categories: swerve lab
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January 25th, 2008

by Bobby Gruenewald

16 comments (+ Add)

swerve lab: Choosing the Right Hire

Thanks to everybody who continues to respond and help those who have submitted questions to the swerve lab. If you have a question that you would like for the readers of this blog to respond to, please send it to and put “Swerve Lab” in the subject line.

Today’s question comes from Dale. He writes,

“How do you decide between two extremely qualified candidates for the same staff position?”

We’ve talked about some of the hiring processes on swerve in the past. What advice do you have for Dale?

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  1. Jan 25, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    I once had a guy tell me he looked at the shoes a guy was wearing…personally, that’s a bit too metro for me…but Bobby G always has decent footwear. Maybe that’s why he’s working at or it could be because of the ideas that are rattling around in his head. If experience is equal you should go with who has the best ideas and can think better.

  2. 2Travis
    Jan 25, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Billy Hybells uses something… I beleive… called the three C’s for hiring leaders: Character, Competence, and Chemistry (Check out his book “The Couragous Leader”).
    I think the one we as ministers overlook the most is “chemistry” (do I like this person, will he/she be enjoyable to work with long hours or early mornings, do I want to spend retreats with this person… Don’t over look Chemistry, it’s important. And then, maybe look at the shoes (Andrew)

  3. Jan 25, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I was gonna mention the 3 C’s as well, only we add a 4th one to the mix calling it Commitment. I know that everyone says they are committed, but what’s their track record? How much time do they have to give?

    However, I think that there are two others that are absolutely vital. Character has GOT to be first. If the person has bad character, chances are, they aren’t going to change. If they do, it’s going to take a long, long time. The challenge is that many times you can’t see character issues until they show up a few years into the thing. I think some type of system needs to be put in place to try and identify those things up front. It’ll kill you, your team and your church if it’s not a priority.

    My temptation is to put chemistry first because I think it is ALMOST as equally important as character. I am a hard guy to work with…I’ll admit that. Nonetheless, at this point in the life of our church, it’s me that they are working with! They are also working with the rest of the team and if there is no connection, your team dynamics are not going to be what they could be. Your leadership meetings aren’t going to flow smoothly. Your creative team meetings will feel weighed down. And on and on the list will go. If it’s not clicking, I’m not sure this one can be fixed by a short pep talk. If they don’t fit, they don’t fit.

    Competence is one that can be taught. If they can’t be or don’t want to be taught, stay away.

    Those are just my amateur thoughts as I’m working through this stuff as well!

  4. Jan 25, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    I was actually going to say what Travis said - all things being equal I would choose the one that fit better with the team… personality style, sense of humor, and yes chemistry.

  5. 5Chris
    Jan 25, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I’m with Travis. Some other thoughts may be:
    1. Does this person live out the values that you hold as a church?
    2. How will they help build on what is established and take it to the next level? Who has the bigger vision that still aligns with where the church is headed?
    3. Hire both.
    4. Pray.

  6. Jan 25, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Wow, thanks so much for all of your input.

    1. They both wear great shoes…one of them even came to interview with the same Fossil “manbag” that I have. (Does that count as chemistry?)

    2. I really think character then chemistry are the top two factors in my book. Using a behavioral interview process has really helped us to identify potential character issues.

    3. Chris, Love the idea of hiring both…how about you pray with me that we find the money to make that happen.

    4. Pray…great stuff…I feel really comfortable with this whole process because we’ve prayed about it from day one and taken our time to conduct two interviews, check references and dedicate ourselves to prayer.

    Thanks for all the help…great thoughts!

  7. Jan 25, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Dale, that counts as metro-sexual…lol. Hire the guy with the man purse.

  8. Jan 26, 2008 at 9:01 am

    *Have detailed interviewing/hiring practices
    *Make sure that they are a cultural fit (Right DNA)
    *Make sure they are willing to admit failures
    *Ask yourself the question “Which one of these guys would I want to go on vacation with?”
    *If you still can’t decide, go with your gut instict “Holy Spirit!”

    At the end of the day they could both be qualified and not be the right hire for your ministry…. Be Patient.

  9. Jan 26, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Great comments everybody. Here are a few things I’ve learned through the process of hiring:

    1. When in doubt, don’t hire.
    2. Never hire out of desperation. Everyone looks like the pefect fit when we’re desperate to fill a role.
    3. Allow others on your team to be part of the interview process. Alone, we’re often short sighted.
    4. Don’t wine and dine. Instead, push and press. Challenge your candidates. Make them uncomfortable. See what comes out of them.
    5. When more than one candidate meets expectations and is qualified make sure they’re a cultural fit and fun to be around.

    After all that, there is still no guarantees :).

  10. Jan 26, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Well.., I recently heard from Vince Antonucci (my pastor) in a meeting we had, the one of David Ferguson’s (New Thing Network) things he looks for is this: “If I see that person’s car in the parking lot as I pull up will I get excited that they are there, or will I be like “oh.., so and so is at work..”! Excitment in knowing that person is on your team I guess is a key factor - fits into the category of chemistry me thinks.



  11. 11Dwight Weber
    Jan 26, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    I totally agree with the Thee C or Four C discussion and would endorse each of them. Travis is right don’t overlook the Chemistry C. But in addition to that I have learned a lot for Bob Biehl in his consulting. I have used his 4th grade question to really look inside of a candidate’s soul to see what style of person they are and how they will most often interact with others. Bob believes that we are in leadership and life what we were on the play ground in fourth grade. After interviewing hundreds of CEO and the like, he has found very few that function differently today as leaders then they did on the play ground in 4th grade. I always ask candidates to describe what their role was on the playground in 4th grade. Who did they hang around; who were they most likely to play with; were they in the “in” group; how did they respond to those who were not in the ‘in’ group; did they lead, follow or stay out of the way? I have found that those that I have hired as leader are consistent with Biehl’s observation.

  12. Jan 26, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Does one of the potential hires attend the church. I think the 3 C’s are very important, but I also think that hiring from within is great. If the person has been a volunteer, then you know how they work and know how committed they will be. If they attend the church the church will know what they are getting and vice/versa. This is a win-win for both.

  13. 13Shea
    Jan 28, 2008 at 8:41 am

    I’m new to the whole hiring process as I just started as an executive pastor for a new church plant. However I think a big factor that could sway me one way or another is the family life of the two candidates. Like how does he communicate with his wife and what value does he put on family over ministry? These are crucial areas for me and show me what type of person he/she may really be.

  14. Jan 28, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Chemistry…pick the candidate with the best flow among yourself and your staff. Go out to lunch with them and a couple other staff members. Talk about random stuff having nothing to do with ministry.

    Then, see who flows better and ask your staff who they think flows better.

    If they both flow good, flip a coin…

  15. Feb 26, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    [...] can also read our last swerve lab on choosing the right hire. There are some great tips in the [...]

  16. 16Will Jenkins
    Feb 26, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Chris, explain the hire both that you referred to please.