Don't Be That Church: Four Interview Questions That You Should Never Ask

1.Why do you want to join our Church/Why should we hire you?

I am begging you to never ask this question. It is quite possibly the worst question that you can ever ask a candidate. Especially if you are in the very beginning stages with them. It’s important to remember that you are not the greatest local church since Pentecost. This question will be a red flag for a candidate because it reveals that the staff does not think of others interests. Too many times the local church goes into an interview with a completely one sided perspective, which is theirs and theirs alone. If the first interview is scheduled for an hour that means that the candidate must put up with 50 straight minutes of grueling questions. With ten minutes left the local church finally says, “Well, what questions do you have for us?” If you want to attract top talent remember this: the candidate is interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them.  Up to this point the candidate is extremely limited when it comes to information on you. They can only learn so much from a job description and viewing the information on your website. Do you think I’m wrong? Try to think about what it would be like if they asked you the same question. “So, tell me why you would want me to join your staff?” Your instant thought would be… NEXT! How audacious would it be for a candidate to assume that you would want to hire them just based on experiencing their cover letter, resume, a couple of messages and a few minutes of conversation?

Here's a better question: "I know it's still early, but what caught your eye about the opportunity with us?" 

This is a much more appropriate and relevant question. Of course there was something that intrigued the candidate enough to apply for your position. This is also a great way to get feedback on how you are marketing your roles on your website and job descriptions.

 

2.What is your biggest weakness?

Oh how the interview strategies of the secular world have crept into the Church! We would hope that every candidate goes into an interview with an attitude of integrity and genuineness. But every candidate has been trained to answer this question: Select a theoretical flaw and transform it into a strength.

It goes something like this: “I am an extremely focused person and sometimes I find myself so absorbed in my work that I lose track of time. Next thing I know everyone’s gone from the office and I’m the last one to leave. I really need to work on my time management skills.”

Here's a better question: "If you've had leaders in the past that are great at giving you feedback, what recurring themes have you heard from them on areas that you can improve on?" 

This question is much better because it forces the candidate to be specific about areas that they have struggled with in the past. It’s very important to say “if” though and give them an out because not every candidate has experienced leaders who give them feedback. If they take your out… ask them what their spouse, friends or accountability partners say.

 

3.What are your strengths/spiritual gifts?

This is not necessarily a terrible question to ask but it’s an extremely generic question that results in a vague response. If candidates have done their homework on the opportunity they are going to tailor their response in hopes to hit strengths that you are looking for. If you really want them to expose their spiritual gifts paint a context for them and then ask a specific question.

It would go something like this: "If you were in a position that kept you from exercising a spiritual gift... you're ultimately going to end up frustrated. What is that gift and what does it look like when you are exercising it?"

 

4.Where do you see yourself in three years/the future?

I understand that local churches are concerned with turnover and ask this question out of a fear of being used as a stepping stone. But candidates know where you’re going with this question when you ask them it, and in most cases they are going to tell you what you want to hear. “My wife and I really want to find a ministry where we will be for the next 30 years and ultimately end up retiring.” Ah doesn’t that put us at ease? But how many times does this response actually materialize? The Church needs to embrace and value God’s sovereign rule in a question like this and remember that this person has been purchased by Christ. This minister will go where God commands. 

Here's a better question: What ministry would you love to start yourself?

There is so much that you can learn about the candidate by asking this question. The ministry that a candidate would love to start tells you about their hopes and dreams, interests and passions, the work they love to do and the people they love to work with. You can dig really deep with this question and it can start an entirely new conversation if you keep asking “how” and “why”.  You’ll learn what the candidate really likes to do and how they can impact and grow your ministry.

“Why should we hire you?” is completely unnecessary when an interview is done right.

Ask the right questions and you’ll already know the answer when you ask yourself, “Why should I hire you?”    

Do you have other questions that you do not like to hear as a candidate? Please post them in the comment section below!