On hiring well.

June 4, 2009 — 2 Comments

Just read a great article by Dan Reiland.

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.

1. Never hire anyone you would avoid on your day off.
Chemistry is a big deal. Life is short, you need to enjoy the people you spend significant amounts of time with. Give yourself permission to hire and fire with that in mind. Hiring based heavily on chemistry can feel counter-intuitive when you are considering a person of high character and high competence. In other words, not hiring because you don’t connect well may seem dumb. It’s not. Let me be blunt. If you don’t like someone, eventually, over the long haul, both of you will become less effective, (competence.) If you then continue to take a paycheck that’s about character! I’m not suggesting that you refrain from hiring someone because of a little personality quirk, that’s what makes us all human and frankly interesting. I’m talking about basic chemistry… do you like being around the person or not?

2. Hire slow.
Take your time. It’s far better to have an open position and endure that pressure than it is to hire the wrong person. I have waited months for many hires, and nearly two years for one senior level position. In all cases it was the right thing. Always call references. Ask the references for more references and call them. Testing slows the process down, but is a good idea. While you don’t want to put someone in a box, many tests provide helpful insights. One of my favorites is the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, but I recommend that you contact a couple of the best therapists / psychologists in your area to get their advice. And speaking of tests, I strongly recommend running a criminal background check on all hires. You’d be surprised! (Check with your attorney on this first. Different states have different rulings.)

3. Never lower your standards.
Don’t let desperation push you. When your desperation becomes high, your standards become low. I know how it goes. The position is open for seemingly too long. God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers – when in fact He may be protecting you from a bad hire. And, you just want to get it done! I know. In almost all these cases, you begin to gradually drop your standards. You think to yourself, “This person isn’t exactly the right person, but then again, no one is perfect.” And so you begin down the road to mediocrity. Stick to your original hiring criteria. That person is out there. Find them.

4. Invest in growth over administration.
This is a tough one. We are all tempted to beef up our systems by increasing our administrative and support staff. That’s one way to help keep the organization crisp and efficient. Over-hiring administrative staff is also one of the best ways to kill an organization. A comfortable and smooth-running bureaucracy never grows an organization. OK, the word bureaucracy is a little over-the-top. But I want to paint a clear picture for you. If you attempt to remove normal ministry tension by making all systems smooth and easy, you are headed down a dangerous road. Creativity and innovation will be limited. All growing organizations experience tension. That’s normal. The key is to understand the difference between a tension to be managed and a problem to be solved. It is always wiser and a far better investment to put your first staffing dollars into new staff members who contribute to the literal growth of the church. (I’m not talking about financial raises for existing administrative staff, I’m referring to hiring new staff members.)

5. Figure out who they are under pressure.
A good percentage of church leadership is neither difficult nor complicated. It’s exhausting because of the relational elements, but not rocket-science. You keep good relationships, and make the right decisions at the right time for the right reasons. But the moment pressure shows up, everything changes. Under pressure (all growing churches are under pressure, and large growing churches experience lots of pressure) what was relatively routine becomes difficult and what was simple enough becomes complicated. It’s critical to assess and have a thorough knowledge of each new hire’s ability to thrive under pressure. From reference calls to asking a question in an interview like: “What would you think if I told you this interview was not going well?” Give them a tough case study to solve or visit their church and ask them to let you in on one of the problems they currently are attempting to solve to let you take a look and talk with them about it. Do whatever it takes to know their ability and capacity under pressure.

6. Ask brilliant questions.
The education system tells you there is no such thing as a stupid question. Yes there is. There are lots of stupid questions and its part of your job to not waste time by asking them. Here’s the secret, it’s not the question itself that is stupid or brilliant. It’s who you ask it to, at the moment you ask, in that certain context and for what reason. That’s what makes a question brilliant or not. We all have lists of questions. I have a long list too. I have books full of interview questions. That’s just busy work. The art of brilliant question-asking includes timing, context, purpose, assessment and what new question the answer cultivates.

7. Pay well, but don’t buy the employee.
This is another tough one. One strategy says don’t talk about the salary until the very end of the process. Find their heart and know their calling first. Another strategy says put the salary on the table up front and make it clear from the beginning. Both have merit. You don’t want to get so emotionally deep into the process that you end up paying too much for the position, and yet you do want to pay well with a generous spirit. I think the bottom line is that no one is so good that you should feel obligated to offer a salary that makes you uneasy. We all want to hire eagles, but there are guidelines to follow. Not rules to bow to, but guidelines to keep wise structures in balance. Bottom line… be willing to walk away!

8. Interview outside the office when you can
Especially when it comes to more senior level staff, don’t do all your interviewing in the office. Even if you just get out to a restaurant or a Starbucks, it’s important to spend time in normal and lifestyle environments. Then pay attention to how the person responds. I’ve interviewed in environments from baseball games to racing boats on a lake. One interview was in the middle of the jungle in Sri Lanka! You will always learn more about the person in those settings. You don’t have to get weird about it, but you get the idea. One of my favorite things is to toss them the keys and let them drive the car. That’s always revealing.

9. Don’t hire competency when insecurity comes with it.
No amount of competency overcomes insecurity. I can usually smell insecurity from a mile away. In a young staff member, that’s not always bad. Everyone has a little insecurity, but it’s an unbelievably dangerous combination to have a highly gifted and talented person who is also insecure. They can’t help themselves, they will implode in time. Insecure people are easily offended, they make it all about them, and they usually want the spotlight thought they will say they don’t. My sincere caution to you is if you suspect you are talking with an insecure leader, thank them, pick up the check, and call it a day.

10. Don’t hire for today.
When I first started as an XP (Executive Pastor) I made this mistake several times. I assessed and chose a person who could handle the job as it currently was. Big mistake. They may do a good job for the first few months, but as soon as the job grows to a size and scope in which they are over their head – you’re in trouble. Always hire for the job at the next level. Picture the position at the next click up and hire someone with at least that much capacity.

“This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland’s free monthly e-newsletter, “The Pastor’s Coach,” available at www.INJOY.com.”


2 responses to On hiring well.


    Are you in the process of hiring someone????? That would be cool!!!


    Beyond hiring well, selecting and raising up capable ministry leadership is just as crucial. But why is it so difficult to find or work with visionary capable leadership? Are these people that rare? I know I don’t have this gift. Our church, like many, has good people but I just read the history of 12Stones Church where Dan Reiland is Ex Pastor. Like many, it’s an inspiriting and encouraging journey and I am certain “hiring well” was a part of it. How do we successfully reach the lost and find the leadership (or become the leadership) that can effectively do so? This should be the burning question of every church but I feel it is aspirational only.

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