Several years ago, the New York Times did an interview with Marla Malcolm Beck, Chief Executive of Blue Mercury, now one of the largest luxury spa and beauty product retail chains in the nation. When asked what was one of the greatest keys to her company becoming such a huge success, Beck credited her ability to interview potential candidates for skill, will, and fit with unbelievable speed:
I’m the queen of the seven-minute interview…in about two minutes, I can ascertain skill just based on what they’ve done.
While the thought of limiting your future staffing interviews to seven minutes or less may be considered a ridiculous practice, the truth is that most hiring decisions today are not based upon the results of a well-designed interviewing process, but rather on the gut feeling of the interviewer.
In fact, according to two recent studies by Harvard University and the University of Toledo, 98% of hiring managers surveyed admitted making their hiring decisions within the first few seconds of an interview, spending the remainder of their interview time ‘justifying their gut’ with subjective questioning. Further research shows that interviewers who obtain pictures of candidates prior to conducting a phone interview with them will perceive those they believe to be attractive or have a well-built physique as more intelligent, competent, and qualified than other candidates, despite their resume or abilities.
Whether we call it our gut, or as most pastors and church leaders sometimes say, our spirit of discernment, we all have been guilty of being the kind of people Patrick Lencioni describes in his book, The Advantage, who “persist with the belief that they know a good person when they see one and that they can go about the hiring process without much structure.”
With the understanding that interviewing and hiring staff for our churches is arguably the most important responsibility we have as leaders, here are two great ways to ensure that your gut feelings and God-given ability to read a candidate never become a prejudicial blind spot:
1. Interview Your Interviewers
According to Peter Drucker, widely recognized as the founder of 21st century organizational management, every manager or leader responsible for interviewing and hiring new staff has what he calls a ‘hiring batting average.’ In order to calculate this average, Drucker recommended that companies assess the performance of their most recent hires as to whether or not they are performing below, at, or above the expectations set before them.
If your church continues to experience seasons of high staff turnover and low productivity, it may be time to exchange one person’s gut for another and select new interviewers.
2. Use Scorecards As Alternative Feedback
Another great way to safeguard your interviewing process is to develop scorecards for your team to use when interviewing. Recording the answers a candidate provides during the interview is great, but ‘grading’ how well he or she answered them can be more useful.
Whether you prefer to conduct interviews one-on-one or with a group of interviewers, finding out how each interviewer separately scored a candidate removes any peer pressure to simply agree with someone else’s gut feelings when debriefing, which gives an opportunity for the data to speak for itself.
As believers, we will always tend to rely on a gut feeling to determine what candidates possess the abilities, character, and potential for success we want on our team. But as one of the best talent spotters who ever lived, the Apostle Paul, indicates in the passage below, to make an excellent hire requires both discernment AND knowledge:
And this, I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may prove the things that are excellent… (Philippians 9:10).