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4 Ways Churches Can Hire Like The Google

Hiring Like The Google

Hiring a staff member is not Moneyball. That’s what Google has learned. Adam Bryant of the New York Times sat down with Laszlo Bock, Google’s SVP of People Operations and asked what they’ve learned at the Goog about hiring people. (source)

  • The ability to hire well is random.
  • Forget brain-teasers. Focus on behavioral questions in interviews, rather than hypotheticals.
  • Consistency matters for leaders.
  • GPAs don’t predict anything about who is going to be a successful employee.

Let’s infer a couple of learnings from this for churches in the hiring process

  1. The interview process should identify people who are qualified, hard-working, and willing to learn. Don’t over think it. Don’t over-spiritualize it. The reality is that there are lots of people who can fill the job. 
  2. The ability to hire the right person is far different from the ability to set a person up for success.  Most churches seem good at finding talent but they suck at managing talent.
  3. The interview & candidate process is for checking each other out. When I’ve interviewed at churches my posture is always that I’m interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me. Just like they want to know what type of leader I am, I need to know what type of leader they are looking for.
  4. Look at past performance, not hypotheticals. The worst interview questions are the hypotheticals. “What would you do if…

The last two things I want to point out

  • You can’t create a superstar all-star team by cherry picking talent from other places. Developing a winning staff team takes time… there’s no short cuts.
  • Hire diversity. Yes, I mean race and gender. And yes, I mean you should hire people you can get along with even if you disagree. That’s a strength and not a weakness. And any leader who is afraid of that needs to mature as a leader instead of holding their organization back.

19 Responses to 4 Ways Churches Can Hire Like The Google

  1. Gerrard Fess June 21, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    Nice … and sometimes it isn’t a shoot in the dark. Usually with getting any position or church – it is who you know or are connected with rather than what you have done.

    • Adam McLane June 21, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

      I think there’s good reason to that to some extent. (Particularly in the non-denom world.) We are ultimately in the trust business.

  2. Chris June 21, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    Why does church need to hire people? Jesus didn’t.

    • BrianSierk June 21, 2013 at 10:37 am #

      The churches supported apostles and evangelists, ideally our support for ministers should be closer to that model than the employer- employee model.

      • Chris June 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

        Paul was an apostle and an evangelist, sometimes he earned a living, sometimes he relied on local hospitality, but he was never hired by an organisation.

        Clearly the early church did things differently than we do. It’s interesting to consider whether we should carry on as we are or not. Sometimes I think we follow the pattern of the previous generation when we might do better to return to the ways of the first generation.

        Apart from tradition and perhaps lack of confidence, what is stopping us?

        • Sean Chandler June 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

          We also aren’t doing ministry in the first century. So it’s difficult to know exactly how Jesus or Paul would do ministry in the 21st century.

          • Chris June 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

            I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what aspects of 21st century life make professional ministry preferable. The New Testament emphasises that we should minister to one another.

          • Sean Chandler June 23, 2013 at 11:27 am #

            I don’t know that it is in all settings.

    • Adam McLane June 21, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      I think you bring up a reasonable and good point to make. I’ve argued a ton that having a staff is one of the biggest growth limiters a church can do. But this post isn’t really dealing with that issue specifically, more on the site of the practical realities that some churches do/will hire. Mark Riddle has a lot of great thoughts about this in a youth ministry context. (His book was vastly under accepted.)

      • Chris June 21, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

        Thanks Adam, I realise my comments are slightly off-topic, perhaps I won’t pursue it further here. It’s just that whether to hire seems more fundamental than how. There’s a considerable amount of good stuff about this on the web and in books from a range of authors.

  3. Jay Phillippi June 21, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    “Don’t over-spiritualize it.” So the church that told me they weren’t hiring me because I “didn’t talk about Jesus enough” may have missed the boat? :)

    • Adam McLane June 21, 2013 at 9:11 am #

      Ha. Well, can’t speak to that one Jay. But all I mean is that the initial interview stage should really just be a matter of determining capabilities/qualifications.

  4. BrianSierk June 21, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    One of the issues with local congregations is that they are hiring staff members, not in order to accomplish anything specific, but to have them function as a “shear pin” for unstable systems within the church. Most hiring problems within the church are management issues, as you point out, Adam, but also systemic issues, hiring people in order to avoid dealing with problems, rather than hiring people to address specific congregational needs.

    • Adam McLane June 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      Agreed. I think we, as church people, tend to look at “hiring a person” as the same as “fixing the problem.” In many cases the reason a church needs to hire a person is that they need a leader… but the very act of hiring said leader will likely lead to many of the people making the decision to eventually leave. It’s a funny thing.

  5. Patti Gibbons June 21, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Having just gone through the BEST hiring process of my life — in either ministry or corporate jobs — I couldn’t agree more with your points. Each of us has a job description tailored to our complementary strengths and, of the four of us, 2 female, 2 male, one person of color, from age 25 to 48. I couldn’t be more excited about our start. Now for the development part, together.

  6. Tim Gillam June 21, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    I need a job!

  7. David Grant June 21, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    As usual, great stuff Adam.

    I”m in the process of hiring now and look at character (how are they pursing Jesus) chemistry (do that fit the ethos of our team and can I see myself having fun working with them) and competency (can they perform the job description) And yes open ended questions about what they have done, not what they hope to do provide the best insight.

    I love the this point…

    “The reality is that there are lots of people who can fill the job.”

    Takes the pressure off a little. Trusting God for wisdom.

    Thanks buddy, how you’re doing well.

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