One of the most important functions of any leader is hiring the right staff. Most Christian organisations aspire to express God’s grace through both words and actions, yet few Christian leaders have had any formal training in how to make these decisions.
With more than four decades of experience as a corporate psychologist, Dr Ken Burn is the co-author of the book Hire Right, First Time: A Practical Guide for Staffing Christian Organisations. He has individually assessed over 3000 candidates across various levels, including board positions, CEOs and senior and middle management.
Don’t Rush The Process
Ken recently joined us on 20Twenty to share his insights on attracting the best candidates, structuring interviews and how to see behind the mask that every applicant brings to the first meeting. He believes that organisations should not rush into the hiring process.
‘Hiring mistakes are enormously expensive,’ said Ken. ‘Churches tend to hire quickly and fire slowly, and that formula should be reversed. We should be hiring slowly. The second common mistake is people hire without any thought to exactly what the system is going to be.’
Ken encourages employers to have an organised system and know in advance who’s going to be on the interview panel. He also suggests laying out each step of the process, such as how resumes will be screened, if the interview will be done over the phone, and what questions will be asked.
The Right Character
‘Firstly, people on the panel should be known for their discretion,’ said Ken. ‘Can they keep information confidential? Secondly, can they work as a team? You don’t want the person who always has to be right. Third, you want people who are sensitive and can read other people. And you want people who can keep an open mind if they have any conflict of interest.’
Ken believes hiring can be likened to a blind date, and the candidate should be giving their very best impression. But this means they will keep anything that is unflattering to them hidden. ‘Their job is to present themselves in the most favourable light, and the job of the interviewer is to discover anything that you don’t know about before you make the decision.’
There are many useful techniques that interviewers can learn to discover the truth about a candidate, but hiring people with the right character is arguably the most important thing. ‘There’s a lot of talk now about getting people with the right skills,’ said Ken. ‘That’s nonsense. You can teach them the skills, but you can’t teach somebody to be kind. You can’t teach someone to really want to contribute.’
The Value of Prayer
As a Christian psychologist, Ken also thinks it’s very important that the panel pray together beforehand. ‘I think if it’s appropriate to the organisation, bring the candidate in and pray with them too. Here you have an opportunity to sow the seeds of what you’re looking for.’
‘When you are a Christian organisation and you’re looking to employ a Christian who will carry the values and the culture of your organisation, the way that they conduct themselves in that prayer could be very telling.’
Listen to Ken’s full interview on 20Twenty below: