For those of us who have already gone through the process, we are keenly aware of just how gut-wrenching an experience can be, from the insulting rejections, to the feeling of dejection of coming so close but ultimately being passed over for a different candidate, and finally, joyfully, receiving an offer. With that said, I thought I might pass along some advice that I have developed after going through more than one search process.
We are very interested in this candidate and want to pursue next steps with them.
The candidate has some characteristics and qualities we are looking for, but not all, and they fall below our top 4 based on reviewing resumes, sermon samples, etc. They may end up being someone to interview, but we’re not quite sure.
These candidates do not match enough of your qualifications and so you are not going to pursue them any further.
For each of these three categories, this is how you ought to respond:
For the Yes Pool:
Set up an interview with the candidate asap. This will be encouraging to them and also help you discern whether or not you want to pursue any of the maybe’s. I would have no more than 5 candidates in the yes pool at a time, 4 is an ideal number. Perhaps even have an alternate 1 among your maybes if you can do this quickly as a committee.
For the Maybe Pool:
Let them know asap that at this time, you are not considering them, though it is possible that this could change. Most churches just dangle the maybes for months on end, which is very frustrating and hurtful to candidates. Personally, I would rather know if I am not a finalist right away rather than being left out there dangling. If the argument here is that you don’t want to offend a candidate, trust me, most job candidates would like to know where they stand rather than just living in no-man’s land.
For the No Pool:
Please be as sensitive as possible. I’ve received a lot of offensive rejections (perhaps a future post for comedic relief?). Just let people know that you will not be pursuing a partnership using simple language, not too long, not too short. 1-2 paragraphs will suffice. In my opinion, I would rather not hear how great a pastor I am when I am being rejected. Just a quick, “We are pursuing other candidates” is the best. And please remember that the subject line in your e-mail is part of the rejection. I’ve received a very kind and sensitive e-mail from a committee, but the subject header was hurtful and frustrating. Just put something vague in the subject line like “Update on search process”.
One obvious answer to this is to assign one committee member to be a clerk/communicator whose job it is to let candidates know where they stand in the process in a timely manner. This person should have significant free-time already in their schedules to make this happen. It probably also should not be the moderator or head of the committee. They have enough on their plate. Each candidate should receive a note on these occasions, at minimum:
Update on where they stand in the search, including rejection (aim for the same week your committee decides how to categorize them).
I have more thoughts on this that I may explore in further posts, but for now I will leave you with the advice I’m often given: “Hang in there, it’s a long process but ultimately God will get you where you are supposed to be.”
Grace and Peace,
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