Transitions Through the Eyes of the Candidate – The Full Team Interview

by Greg Anderson –


In the previous two posts in this series, we explored possibilities related to a candidate’s informal and formal responses to an inquiry from a search team member from a church that is looking to hire a minister. We encouraged you to pause and take a deep breath, prayerfully process if the Holy Spirit is leading you to consider additional conversations, prepare your heart and mind, practice spiritual disciplines as you discern and plan your response to the inquiring church accordingly. We encourage you to continue these practices throughout each stage of the search journey.

Assuming the initial conversations go well, and you still feel the Spirit tugging at your heart – you are now preparing for later round conversations with the entire search team. The structure may vary church to church, but if you are moving toward later round discussions then here are a handful of tips that may help you successfully navigate full search team interviews.

  • Pray and stay in the Word daily. It is also wise to journal your experience.
  • It is important to have clarity related to the process. Is the search team going to ultimately recommend one candidate to the church’s governing board, or will they bring in multiple candidates for a “minister parade” and let the church decide which candidate wins the prize? If it is the former, then great! If it is the latter – then politely say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
  • Make sure you do as much homework on the church as you possibly can. Review web pages, listen to sermons, request recent church health survey data, ask for copies of the church’s bulletin, links to announcement videos, etc. Doing your homework allows you to begin building a framework of what and who are really important to the church. It also allows you to communicate that you are researching the church as much as the church is researching you.
    It is important to have clarity related to the process. Is the search team going to ultimately recommend one candidate to the church’s governing board, or will they bring in multiple candidates for a “minister parade” and let the church decide which candidate wins the prize? If it is the former, then great! If it is the latter – then politely say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
  • If your full search team interview is virtual (e.g. via Skype), then review the phone call tips we offered in the last post. The only difference is making sure you have good lighting on your face. A bright light behind you will cast shadows. Frame the shot from waist up so your hand gestures are clearly visible. Avoid distractions behind you, i.e., lots of books, pictures, an open window, etc. A blank wall works great. This keeps the focus on you, not on what’s going on behind you. Dress appropriately. A virtual interview does not diminish the need for professionalism. Make sure you have a connection that will not drop and also make sure your sound quality is excellent. Avoid drinking anything during the interview unless you need to sip water occasionally. Do not hold a child or pet on your lap. You should ask if the team would like to meet your spouse. If they say, “Yes,” then ask if they prefer your spouse sit in on part or the entire virtual interview.
  • If the full team interview is live, then be sure to work out all logistics prior to meeting. Give yourself plenty of time. For instance, do not book airfare that puts you in one hour before the interview begins.
  • Make sure you are on time and relaxed.
  • When meeting search team members, try to get as many names as possible. If the team “goes around the room” for introductions, write names down. You may want to draw a diagram of the room and record names by location. Referring to people by name communicates they have worth to you.
  • Search teams are becoming more sophisticated with behavioral interviewing. This is an interviewing technique that rests on the following foundation; “The best indicator of future performance is past performance in a similar situation.” Behavioral interviewing asks for specific examples from your past. For instance, a search team member may ask, “Tell us about a time when you did not see eye to eye with another staff member. How did you handle that disagreement?” The key to a successful behavior based interview is to actually provide specific answers. If you wander around and never really answer the question, then you may come across as evasive or an ineffective listener. 
    Before, during, and after the interview – be who you are! You do not want to project a false image. With that said, you also need to make sure that you are getting a congruent picture of the church.
  • You can also ask behavioral based questions, e.g., “Tell us about a time when you made a major change in worship practice. How did you successfully make that transition?”
  • The live interview is the place to ask major questions you may have about the church, her past, concerns, victories, etc. This is still NOT the time to ask about salary, benefits, etc. Those conversations come later.
  • Before, during, and after the interview – be who you are! You do not want to project a false image. With that said, you also need to make sure that you are getting a congruent picture of the church. Are they describing who they are or are they describing who they want to be? Those are two very different perspectives.
  • Throughout the interview, jot down notes about feelings you are experiencing. Make note of any follow up or clarification items. If appropriate, clarify during the interview. If you discern a sensitive question, i.e., an issue with a volunteer leader surfaces, then you may wish to follow up with the search chair post meeting.
  • Process time frame and next steps as best you can.
  • When the interview is over, find a quiet place with your spouse or with a close friend and process your emotions. Do you have a pit in your stomach or are you on a mountaintop?

Obviously – there are many other things one can do to prepare for the full search team interview.
In our final post in this series, we will examine transitions through the eyes of the candidate – responding to the job offer.

 

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