Three Key Questions In Recruiting And Hiring

One of the keys to building a missional team is getting the “right people on the bus” yet most pastors have had no training in recruitment and hiring.  While finding the right person is foremost a spiritual issue-a matter of call and discernment-there are useful lessons to be learned from human resource professionals who recruit and hire every day.  A year ago, an article about the three key questions in a job interview surfaced in the human resources networks.  It has since been re-cycled in a variety of magazines, journals and blogs but the three basic questions remain constant.  This summary of the three core questions is adapted from a series of entries in the PrimeGenesis blog by George Bradt.

Can you do the job? Will you love the job? Can we tolerate working with you? All three questions determine an individual’s strengths, motivation and cultural fit.  While they might be phrased a little differently, every interview question is really a subset of one of these three core questions.

Can you do the job? or Strengths

Interviewing for strengths is not a game.  It’s about figuring out if there is a match between the strengths required for success in the role and the candidate’s strengths.  Tell the interviewee what are the strengths of the role.  Then ask the interviewee for examples of behavior that evidences those strengths.

Marcus Buckingham and Don Clifton provide an excellent definition of strengths in Now Discover Your Strengths (New York: Free Press, 2001). Talent is those innate areas of potential strength, probably present at birth. Knowledge is things people are aware of, facts and lessons learned through courses, mentors, reading, etc. Skills are how to’s, or steps of an activity generally acquired through deliberate practice.

It’s not just about a certain skill set, but also about leadership and interpersonal strengths or a person’s EQ in terms of  dealing and interacting with people. It’s hard to tell by looking at a piece of paper about a person’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask for specific examples of not only what’s been successful but what they’ve done that hasn’t gone well or a task they they’ve, quite frankly, failed at and how they learned from that experience and what they’d do different in a new scenario.

Will you love the job? or Motivation

Interviewing for motivation is much less straightforward than interviewing for strengths.  Part of the problem is that it’s hard to put your finger on what really motivates someone.  The other part of the problem is that an interviewee will have a bias to come across as motivated even if they aren’t sure.

On one level, motivation is born of how activities fit with a person’s likes/dislikes/ideal job criteria, and how the job will help them progress towards their long-term goal.  On another level, people strive for happiness.

Two questions to get at motivation are “What gets you out of bed in the morning?”  and “What are the most significant memories you have had throughout your career and what got you through those times, either good or bad?” The first question gets at what is important to people right now and the second question help to get at their historical life patterns and trends.

Can we tolerate working with you? or Cultural Fit

Poor cultural fit is the #1 stated reason for a new leader’s failure. The fundamental questions that get at fit are:  Will our organization be better off with you in it over time? and Will you change us for the better?  Or put another way, Will you be good for us?

One tool for helping to get at the cultural fit piece is the BRAVE framework. The ideal is a match between the individual you are recruiting and the organizational culture.

Behave: The way people act and make decisions

Relate: The way people communicate with each other (including mode, manner and frequency), engage in intellectual debate, manage conflict, etc.

Attitude:  How people feel about the organization’s purpose, mission, vision, and identify with their work group and the organization as a whole, etc.

Values:  People’s underlying beliefs, their approach to learning and risks

Environment:  The way people approach their work environment in terms formality/informality, work style and preference


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