Hiring right is more than finding the right skills and experience

Published in INSIGHT - Summer 2018
By Rich Sider

 When it is time to hire a new staff member to join your team, what are the most important qualities to look for? You obviously want someone smart with the skills and experience to do the job you need to have done. Research shows, however, that people with high emotional intelligence (EI) consistently outperform those with low EI. And do not forget to assess your candidate’s affinity with your mission and values.
What is emotional intelligence? Daniel Goleman (www.danielgoleman.info) is one of the leaders in this field. In short, emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Assessing these key personal skills is at least as important as being sure the person you hire has the intelligence, skills and experience you need.  

How do you hire for EI? You need to assess your candidates’ self-awareness, their ability to take responsibility for their actions, their humility, and their ability to listen, to absorb information or feedback, and to respond sensitively and empathetically. Although it is a good idea to listen for these traits in all your candidates’ responses, here are a few questions to help you get at your candidates’ EI level?
  • What are your key strengths and weaknesses? Listen for references to the traits above and how the candidate describes strengths and weaknesses. Does a candidate appear to be able to describe honestly strengths and weaknesses without overdoing either side or resorting to stereotypical responses?
  • When was the last time you received a performance review or performance feedback you’re your employer? What were the strengths and weaknesses the supervisor highlighted? Is there consistency in how the candidate answers this question and the previous one or a believable explanation of why not?
  • Describe an experience you have had working as part of a team to accomplish a specific task or project? Who was on the team, what was your role, what issues emerged as the team did its work, and how did you address those issues? Listen for evidence of respect for others, a humble yet not dismissive description of the candidate’s role, and evidence of a mature, aware, collaborative problem solving approach.
  • Tell me about a conflict you have had either with a supervisor or a colleague in an employment setting. What was the conflict about and what did you do about it? Listen for acknowledgment of how the candidate might have contributed to the conflict and an understanding of the other person’s perspective. Is the candidate able to describe clearly the conflict in a way that demonstrates an understanding of the issues involved?
The second critical issue to evaluate beyond aptitude, skills and experience is, how well does your candidate understand and identify with your church’s mission and values? This issue is hopefully irrelevant if your church is hiring a member or congregant, but many congregations have a policy against hiring members in order to avoid conflicts between the role of a member and that of a staff member. 
It is not enough to assume that membership in another church or even a statement of faith will by default ensure a good match with your church’s mission and values. You want to hire a person who is able to articulate why he wants to work for your church in a way that relates to your specific mission and values.  Here are a couple of questions to help you assess this important characteristic:
  • Why do you want to work for our church? How would working here fit into your career or personal goals? Listen for answers that show a knowledge of your church and an affinity with what you are about. If the answer you get is just about career or life circumstances, you will want to dig a little deeper.
  • Have you checked out our church’s website? What do you think? What stood out to you from your review? First of all, if a candidate did not bother to review your website prior to the interview, that is almost a deal breaker, in my view. If he did, listen for positive pro-active comments about your mission, vision, or programs that demonstrate an understanding of what your church is about and an affinity with your core purposes.
  • If the first question does not elicit any comment on your core purposes, be more specific in your next question. Did you review our mission statement (vision statement, core values, purposes – whatever language you use in your church)? How does our mission fit with what’s important to you? Is there anything about our mission (or vision or core purposes) statement that you would like to understand better as you consider employment with our church? Is there anything about our mission statement with which you are uncomfortable?
Hiring the right people will make a big difference, not only in individual job performance, but in the overall performance of your staff team. Emotionally intelligent people that identify with your mission and values will enjoy being together and will support and backstop each other, resulting in a highly performing team in which the total is equal to more than the sum of its parts.

Rich Sider is founding president of Church Management Services. He can be reached at http://churchmanagementservices.com/