Your resume and cover letter get you in the door, but it is the interview that gets you the job.
The two most important things to keep in mind when preparing for an interview and while being interviewed are to:
- Communicate how you can benefit the potential employer. Why should they hire you?
- Demonstrate you have a positive attitude and value teamwork. Are they going to want you on their team?
Before the interview
Even those who are great at thinking on their feet need to do some preparation. In fact, answers to questions should be 20 seconds – 2 minutes at the longest, so preparing to be concise and thorough is important! Here’s how to do so:
Research the company or organization. Find out about the people you will be working with and for, their mission statement, values, goals, etc, and demonstrate your alignment and interest to the interviewer. This shows that you really are interested in the position, and not just looking for a desk and a paycheck. Research will also help you determine what questions to ask the interviewer and if you really are interested in working at the organization.
Decide what they need to know about you. In other words, what skills, knowledge, experience, education, or characteristics do you have that make you right for the job. It’s up to you to make sure they know these things, even if they don’t ask the “right” question to elicit the information.
Think through questions they might ask and prepare your answers. This includes the all-purpose ones, such as: “Tell me a little bit about yourself” and “Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?” The predictable ones like “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” or “Tell me about a time you experienced conflict in your workplace and how you handled it.” Also, remember that each situation will have unique questions to anticipate: why you left your last position (always be gracious), or how your education prepares you for this position (when you have a degree in Bible and are applying for a business position).
Practice giving your answers. Practice with someone, if at all possible, so that it seems normal to say these things out loud. A mirror can work also as a stand-in. Practice out loud. Remember, answers should be 20 seconds – 2 minutes, so practice being thorough and concise.
Know the important details about the interview. Find out the location and what you will wear, take copies of your resume and any other pertinent documents, and leave with time to get lost and still be early.
The five core questions
Richard Bolles, the job-hunting guru, boils all interview questions down to five. This is what they are trying to find out, regardless of how they phrase the questions. Be prepared to tell them the following and you will be able to answer any question they throw at you.
- Why are you here? Why do you want to work here, for us? This means knowing the company and knowing yourself.
- What can you do for us? How will you help us accomplish our goals or mission? This is more than just: can you do the job?
- What distinguishes you from 19 other people who can do the same job?
- Will you fit in? Maybe you can do the job, but are you going to create problems as you do it?
- Can I afford you? Compensation negotiation is usually not discussed in the first interview (unless there is only one). Research what is the standard and plan to negotiate once they have said they want you. Let them name a figure first. Know what you need to earn and what you will accept.
Top ten questions church ministries ask
Personal life and character
- What is your testimony about your conversion and pilgrimage in Christ?
- What is your personal practice of spiritual disciplines to keep your life and relationship with Christ fresh?
- What are your personal development goals: spiritually, vocationally, and maritally (if married)?
- What are your strengths, weaknesses and gifts?
- What is your process of financial management?
- How would you define the term “character”? How is it developed?
- How do you deal with conflict and criticism? Name some critical conflicts and criticism you have received?
- How would you describe your personality and temperament?
- What do you enjoy and what keeps you balanced in life?
- To whom are you accountable?
- What is your view of inspiration and authority of Scripture?
- What do you believe are the sound principles for interpreting scripture?
- What is your view of salvation and the security of the believer?
- How would you define and understand the term “grace” as related to salvation and daily Christian living? How would you define the term “legalism” and what does it mean to be “legalistic”?
- What do you understand about spiritual gifts and their place for today?
- What do you hold to as essential doctrines of the “Faith”?
- What is your perspective of Eschatology?
- How would you answer controversial questions on: abortion; charismatic movement and baptism of the Holy Spirit; homosexuality in the church; divorce and remarriage; and women’s role in ministry.
- What do you think the Bible teaches about money and money management?
- Is there anything in our doctrinal statement with which you have a problem? Is there a part of theology for which you are still seeking resolution?
- What is your philosophy of ministry and greatest passion in the ministry?
- What is your view of church polity and leadership?
- What is your plan and process of evangelism?
- What is your understanding of the term “discipleship” and how would you implement discipleship?
- What is the role of pastor, elder, deacon, and denominational association (if any)?
- What is your role and plan for pulpit ministry?
- What is your view on worship and style of worship?
- What is your view of evangelism and plan for evangelism?
- What is your plan for lay mobilization?
- What of cross-cultural ministry and world missions?
During the interview
Relax. Enjoy it. Have fun! Remember to:
- Keep your answers brief: 20 seconds – 2 minutes.
- Ask questions. Do 50% of the talking and let them do the other 50%. Remember you want to find out whether the job is really what you thought it was and if this is a place you want to work. Politely, of course.
- Allay their fears. Choosing whom to hire is a risk, a big risk in some cases. In answering their questions, you want to answer their fears. Try and figure out what is underlying their question.
- Be confident. You have something to offer this place as a potential employee; you are not a job beggar.
Sell yourself, especially in the marketplace. They are expecting you to talk about yourself at the top of your ability and to be selling yourself. If you are trying to be “real” or humble, most people will still bring you down a peg because they are expecting you to talk about yourself at the top of your game. Be confident in the abilities, experiences, and education God has given you.
- At the end, clarify future action. Will they contact you? By when? If you haven’t heard from them by a certain date, tell them you will call. Confirm who your contact person is.
- Be sure to get their name(s) (and spelling)! Better yet, get their business card, so that you can address your thank you letter(s) appropriately.
After the interview
- Send your thank you letter(s).
- Take the appropriate follow-up action that was decided on.
- Pray and commit the decision to God.