the shape of leadership

Developing an Effective Hiring Process

Seven steps to finding the right candidate

One of the most difficult things a leader does is hire new staff members. Regardless of your field or industry, hiring is hard work. The same is true in the church. To improve your hiring odds, it helps to have a well-developed process in place before you need to hire someone.

Where do you start? I would suggest seven steps. Before we unpack each step in the process, understand that prayer and sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit is critical throughout the entire process. The steps below are practical and systematic, but that doesn’t mean they replace the Spirit’s leading. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Have you ever considered the Spirit’s involvement in the organizational side of the church? Again, each step, coupled with the work of the Spirit, provides a healthy framework for a good hiring process.

1. Clarify the Role

The first step in the hiring process is to clarify the role you intend to fill. If this is a new role, identify what need you’re trying to meet and whether you need to meet this need with a volunteer, intern, part-time staff person, or full-time team member. You might even be able to outsource the role to a company or freelance service. If this is an existing role that has recently come open, evaluate whether you still need the role, or whether it’s time to change it.

Create a role description that includes the title, the name of the supervisor, the names of those the individual will supervise, and the expectations and responsibilities of the role. In addition, create a hiring scorecard. A hiring scorecard defines what the candidate should accomplish in the role, and it clarifies the competencies and team values the candidate must possess. This hiring scorecard will give you an evaluation tool before making the final hiring decision. This first step is essential because it gives you a clear picture of exactly what you’re looking for.

2. Cast the Net

Once you’ve clarified the role, begin casting the net as wide as possible. You want many candidates in your hiring pipeline.

There are four general places to cast the net. First, look within the church. Is there somebody internally who meets the qualifications for the role? The value of internal hires is that you already know them, and they likely have already bought into the vision, values and culture of the church. Second, talk to people in your network of relationships who might be interested, or who can recommend a possible candidate. Third, post the job on a variety of websites, such as staffing, university or ministry sites. Fourth, consider hiring a search firm. In each scenario, you’ll want to secure a résumé from each candidate.

3. Conduct Multi-Stage Interviews

Unfortunately, most leaders only conduct one or two interviews, asking a somewhat random combination of questions. Hiring is too critical to approach in a haphazard manner. Consider four interviews with your top candidates.
  • Introductory interview. This is a 20- to 30-minute phone call where you can hear the candidate’s story, ask about his or her ministry goals, talk about personal ministry strengths, and explore how the candidate’s previous three employers would rate his or her work. This introductory interview will give you an immediate feel for the candidate’s potential, and will help you quickly weed out unqualified candidates.
  • Experience interview. This is a 60- to 90-minute interview (by web or in person) in which you ask the candidate about performance in each job he or she has held over the last 10 to 15 years. This is important because the greatest predictor of future success is past success. For each job the candidate has held, ask about the greatest accomplishments, the biggest struggles, how the supervisor would assess his or her greatest strengths and weaknesses, and why the candidate left the job. You will mine out gold from this interview, and you’ll have a real sense of whether this person can help the church go to the next level.
  • In-depth interview. This interview (by web or in person) will help you identify whether the candidate fits the church, the team and the role. “Church fit” questions explore the candidate’s conversion, convictions and customs. “Team fit” questions explore chemistry, calling and core values. And “role fit” questions explore character, competence and compensation needs.
  • Team interview. Finally, conduct a team interview on-site. Invite three or four of your current staff members or key leaders to interview the candidate together. You’re primarily looking for how that candidate interacts with the team, and whether he or she will fit the culture of the church.

With each interview, give the candidate opportunity to ask you questions. In addition, during an on-site visit, include opportunities to experience a church service, tour the city and interact with staff and key leaders. Above all, don’t rush the interview process. Hiring slowly will pay off by helping you find the candidate that best fits your needs. 

4. Complete Assessments

There are a host of assessments available today to help you better understand the person you’re interviewing. A few options include the following:
  • Spiritual gifts assessment (identifies a person’s top three to five spiritual gifts)
  • Gallup StrengthsFinder (identifies a person’s top five strengths)
  • Leading From Your Strengths (identifies the strength a person will add to a team)
  • Myers-Briggs (identifies a person’s personality type)
  • Emotional intelligence (identifies a person’s awareness of their emotions and the emotions of others, and his or her ability to manage emotions and relationships)
  • Can-Do Attitude Test (assesses whether a person’s attitude is confident and optimistic)

There are other assessments available as well, but these will give you a well-rounded picture of your candidate.

5. Check References

You want to secure references from people who knew the candidate at various times in his or her employment history. With each reference, ask questions about the candidate’s performance and whether that person would hire the candidate again. In addition, ask questions tied to your team values. It’s essential that you get a feel for whether the candidate possesses the values your team holds most highly. If possible, secure five to seven references.

6. Create a Formal Offer

Once you complete the process above, revisit your hiring scorecard. Determine which candidate best qualifies for the role, has the ability to accomplish what you need, exhibits the values of the team, and possesses the critical competencies necessary to ensure success. Again, prayerful consideration is essential in this process. Once you choose the candidate, draft a formal offer letter that includes the position, role description, compensation summary, relocation reimbursement and start date. Have the candidate sign and return the offer letter within seven to 14 days.

A slow right hire is worth far more than a quick wrong hire.

7. Culture On-Boarding

One of the most neglected aspects of the hiring process is a thorough on-boarding process that orients the new employee to the church’s organizational culture. A good on-boarding process should include five things:

  • Basics. The general tasks, paperwork, payroll details, introductions, policies and procedures, departmental budgets, building keys and codes, etc.
  • Technology. The equipment, tools, training, email, passwords and social media etiquette necessary to successfully leverage technology in the role.
  • Role expectations. The role’s expectations and responsibilities, organizational chart and performance review process.
  • Organizational DNA. A thorough understanding of the church’s beliefs, history, vision, values, ministry model, governance, ministries, cultural terminology, staff communication and other elements is important to help the new hire thrive in the church’s culture.
  • Staff development. A list of personal development books, resources and training that will acclimate the employee to the church’s vision, values and culture for the employee to complete over his or her first six to 12 months in the job.

The hiring process can be long, and even painful. Whatever you do, don’t take shortcuts. You’ll regret it in the long run if you do. A slow right hire is worth far more than a quick wrong hire. Take your time, work the process and include others in the decision making. With each step in the process, pray for clarity and God’s direction.


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