Job interview, how to do it better

Since I may be away from good internet access for a couple of days, I thought I would post here about my continuing quest for a pastor job. I interviewed today for a church that I can get excited about. The interview was a good experience, in part because I did such a lousy job as an interviewee that I was able to learn a few things. (Examined) experience is truly the best teacher!

Okay, it wasn’t that bad. I think there were parts of my story which are appealing. Impressive even. But the experience of examining your own interview, is a bit like listening to a recording of yourself preach. You may have connected well, communicated well, expressed yourself well, but listening to yourself you hear yourself fumble words, stutter, um and ah. When I examine myself in the interviewee chair, I am aware of several places I could have done better. So in an exercise in pure narcissistic self-indulgence, here are lessons for myself on how to be a better interviewee for a pastor position:

1. Interviewers want to know that you are competent and so you need to be able to communicate competence. Sounds simple right? Well here is where I screwed it up. I was asked, “What are three things you would implement if you had this job.” I gave a non-answer. I said the importance of getting to know people, what is happening in the church, getting to know the leaders first. All true and for me stems from a theological conviction that there is no one-size fits all spirituality and we need to attend the soil where we are planted. What they wanted to know was, “am I thinking strategically and thoughtfully about ministry.” What they heard was, ” I have no agenda and will proceed with caution.” Or maybe that’s what they heard, but I don’t think I sufficiently communicated competence, even if they see my heart to honor context.

2. Reframe ‘bad’ questions. By ‘bad’ questions, I mean questions that impose a different understanding of ministry on you than you yourself have. For example I was asked how, “I would take the ministry to the ‘next level’ and pressed for an example of experiences I have had in taking things to the ‘next level.’ Wow. I shouldn’t of tried to answer that one because I had to admit that I didn’t have any such experience and I haven’t been in a leadership position of that magnitude (as the position I was applying for). In other words they asked the competence question again, “What do you got?” I answered, “Nothing.”

What I should have done is re-framed the question by talking about ministries I have done and excelled in, not because I was competent but because I was faithful had God took what I had and multiplied it. I should have spoken about how I see my role of prayerfully discerning where God’s Spirit is already moving and helping people attend to the Spirit’s movement in their own lives. I should have, but instead I told them I didn’t have any good answers. Honestly, good theology and spirituality informs my practice of ministry, but I failed to articulate it well.

3. Talk about prayer. I didn’t do this. I managed to share a theological conviction about how spiritual formation is God breathed/God initiated and God is at work through out the entire process without talking much about prayer. I meant to and being as I believe one of the biggest issues in ministry is practical atheism (ministry that God does not have to be a part of for it to function well), why didn’t I talk about prayer?

The answer is, the interview was short, I was nervous and couldn’t say everything I planned to. I am hoping they gave me the benefit of the doubt on some of these and that I see a second round, but in the future I need to take care that I answer questions about my competence, don’t let the interviewer frame my understanding of my role as minister and talk about the vital role of prayer in ministry.

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I am a pastor, husband, father, instigator, pray-er, hoper, writer, trouble-maker, peacemaker, and friend. Who are you?

2 thoughts on “Job interview, how to do it better”

  1. Hi James, I found your blog through a review on BookSneeze. Great post! I’m a strong believer in self-analysis, with cool evaluation of both the mistakes and the good points. You make important observations, and I will consider these points next time I’m applying for something myself. Thank you. I hope you have good news soon for a flock 🙂 Amy

    1. Thanks Amy. I’m not sure if this counts as ‘cool analysis.’ I don’t know if I am capable of being objective in examining myself, but I do want to make sure that if I’m rejected in the interview process, I’m rejected for who I am, not what I fail to communicate.

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