I’ve done it, it’s actually pretty easy to do. I’ve hired the person in front of me, rather than find the best person for the job. Sometimes the best person is in front of you, that’s a gift. Often (usually?) the person in front of you is not the best person for the job. You like them, they like you, they get your church and they know your people. All of that means they should be considered, none of it means you should hire them.
I haven’t done any research but my informal, quasi-educated guess is that 90% of hires are made without really looking. We hire the people who have come up in our ministry rather than taking the time to consider their work history and competence and comparing that to whatever else might be available.
Let’s be honest, this is the easier route. We don’t have to do any real vetting, we don’t have to conduct a bunch of interviews, we don’t even have to pay a search firm to do the work for us. Often (usually?) this is driven by laziness or short-sightedness. We’d rather not spend the time or the money today because other things seem more pressing and we’ve convinced ourselves that the person in front of us is good enough.
Rather than thinking long term about what is the best investment of our resources, we just hire who is there. The result is that we usually hire someone who is worse than what we could find. I know that sounds harsh, but again, I’ve done it, a lot actually. It wasn’t until I was challenged by a mentor to consider the long term impact of that staffing decision did I come to realize how foolish I’d been.
In case one of those guys reads this, I’m definitely talking about one of the other guys.
Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t settle for the guy in front of you (without at least looking around first).
This is my main argument. How likely is it that the guy in your church already is the best person for the role you have available? Really small, right? I mean, what are the chances that a guy who is perfectly equipped to lead worship or build small groups or step into an Executive Pastor role just so happens to be a normal church member?
I don’t doubt that there are guys who CAN do it, that’s not my point. I would just argue that there are other guys who can do it better. Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “yeah but should we just be focused on who can do things the best? Shouldn't relationships and culture and fit matter?” YES. Of course those things matter. They matter a lot actually, and should absolutely be a part of your hiring process.
In all of our hiring training we talk about character and chemistry because they are super important. But they don’t trump competence. And just because you go outside of your church to find someone, doesn’t mean that won’t have character and chemistry. Again, I’m not saying you should never hire from within, I’m just arguing that we should take the time and dedicate the resources to be sure that the inside hire is actually the most competent guy and not just the most available one.
Finding someone from the outside is always more expensive on the front end. You will pay for marketing, possibly a search firm (I know a good one) and you will usually have to pay an outside hire more than an inside one. I think this is the primary reason churches are scared off from hiring externally.
But in the long run? It is way cheaper to do your due diligence and hire the right person. Every month, you are paying people to work for the church. You pay them to accomplish certain ends and, at least implicitly, to do it effectively and efficiently. When you hire someone who isn’t super competent, you are wasting resources every month.
Those wasted resources are often hard to measure, unless the person is really imcompetent. But, over time, if someone is 30% less competent than another person, those dollars really add up. You will have to spend money in other places to make up for their deficiencies or you will simply lose (or just not retain) people because they fall through the cracks or are not properly cared for by your church.
It’s easy to see the dollars you spend to hire on the front end and much harder to see it down the road, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Give me a few good men. Here is the challenge with hiring better people. They are often more expensive. We hire the people around us in part because we can afford them. We hire them because they love our church and so they’re willing to work for below market rate. Maybe they’ll even leave their secular job and take a pay cut in service of the ministry. All of that is incredibly humble and honorable.
But. I would take three highly effective leaders over ten moderately effective ones all day long. Really good leaders aren’t just 20% or 30% more effective than an average leader, often they are 100% or 200% more effective. Good leadership breeds good leadership. Hire good people and they will multiply their efforts.
There is a reason that you only listen to the top 1% of musicians in the world and only watch the top 1% of athletes play sports. Because the middle 50% aren’t very fun to watch. Really good leaders attract more really good leaders and they build a culture that promotes excellence.
I’m not saying that you should only hire the most talented and professional people in the world. We can’t afford that and there aren’t enough to go around. I am arguing that we shouldn’t settle for whoever is in front of us, simply because they are in front of us. At least do the work to make sure that the person you are hiring is going to be really effective at their job. Stewardship requires it of us.
And the best way to do that is to compare them to other leaders who want that same job.
Don’t settle, do the work, find the right people and expect greatness from them.