we are all nice, wonderful people…but if we offer help in this situation, we will lose an opportunity to see the person in an authentic light.
The thing about interviews is that people are trying to present themselves in the best possible light.
There’s obviously nothing wrong with this but let’s be real, when you’re being interviewed, you aren’t presenting yourself as transparently as you might with your friends.
And yet, when we are uncomfortable and feeling a little pressure, the authentic person is much more likely to squirm out.
If you want to get an accurate picture of the person you are interviewing, let the silence hang. Embrace the awkward.
4. Listen To Their Questions
In every interview I’ve ever participated in, there are two sets of questions: One in which the church is asking questions and then, during the last ten minutes or so, the interviewee gets to turn the tables and ask questions.
This part of the interview is very important, not only because the prospective employee can get more information about whether or not your church is a good fit for them, but also because the questions they ask reveal what really matters to them.
I’ve had people ask about the compensation during the first interview.
I’ve had people ask about advancement opportunities.
Dude…I didn’t even hire you yet!
Sometimes it isn’t one particular question but it is a rephrasing of an earlier question.
He’s asked about this three times now. He must really care about it!
No matter what, let the person ask questions and listen carefully to what they are asking and why.
If necessary, turn the question back at them.
Can you share a little about why this question matters to you?
5. Visit The Real World
One last idea here.
Most interviews take place in a conference room of some sort.
Can I be real?
What a terrible place to try to get an accurate picture of someone!
Who in the history of the world has acted like themselves in a conference room?
Ok, that might have been a little much but you get the idea.
If you want to get an accurate picture of a prospective employee, go visit the real world with them.
Instead of interviewing them in a conference room, meet over lunch or coffee.
And, while you’re there, take notice of everything.
How did they interact with the servers?
What did they talk about in the car?
Oh, yeah, that means you drove together.
Can you do that?
Sure! I do it all the time.
Because I’m trying to see who this person actually is and sometimes all it takes is a conversation where you are shoulder to shoulder instead of face to face.
People tend to be more honest shoulder to shoulder.
While we’re on this topic, I tend to invite the person’s spouse into as many interview settings as possible.
Obviously, this isn’t always appropriate to the situation but watching how a person interacts with their spouse is a huge window into their actual life.
So there you go. A few interviewing tips from my boss because, well…he interviews like a boss.
Hopefully this has been helpful.
Maybe you have a lot of experience with interviewing. If so, we’d love to hear some insights.
Feel free to share ideas and ask question in the comments below. Thanks for reading.