Hiring a staff member is stressful. It’s a big decision and you never know for sure how it will work out. Smart leaders will do everything possible to make a wise choice.

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It’s been my responsibility as Executive Pastor for many years to make good hires, and to lead a team that makes good hiring choices. I’ll admit that on occasion this process keeps me awake at night. It matters that much. Building a great team is an art. You will make mistakes, I have, but there is much you can do that will help you choose wisely.

Of course there is much more to it, but here are 8 Quick Tips that will help keep you out of hot water when hiring.

1) Know what you want.

“I’ll know the right person when I meet them” is not a good strategy. Be very clear on what you are looking for before you start looking. Always write a job description first.

2) Stick to your hiring criteria.

After you write a clear, concise bullet point job description, write a list of criteria (standards) and never lower your standards. Abbreviated example: 7 years experience, at least 2 years in a church of 500 or more, college degree, carried primary responsibility for a minimum of 40 volunteers, strong people skills, etc.

3) Take your time.

Don’t hire in a panic or under pressure. It’s far better to endure the inconvenience and extra work of a vacant position, than to hire the wrong person.

4) Always interview more than one good candidate.

My rule of thumb is never make a decision unless you have interviewed at least three viable candidates. Engage a team of at least three people who will interview the candidate.

5) Put extra effort in culture and chemistry.

You can’t overestimate the significance of team connection. The candidate may be sharp and have an amazing track record, but that doesn’t mean they will be successful on your team. Take plenty of time to get to know them as a person, not just a potential employee.

6) Do your homework.

Don’t cut corners. Always call several references. Ask the reference to be honest with you. If they are not willing to be candid enough, you can catch what you need by their tone and what they won’t say.

7) Be direct and bold in your interviews.

Don’t hold back. Ask candid questions. This isn’t the time to be polite and reserved. You need to really know this person and they need to know the real you. You both will find out soon enough, so why not before they are on the team?! Keep expectations clear.

8) Trust your gut and pray.

My experience has taught me to trust my gut, but alone, I’m not good enough. I need to pray much and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance. God cares about who you hire, it’s His church. Ask Him who He wants on your team!