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4 Ways to Measure Chemistry When Hiring

November 29, 2011

I’ve had the privilege of hiring an entire staff when starting a church. Recently, I was the one being added to an existing team. In the process, I experienced several, uniquely different interviewing processes.

Based on my experience, here’s is what I learned: Chemistry is the hardest thing to measure!

There are the “3 C’s” in hiring: Chemistry, Character, and Competency. Though equally important, they are not equally easy to measure. Competency and character can be tested and/or vouched for by people who know the hiring candidate. But chemistry’s not so easy. Chemistry takes a little more time and can only be experienced.

With that in mind, here are 4 practices that can help you measure chemistry:

1. Don’t get in a hurry.

“Hire slow and fire fast,” says Craig Groechel – Pastor of LifeChurch.tv. The bigger the role/influence of the new hire, the slower the process should be. A slow process protects your church/organization/business and protects the potential team member. The faster you move the more likely you’ll leave God out of the process. And remember, chemistry takes some time to measure.

What’s a good time frame? For my current position, it was a 3-month process from the time I submitted my resume until I was hired. In my previous role, it was a 6-month interview process before I partnered with North Point Community Church. The extra time helps eliminate surprises.

My church’s leadership took two years to fill the ministry position I now fill. This two-year process included several nation-wide searches, in-person interviews, etc. There had to have been a temptation along the way to simply “fill the position”. I’m so grateful they didn’t get in a hurry so I can now serve with such a great leadership team!

2. Involve other people.

“I’m not a good interviewer of potential employees because I casts vision instead of discovering the candidates fit”, says Andy Stanley – Pastor of North Point Community Church. (Unfortunately, I think I’m that way.)

Find people within the church (staff, elders, key volunteers) who are good listeners and are discerning. Allow them to spend some time with the candidate and then value their feedback.

As a candidate with North Point I interviewed several times with an outside recruiter and then a lead team director. I then had extended interaction with several departmental leaders prior to partnering.

 3. Invest time/money to measure the chemistry

Some people are great on stage, one-on-one, or in group settings. The more environments you share with a candidate the more accurate your chemistry evaluation. Remember, a single environment or interaction can mislead.

Be sure you’re measuring chemistry not just competence. In one interviewing process I spent the weekend having my competence measured. In one day my wife and I literally went from one group of volunteers/staff to another group of volunteers/staff and then another group of volunteers/staff. In each place we were seated at the front of the room and the “locals” were already seated (anywhere from 8-20 people) ready to ask us “What would you do if ….” questions that lasted a couple of hours each. It felt like one firing squad after another. They were trying to measure our competence alone. Meanwhile, we left wondering if we had given the “right” answers but knowing we had no idea about chemistry. When they asked us to return for another weekend visit we politely declined.

Several years ago I was involved in the hiring of a ministry candidate with whom we needed to measure chemistry. After a few phone calls and emails we drove to his town (250 miles away), took he and his wife to dinner and then a Texas Ranger’s baseball game. Our investment included travel expenses, meals, game tickets, parking, refreshments, hotel, etc. We wanted to know if we’d enjoy “doing life” with he and his wife. Later we brought them to our town and hung out in social and ministry settings. Afterwards, we felt confident they were a good fit. Twelve years later they are still serving effectively in that role. That was time and money well spent.

4. Have a consistent process (Same place/Same people)

When interviewing multiple candidates, “experience” them in similar environments to get a more accurate comparative assessment. Include the same people in the interview process. (Some people naturally find the best in everyone and may not provide helpful feedback.)

Chemistry is sometimes hard to measure. Having a thorough process helps to protect us from avoidable but expensive hiring missteps.

These are are based on my experiences. What are some of your thoughts and experiences?

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