Rarely in an interview with a potential employer do you have a discussion and it goes well.
By “discussion”, I mean that you feel valued and encouraged to continue on in who you are, and the potential employer walks away with something they didn’t have before. Some piece of wisdom or an idea which they had not conceived just yet. This makes the time equitable for both sides. A discussion interview is a dialogue between equal parties. It has elements of the sweet talk of a guy courting a girl, but also elements of an online compatibility test wherein the data is the data and the fit is the fit.
By “well”, I don’t mean that you come off as the best person for the job, or that you were completely impressive, or that you get to the next step. “Well” for me means that both parties are equally candid and transparent… being authentic about what they are looking for, their weaknesses, and what they are doing to improve. Whether an interview becomes a discussion or not is completely based on the interviewer’s approach and mentality. The most healthy/well interviews are those where both parties are secure and confident of their person and mission.
Let’s face it, interviewing is hard work. Even when you are under no pressure to “land the job”, it can be tough. Ministry interviews are surprisingly harder than corporate positions. The ministry many times approaches you with suspicion that you are out to weasel your way in without the proper credentials… to go on and injure the ministries’ reputation. The HR hiring process supports this “guilty until proven worthy” of the job mentality, with upfront background checks and lengthy applications. Unfortunately, this leaves candidates in a place where they feel like they must put up a facade of perfection. Interview prep times become focused on what the company might want you to say instead of who you are as an individual; what your passionate about and can/can’t bring to the position.
The result of unwell/unhealthy interviews? In my estimation it is unhappy employees (who end up in roles they aren’t made for) and dissatisfied employers who don’t get what they feel they bought. It is candidates who aren’t totally sold on the ministry they go to work for or the contribution they can make. It is managers who extend their suspicions of incompetence from the interview process into the first 90 days of employment. It is skeletons in closets which weren’t revealed beforehand. An example from one church is a recent interview with a youth minister candidate who revealed he had struggled with and overcome a battle with the sin of online pornography. He was working to be transparent and completely honest with the interviewer. Ignoring the fact that the vast majority of pastors have accessed explicit material online in the last 6 months and that every man at some point struggles with the temptation of lust, the church immediately took this qualified candidate off their A-list because of his past struggle. The 60 year old hiring manager literally said, “who would say something like that in an interview, we don’t want to know about that”. There was a generational miss-match in the basic understanding of what an interview process is for.
Thankfully, over the last two months, I have had two discussion-focused interviews with ministries that seem to want this kind of honesty. I don’t know that anything will come from either of the interviews… but I am encouraged immensely to know there are managers out there who get it. Ministry folks who understand that recruiting and retaining a post-modern requires respect and an approach that makes the candidate feel they are valued and that the contribution they could make is uninhibited. Post-moderns want their lives to mean something; they want to serve something they believe in. The process is as important as the result for them… and it is unbelievably refreshing to see ministries approach the interview process with a candor, transparency, and openness which fits who we ought to be as a Christian community anyway.