hiring, human resources & interviewing

Hiring the Best

John and Adam talk with Becca Nail, an HR Coordinator at Watermark Community Church. She focuses on hiring new staff members and on the on-boarding process. Together, the three of them discuss what the hiring process looks like at Watermark and what to keep in mind when thinking about new staff.

Podcast Link

Introduction (00:18)

Becca explains how she arrived at her HR role. She sees her role helping people be deployed in places where they will best be able to use their gifts. She outlines two primary things that she thinks about when looking over resumes and assessing potential employees. The first of which being the 5 C’s.

5 Cs (2:15)

  • Calling – Has God has called them to that particular area of vocational ministry?
  • Culture – Are they a good fit to the culture that is already set up at the particular organization?
  • Competency – Will the be excellent in the work that they tasked to accomplish?
  • Character – Do they live a life of faithfulness and authenticity?
  • Chemistry – Are they able to work well with co-workers and leadership?

When assessing culture, it can be helpful to ask, “Would I enjoy riding in a car with this person for 2 hours?” This question might sound harsh, but it is helpful and can grant a lot of clarity. The other primary way that Becca analyzes potential employees is by looking at the 3 Trusts. These three trusts also provide the structure of the interview process at Watermark.

3 Trusts (4:42)

  • Professional Trust – The belief that every day they are doing their job to the best of their abilities. Are they accomplishing tasks? Staying on track?
  • Spiritual Trust – The belief that every day they are staying connected to the vine. Are they consistently reading their Bible? Growing in their faith?
  • Relational Trust – The understanding that everyone is a sinner and that in any work environment, inevitably conflict will arise. When conflict happens, do they seek out reconciliation? Are they okay with maturely and quickly handling problems with other employees?

John notes that there will always be conflict. At Watermark, refusing to resolve conflict is a fire-able offense. Becca reminds of the 24 hour rule. The 24 hour rule is a commitment to honest, authenticity, and relational health. If a friend hears you negatively talking about another employee behind their back, they can “give you 24 hours.” This means they are trusting that within the next 24 hours, you will commit to taking your problem directly to it’s source. If you are gossiping about an co-worker, you must go and ask their forgiveness. If you have a problem with your boss, you will stop gossiping and tell them what you find wrong. If this doesn’t happen in 24 hours, your friend will commits to going to that person for you. Yes, it might seem awkward at first, but it is crucial and helpful at eliminating gossip in the workplace. Next, the discussion shifts to what occurs during an actual interview.

Spiritual Trust (8:15)

Becca shares some of her favorite interview questions. First, and perhaps most obviously, ask for a candidate’s testimony. You’d be surprised how often this doesn’t happen. Listen carefully for the way they talk about themselves and the way they talk about Jesus. Becca also says she begins interviews with her own 3-minute testimony, and then asks for them to share theirs. This helps to lessen the tension of the interview process. After hearing their testimony, Becca makes sure to ask them the “diagnostic questions.” The first of which is, “If you were to die today, how sure are you that you would go to heaven?” If the answer you receive is anything other than a 10, this may indicate a skewed or incorrect misunderstanding of the gospel message. The interview then takes can be shifted to a more evangelistic and pastoral conversation. Regardless of what number is chosen, this question is followed up with another: “What are you currently reading in Scripture?” This one is particularly hard to fake your way through, and reveals a lot about the status of someone’s abiding relationship with the Lord. You can infer a lot from answers mentioning something other than Bible (a book or podcast for instance) or if they lack an answer entirely. The drive with both of these questions is to always start with the spiritual.

Professional Trust (12:30)

Professional trust is often the easiest one to analyze. This is simply asking questions that help you understand if they are able to accomplish what you would ask of them. Ask them about their giftings. Ask about what they are good at, poor at, etc.

Relational Trust (12:30)

Becca then points toward assessing the relational trust in a applicant. To do so, she makes sure to ask the following question in all of the Watermark interviews: “Is there anything in your life that if it were to come to light it would be a surprise to us, an embarrassment to you, or a discredit to our ministry?” This is an incredibly powerful question. This isn’t intended to incite fear or shame. There is so much at stake with every single hire, that it is always worth asking this question. Answers to it will help guide what next steps with that person need to be.

What Happens If They Aren’t the Right Fit? (15:20)

After the interview is over, what happens if there is a candidate that you choose to not extend an offer to? This is always a sensitive issue and Becca says it’s one of the hardest parts of the job. So often hires will come from within the body of believers, and there needs to be a commitment to avoid discouragement and let them down with grace. Becca is always challenging herself to be better in this area. When communicating with applicants, it helps to always provide a confirmation to applicants that each communication is indeed received. Then simply inform them that we will reach out to them if the process progresses. When there is always an email or a call for every step of the process, it makes applicants feel loved even if they do not eventually get the job.

Letting an applicant know that they will not be moving forward in the hiring process is always handled with a phone call. In this phone call, there will always be feedback. Applicants are encouraged for what they did right and what was encouraging. This feedback will help them with future hiring processes.

If your church has a lot of new believers, then there are going to be a lot of eager people applying to the church. Many times these people are feeling called into ministry. Often, what actually happens is they are actually just feeling enthusiastic. This does not need to be a bad thing. When every potential hire is treated like a discipleship opportunity, then relationships can be built even if hiring is not an option.

Counsel of Many (20:00)

When there is a decent amount of confidence regarding a potential hire, an email is sent to every existing staff member asking for feedback regarding this person. You never benefit from the information you don’t have. This communication is not a guarantee the hiring process will continue for that person. But it does provide an opportunity to get all information regarding that person on the table. There is wisdom in the counsel of many.

When staff is truly treated like a team, anybody’s hire becomes everybody’s hire. That is why everyone gets a say in the expansion of the church staff family. When people believe that they have a say in who gets hired, they will want to be a part of the process.

What Are Some Mistakes You See Regarding Hiring? (23:02)

Becca notes three mistakes she sees as common in the hiring process. The first of which is rushing. There is often a fear of staff turnover and spaces being left empty. However, rushing the process is never the right choice. Waiting for the right person is an exercise in diligence and patience. Proverbs 21:5 says that, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” In other words, the hiring process doesn’t have to be fast. Becca says that if she were to rush the process, it would be unloving for both the potential hire and the ministry they’d be a part of. The hire might not be placed properly and according to their giftings. The wrong person in place might hurt the ministry as a whole. The short-term pain of waiting will always be better than an incorrect hire. Keep in mind that for candidates that lack something in one of the 5C’s, you need to ask if that deficiency is a coach-able one. If it is, that does not have to be a detriment.

The second mistake Becca mentions is not taking the time to get to know a candidates strengths and spiritual gifts. You want to make sure you know what tasks are draining for someone and what tasks give that person life. Placing someone who loves to teach at a desk all day may not be helpful or healthy for that person. Knowing how a job candidate is uniquely gifted helps vastly with placing them properly.

Lastly, Becca says that adding only the same personality type to an existing group is often a mistake. You want to make sure you have a healthy mix of personality type on every team. The iron-against-iron sharpening that occurs will help push the ball down the field. People will have to adapt and learn from one another. When teams are diversified, they are more capable of solving diverse sets of problems.

How Do You Think Through Internal vs. External Candidates? (27:56)

Becca notes that she loves being able to hire people that already have their boots to the ground. You should try to hire the person that is already doing the job you want to hire for. Hiring among people you know has incredible benefits. Their faithfulness and consistency will already have been seen.

John notes that one of the key successes at Watermark is trying to hire internally. It is one of the best ways to preserve church culture.

What Are Some Trends You See in Hiring, Employee Engagement, HR, etc? (30:27)

The church is hiring ever more frequently among the millennial generation. This has its strengths and weaknesses. One interesting factor is that more commonly these individuals are engaged in “side hustles” alongside their full-time job. This does not have to be a bad thing, but it should be a part of the interview process. You need to ask if that side hustle would potentially rob from the productivity of their role in ministry. You want to find people that are dreaming about the ministry you are asking them to do. If you start to see a decline in the quality of their work because another dream or passion, you might need to have a qualification about it. Ask the person to help you understand the nature of their side-hustle and how it will integrate with their normal work life.

Another trend Becca is mindful of is the rise of the “free-agent” in the work place. Seemingly gone is the “work faithfully at one place till I retire” worker. Company and brand loyalty seems to be trending toward a thing of the past. It is ever more common for employees to use companies to fulfill their needs rather than the other way around. This free-agent mentality is a form of passion and does not have to be a bad thing. Employees asking “what is next for me?” doesn’t have to detract from staff culture, but you do want to work to instill a culture of longevity and reward people for staying. You want to do everything you can to keep people engaged with their job. This usually means relationally investing in staff over long periods. The best way to manage free agents is to have a good relationship with the employee.

Wrapping Up (38:52)

Becca says she mainly hires for administrative and coordinating roles. When she does so, she makes sure to go to the existing teams and ask what they are looking for in a candidate. Once she has a sizable sample of candidates, she will present that pool to the director for them to move forward with the process.

John reminds that the more visible and public-facing a staff role is the more people that will be behind the hiring process.

Becca talks about how HR can occasionally have a negative connotation, but the attitude around Watermark is that HR is really “staff care.” HR can work to preserve, enrich, and encourage staff culture and staff unity.

After every new staff member is hired on, Becca finds some funny things about them to endear the staff to them. There will always be an staff-wide email introducing the new hire to the staff before people will be introduced them in person. That way staff has a way to immediately tie a story to a name and to a face.

In conclusion, John shares that hiring is the best way to preserve culture. You aren’t filling spots. You are preserving your culture. It’s a big task. Don’t lower your standards. And don’t ignore the pushing of the Holy Spirit.


Additional Resources

Check out our step by step Interview Question Guide here.


Questions or Comments? Email clp@watermark.org