One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of working together in a staff context is finding the right hire to fill an open position. The excitement comes from understanding that the staff group/team is growing and that there is potential for someone to come on board who agrees with the core values of the staff and organization. There is also an excitement in knowing that the new hire will fill a much-needed role on the team. However, the challenge is knowing where to begin. How does a staff navigate the waters of staffing a new hire? What components are involved? How does a team make a “good hire?” Seeing how each church/organization is unique, the process of hiring will be different for every team. In this article, I will analyze the hiring practices of my church and put forth the preferred process for hiring new staff members that will help us hire well.
The Process When I was Hired
I will begin by explaining the background and dynamic of my church. San Francisco Chinese Alliance Church is a Christian & Missionary Alliance church, located in San Francisco’s Sunset District. Having been a church in San Francisco for over forty years, it moved to its new location in May, 1987. The church was founded on the principles of evangelism spreading the gospel, both domestically and abroad, with a specific call to reach Chinese-Americans.
As the church began to expand, it became apparent that a ministry to second generation Chinese-Americans was needed. The staff launched an English ministry and service which was developed over several years. The English ministry grew to the point where an English Congregation Pastor was needed and, soon after, a Youth Pastor. This was in addition to the five other pastors serving the Chinese congregation; our staff has grown considerably over the last fifteen years.
Looking at our hiring practices, I have a fresh take since I was the last outside hire for the position of Youth Pastor. We have since made internal hires from people in our church to fill support positions—those hires were based off helping people in need. Because of the history of the church, it operates with a “familial” dynamic—that being, that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we help each other out and meet needs. This comes from the days of the church starting out with twenty people; however, this particular style of hiring no longer suffices for a congregation size of approximately 600.
However, the hiring process for me went along; since I was an outside hire, it was a bit more “polished” than the internal hiring process. It’s worth noting that when I approached our Senior Pastor about a hiring policy or document, we were not able to locate one but was instructed to refer to the board’s practices of selection and review. Coupled with that, I refer to the hiring process that I went through.
First, there was a job posting put out to a specific audience through a job posting agency (YouthSpecialties.com). In this posting, the job description and responsibilities were outlined, details of the church were given, and contact information was provided so applicants could send in a resume to be reviewed by a selection team.
After some time, the selection committee contacted prescreened applicants to arrange phone interviews with the committee. That committee consisted of governing board members from each congregation, additional members from the English congregation (the primary congregation the youth pastor would work with), as well as the English Pastor. To my understanding, there were several applicants in this initial phone interview; the exact number remains undisclosed.
When the initial phone interview was over, a second interview was conducted via Skype. At that time, I was able to chat briefly with the English pastor, ask questions, and begin determining the chemistry level. A few weeks following, I was able to chat with a selection committee governing board member via phone, getting a perspective on the church from a non-pastoral angle. During this time, they thanked me for my time throughout the previous weeks and stated they would be in touch after a board meeting was held to determine next steps. This process was long; multiple times the committee informed me that this agenda item for the board meeting was postponed due to travel plans and vacation schedules of the Senior Pastor.
After the board met, the selection committee was given the green light to pursue me, the applicant. We were able to set up a weekend for an in-person interview which included “meet and greets,” a fellowship time with the youth group, preaching in two services (English and Cantonese), a Q&A with parents, and concluded with a governing board interview.
A few weeks after the in-person interview was completed, the board treasurer sent me an offer letter, which included a compensation package. I was instructed to fax or call the office, informing them of my decision, and send the package back signed. I accepted the new post with little introduction to the staff structure, operating procedures, or where I would be working. As I reflect back, most of it was a “learn as you go” experience—which was exciting and frustrating at the same time.
In any case, this was their hiring structure for outside hires three years ago, vastly different from the hires we have made since. In the hires since, we have verbally proposed a person for a position to the board; the board has then agreed and set compensation based off fair standards. During the governing board meetings, I did not see a job description or proposed contract; however, there may have been one between the Senior Pastor and Administrative Pastor.
My Ideal Hiring Strategy
Looking at our hiring process, I am able to recognize some things we were able to do well and other things that could use improvement. Below I will outline my ideal hiring strategy; this will include aspects from my own hire, as well as aspects that I have learned through the XPastor Online Course.
First, I stress the importance of the direct supervisor of the hire creating a success profile or opportunity profile as part of a preliminary strategy document. This should provide a clear idea of what the person will be good at, how they will succeed, how they will know they are hitting the mark, and basically “who they are.” I would keep this opportunity profile as a “working document” as it is free to transform and change as time progresses and as the selection team is formed.
Pulling in a committee to aid in the hiring process is critical for making a good hire; they should be able to contribute to the opportunity profile as well. Members of the selection committee will also bring added viewpoints and ideas when interviewing the candidate which just one interviewer might miss. The selection committee should consist of the hire’s direct reports, as well as people picked from a “pool of influence” directly related to the hire’s responsibilities. The pastor and any elders or deacons should be handpicked, prayerfully, for this responsibility.
Next, the selection committee reinforces the opportunity profile and begins drawing up the job description for posting. It works well when the job posting is able to give a brief snapshot of the church’s history, mission, and its current ministry. Details, such as the candidate’s minimal level of experience, the requirements, and a brief snapshot of the responsibilities should be included in this job posting. The posting should be broadcast on all available mediums utilizing the internet, job boards, magazines, word of mouth, etc. It is worth noting that this opens up a wide range of opportunities for potential applicants rather than pulling from a “niche” group.
After all the resumes are received, the selection committee should begin the process of screening applicants. This process is based on the opportunity profile and what the committee has decided that an excellent candidate should look like. It is then that the initial phone interviews are conducted; the prescreened applicants have an opportunity to dialogue with the selection committee and both parties can gain a better understanding of each other.
When this initial interview is over, a second interview is conducted, this time by the direct supervisor or pastor over the hire. This is an important step; if the hire is joining a staff, they will spend the majority of their time interacting with the rest of the team. It is important to determine chemistry, a critical component—not only to the longevity of the team, but the cohesiveness, as well.
The next step is to conduct the in-person interview with the applicant. It is important to make sure all travel arrangements are taken care of, schedules are in place, and confirm that the expectations of the applicant are outlined. It is important to schedule in times of rest for the candidate as well. Far too often, the amount of work put forth in this in-person interview can wear the candidate down, especially introverted ones, leaving them feeling drained. The committee should want the candidate in his best shape, capable of putting his best foot forward throughout these times of extensive interviews. During these extensive interviews, the candidate should meet and be exposed to the board, staff, congregation, and the ones they would be serving.
After the in-person interviews are completed, the selection committee should meet with the board to discuss the applicant’s strengths, weaknesses, and overall fit for the position. I haven’t mentioned it until now, but the importance of prayer throughout the entire process is assumed. I have found great comfort and encouragement to pray when I read 1 Samuel 12:23, which reads, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” As leaders—and those who select leaders—prayer is vital.
After the board has reviewed and prayed over the candidates, the board should begin pursuing the desired candidate. During this process, the board should hold a second interview with the candidate and his or her spouse, gaining further insight on the candidate, answering questions, and reaffirming their selection of the candidate.
Once this final interview is complete, the board is able to draw up a compensation package based on the candidate’s experience, education, and overall expertise for the position. This compensation package, as well as the definitive job responsibilities and requirements, are sent to the candidate on behalf of the board. Throughout the process of selection—and as the committee gets closer to making a final decision—they should proactively let the other applicants know of their not fitting the opportunity profile. It is in bad taste to leave applicants wondering as to their status in the search process.
When the candidate accepts, the announcement should be made to the organization at large. The proper documents should be updated to reflect the addition of the new staff member. Anything that the board, staff, or volunteers can do to help the new staff member feel at home, easing the stress of transition, should be done. Ideas such as having a gift basket at their workspace, a packet outlining protocol, or a person who will walk alongside the new hire as they settle in are important. It goes a long way to show care and compassion, as well as aids the new team member in being able to focus on their responsibilities quicker.
A Ten Step Hiring Process
This Ten Step Hiring Process would help maximize the hiring capability as a team. The process would help make everyone understand the hiring process throughout the organization, no longer hiring based on decisions made in a quick governing board meeting. To hire well, there needs to be time, thought and prayer. If a hiring is to be done right, it encompasses:
- The drawing up of an opportunity profile.
- The assembling of a selection committee.
- The solidifying of the opportunity profile and the posting of the job.
- The prescreening of applicants by the selection committee and initial contact with potential candidates.
- A second phone interview with just the direct supervisor or pastor.
- An extensive in-person interview.
- A review of the candidates by the board.
- A selection by the board of the desired candidate.
- The offer being extended to the candidate.
- The candidate publicly accepting the offer and arrangements being made for his transition into the role.
The hiring process for search teams can be a long, trying journey. However, when an organization hires right, they are able to retain employees who are aligned with the vision and will work to implement that vision in their respective roles. Getting the right people on board is the key. A hiring process that a team can commit to follow rigorously will produce, at least in part, some fantastic results for the candidate, team, and organization.