Have you ever made a poor hiring choice? Most leaders have and it can prove to be a great organizational setback. By the time you realize your new hire is not working out, retrain them, get them coaching, work through the process of firing them, and then hire a replacement, it’s not uncommon to lose at least two years of progress. The old saying goes, “hire slow and fire quick.” And leadership consultant, Dr. Sam Chand, asserts that the best time to fire someone is the first time you think of it.
Regardless of how you view hiring and firing, the truth is we all want to make the best hiring decisions. So how do you do that? The following eight keys are a great place to begin:
1. Know Why You’re Hiring and What You Need - Our tendency is to hire staff to fill roles that we’ve always had. But when hiring, it is always smart to ask, “Do we still need someone in this role?” “Does the role need to change?” “Can a volunteer or part-time employee fill the role?” “Is there a different role that would add greater value to the organization?” And whatever you do, don’t hire people to fill positions, hire them to fulfill responsibilities. Get clear about what you’re trying to accomplish and then staff around those responsibilities and your growth objectives.
2. Develop a Multi-Stage Hiring Process – A single-stage hiring process is very prone to mistakes. I would encourage you to consider a multi-stage process with at least four interviews. Here’s our detailed hiring process at Christ Church. The four interviews should include:
- The Character & Competence Interview – This is the first interview and focuses on a candidate’s character, integrity, work ethic, spiritual history, relationship with God, beliefs, abilities, gifts, passions, skills, and experience. The interview gives you an immediate gauge on whether the individual has the ability to do the job and the character and spirituality to start and finish well.
- The Chemistry Interview – This interview focuses on whether or not the individual “fits” the chemistry of the staff as well as the candidates emotional and relational health. Think this is unnecessary? I once had a pastor tell me he fired someone because they were just plain weird–nobody on the staff liked them. Chemistry is essential to a healthy staff environment. The chemistry interview should include a focus on core values, ministry philosophy, emotional stability, relational health, emotional intelligence, people skills, and family health.
- The Compensation Interview – The compensation interview focuses on the financial health of the candidate as well as the financial package of the role being filled. While general financial issues should be addressed in the first interview to ensure you can afford the hire, the compensation interview provides a much more detailed analysis.
- The Final Interview – The final interview should, if not already conducted, include an on-site visit. If the role is a key position in the organization, it’s best to have more than one on-site visit. This interview allows key leaders, staff, and board members to meet and interact with the candidate face-to-face.
Not every candidate will make it through all four interviews. Frequently it only takes the first interview to realize there is no need to move forward.
3. Involve Different Leaders in the Interview Process – This is one of the biggest mistakes leaders make. Too often the interview process is limited to the human resource director, the leader of the nonprofit, or the senior pastor of the church. The problem with limiting the interview process to one individual is that it often leads to emotional or “mercy” hires. Each of the four interviews should be conducted by different people. This will help you consider the candidate objectively and will help you catch any red flags. It also saves the senior leader an enormous amount of time because they only interview candidates that are considered the very best.
4. Reserve the Senior Leader’s Interview for the End – If you are the key leader in the organization, your interview should be the last. This will keep you from influencing others involved in the interview process and, again, will keep you from making a hire because you “like” the person. Emotional hires or mercy hires rarely work out. I can still remember one candidate that went through all four interviews at Christ Church before we pulled the plug. So what was the problem? While we all really liked this candidate, there were some red flags during the process. One of our staff nailed it when he said, “We’re all trying too hard to find a reason to hire this candidate.” We liked him so much that we were tempted to overlook the red flags. That settled it and we moved on. Emotional hires are often made when the likability of an individual gets in the way of their character or competence. Incorporating multiple interviews and saving the senior leader’s interview for the end will help guard against this.
5. Make Reference Checks – This is a no-brainer but is still necessary to point out. Make multiple reference checks and if at all possible contact people not listed as references on their resume. Always ask, “Would you hire this individual if you were in my shoes? Why or why not? If not, who would you hire?” And if they have worked for the reference, ask, “Would you hire them all over again if the role was open on your staff?” Push for honest answers.
6. Utilize Assessment Tools – Quality assessments usually don’t lie. Consider using a strengths assessment, personality assessment, spiritual gifts assessment, emotional intelligence assessment, and leadership style assessment. The results of the assessments will help you determine if the individual is a fit for the job and if their values connect well with the organization’s values.
7. Include Appropriate Orientations – When a new hire is made, be sure appropriate orientations are made to cover issues such as policy and procedures, equipment usage, goals, personal growth planning, forms, financial issues, insurance, insider language, etc.
8. Put Your Hiring Process in Writing – Having the process in writing will help you systematically follow it. You might even turn your process into a checklist.
These are just a few suggestions to get you pointed in the right direction. Again, Here’s our detailed hiring process at Christ Church for additional ideas.