Five red flags when interviewing a potential staff member

Eric Geiger has some great tips on interviewing for your next church staff member position.  Eric writes: If you are a leader, you know that having the right players on the team is absolutely essential in fulfilling the mission the Lord has given your ministry. Thus, the recruiting and interviewing process is very important. In looking back at all the interviews I have been a part of, here are five red flags that give me great caution in taking a next step with a potential team member.

1 – No questions

If someone asks no questions, it gives me the impression that they are passive, that they are not the type to take initiative, and that they don’t possess a holy curiosity that is going to nudge them to learn, explore, and look for more effective ways to serve. It also gives the impression that they are a bit cold, unable to have a conversation, to engage, to lead people somewhere.

2 – Bad questions

I like questions because I learn more about a candidate by the questions they ask. And bad questions are very revealing about a person’s work ethic, passions, goals, and priorities. For example:

The question: How many hours do I need to work?

What I think: This may be someone who wants to punch a clock. I want people driven by a calling, not by a clock.

3 – Excuses

Excuses are a major red flag because it shows the person is unable to own his/her responsibilities fully. I would much rather a person say, “Here is where I blew it and the lessons I learned.”

4 – Negative comments about current leaders

The person who bashes his/her current leaders or team members will be the same person who brings that toxic attitude into our culture. No thank you.

5 – Over-negotiation

When someone over-negotiates salary, benefits, or some other aspect of the role, I quickly get turned off. I think either (a) the person is not overly excited about the role as it is presented or (b) the person has an inflated view of her/himself and this will never end. I may be oversensitive to over-negotiation, but I tend to be the one who walks away.

Eric has some other great thoughts on interviewing and red flags.  Read them here via Five Red Flags When Interviewing.

What was the WORST interview you’ve ever conducted for a church position?

How did it go bad?



  • turby December 14, 2012 Reply

    Very Good List – Great starting point.

  • Jmah December 14, 2012 Reply

    Worst we did as a church was for a potential youth pastor and the interviews with them as a couple, the wife tried to take control of the interview.

  • Stephen Canfield December 14, 2012 Reply

    These suggestions are OK, but they could make you miss out on some potential great staff. I think that I did 3 or 4 of these things wrong in my previous interview, got hired anyway, and now I am 3 and a half years into my best job at a church plant that is exploding with growth.

    My best advice for hiring, call the former employers! Good or bad feedback can tell you a lot about a person. Not all negative feedback should deter you from hiring a person. If a person has a rebellious streak, it might mean they are a strong leader who needs mentoring and less micro-managing, or they could be an Absolom. Ask the former employers how they manage their staff, what the average work week was like and how they ran the church. Good feedback could mean the person was too complicit and passive, they didn’t make waves but they also got very little done!

    Secondly, try to get people to do internships first. If you can see them in your system, working along side the staff for a few months, then you can really assess their fit.

  • I did a phone interview with a youth pastor candidate. I had all his info pulled up on my browser, including Facebook, Twitter, church site, etc. While we were on the phone, he started tweeting. He was responding to people & sharing his opinion on news. He tweeted 12 times before I closed the interview out. The good news is, he was a multi-tasker. The bad new is, he did it badly.

  • Peter D. April 22, 2013 Reply

    Point taken on salary packages. BUT. Churches, in hiring full time staff, tend to offer salary packages FAR below what could be called ‘modest’, often expecting full time staff to live/support family on what amounts to little more than a stipend. Salary information should be given up front so the person interviewing doesn’t waste both their and the churches time in the process. YES, this is meant as a slap in the face to churches that expect full time service for part time wages. It is NOT biblical by any standard.

  • Gregg Lamm April 22, 2013 Reply

    A friend was interviewing someone once and as they went out the door they kind of casually asked, “Would it be a problem that I’m a convicted felon?” My friend asked, “Well, that would depend on what the conviction was for.” Then the person said, “It was for attempted manslaughter.”

    Interestingly, this wasn’t a deal-breaker for my friend, but he did tell me privately that like most of us, he likes to hire people who “can get the job done”, and that “the crime this man committed showed a serious lack of follow-through.” But in the end, this man ended up being hired and has been a great employee.

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