There are many steps to successfully hiring a new pastor or director. In the first five steps of the process, you have posted the job, received resumes and conducted interviews by telephone. The sixth step is the in-person interview, where you have the candidate come to your church for a full day of interviews.

For this sixth step, I have many highly precise goals. Since I have already talked to the candidate several times by phone, I like him or her. Why else would I invite them to come for a full day of interviews? The candidate has terrific skills and a wonderful potential to do the job that we have carefully defined in the Opportunity Profile and Job Description (and remember to use percentages of time for each area of the job description). I think that this person is a winner, but now we have to see how he or she will do in the in-person interviews. I haven’t told you my goals yet, but you have to understand the background to the goals!

My Ideal Schedule for the Interview

My preference is for the candidate to stay at my house, perhaps arriving late Monday afternoon. I have hired scores of pastors and it is always a delight to have candidates stay with us. Why? Because they get to see another side of me and I get to see their “home personality.” Great conversation can happen at dinner with my wife and I enjoying time with the candidate.

Then Tuesday comes. I don’t spend much time with the candidate on Tuesday! I line up an entire day of interviews for staff and key volunteers to get to know the candidate. Often there are eight to ten hours of interviews, back-to-back … to-back. It is exhausting. People are firing off questions; the candidate has to re-introduce himself to each group. Most of the people doing the interviewing really want to like the candidate but they are also wary. Will this person be a good co-worker? Can she lead this ministry? What are the quirks of this guy’s personality? What are her strengths and limitations? What kinds of things in his background have influenced him? Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

All day long the intense questions come.

Then the candidate comes home, to my home. Often it is 8:00 in the evening when they come dragging through the door. It is now my turn to debrief. I want to hear all about their day and the interviews. The candidate gets to share about the highs and lows of the day, the crazy questions and the wonderful ones. We can laugh at how rude some people are, and I hear how the candidate answered those impertinent questions. I listen to see if the tone of the day shifts as it progressed. How did she do when she had to introduce herself for the sixth time that day? Did she tire to the point of breaking? Did he begin to share a different side of himself as the “rigor of ministry” set in?

My Goals for the Interview

In ministry, it is not enough that I have found a wonderful person to be a pastor or director. That person has to work and interact with scores of people. The in-person interview is the place to see how the candidate can handle a full day of ministry (Goal 1). I want to debrief the candidate in my home after the day and get his or her perspective on each part of the day (Goal 2). The in-person interview is an opportunity for key people to meet the candidate and give input on whether the candidate is a good fit (Goal 3).

This is the sixth step in the hiring process. If you do it well, you will gain new and deeper insights into your candidate. You will greatly increase the probability of weeding out someone who doesn’t fit your church and staff culture. You will find some people who are wonderfully gifted but won’t work well in the style of your ministry. That is great! Bless them. Be thankful for the friendship that you have gained with them. Then, release them to go and look somewhere else!

The sixth step is a critical one! The best candidates authentically show their strengths and limitations. He or she might say, “I am so tired,” or “That one guy asks impossible questions,” or “I didn’t handle one issue very well.” The right candidate can merge transparency with tact and share personal strengths, without being prideful.