Initial search process and screeningOnce you know what specific qualities and behaviors you’re looking for—but before you invest in thorough behavioral interviews—there’s an intermediate step: doing an initial screening. Doing this process well can help you increase the initial number of candidates so you have a good selection, then narrow that group down to a few that are especially promising.

So what does this look like in the real world? Here are a few general steps, which will need to be adapted according to your context.

Widen the pool of applicants by getting the word out about the opening. Use multiple channels of communication. Check with denominational representatives or other networks you’re part of. Talk with seminaries and other churches that are compatible with your group. Take advantage of word-of-mouth communication and invite specific people to apply.

Once the word is out, use a simple application form that can screen out unqualified applicants. For instance, ask questions about how the candidate has lived out values that are important to your group. Ask them to describe how they have led a team for a ministry, church, or business. Some candidates can then be weeded out based on qualifications, experience, etc.

Check references of the remaining candidates. When you do this, push for specific examples—including negatives—and look at the candidates’ ability to work well with others. Most importantly, ask for the names of other people the candidate has worked with closely. This data provides you with a second set of resources—one that the candidate did not provide herself. Be sure to talk with previous supervisors and peers. You’ll be able to weed out additional candidates based on the references, particularly the second round of references.

Next conduct an initial interview. A lunch often allows informal assessment by a group of people. See if the candidate asks good questions and try to get a feel for his character, chemistry, compatibility and cultural fit. You may be able to further narrow the list of candidates in this way.

A theological interview should then be conducted by some experienced church leaders to determine the theological and philosophical alignment, both with the denomination and network in general and with this particular congregation in particular. Be sure to discuss philosophy of ministry as well. Anyone lacking in theological alignment can be eliminated as well.

Ideally, you will end up with about three candidates that you can then run through a full behavioral interview. More on that in my next blog entry.

Reflection questions:
• What are three different channels of communication you can use to get the word out about the open position?
• How many more channels can you list?
• What are some ways you can then narrow the list of candidates?