You never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you have poor interview skills, you will likely not make it to the second round of interviews, despite your glowing resume. I know many of you are quick on your feet and great off the cuff, but in my experience it’s much better to show up well prepared. Here are 10 of the most frequently asked interview questions and how to answer each of them.
1. So, tell me a little about yourself.
This one is more of a statement than a question, but you know you will be asked to tell about yourself in every interview. It is so simple and so obvious, yet people still fail to adequately prepare for it. Don’t give your complete work history or personal story, and certainly don’t try to wing it. This is your elevator speech that highlights three accomplishments, only one of which should be personal. Wrap it up with how these experiences uniquely position you for the role.
2. What do you know about our organization?
What they really want to know here is if will you be an emissary for their organization and represent them well. This is a unique opportunity to set yourself apart from other candidates. Most everyone will go read the “About Us” page on the website, so this is your opportunity to not just regurgitate the mission statement but also show how your passions align with it and why you care about it.
3. Why are you leaving your current church?
This is one that you know you will be asked. Keep it positive; you have nothing to gain by going toxic. If you are overly negative about your current church, then it reflects poorly on you as a leader as well. Frame it in such a way that highlights how the new role better fits your gifting or calling than your previous or current position.
4. How did you hear about the position?
If you heard about the position through a person and are confident in their standing within the organization, then go ahead and drop their name. If you found it through some network, a recruiter, or job posting, then say so. The point in both instances is to shift the conversation back to what you were excited about specifically when you heard of the opportunity.
5. Why are you interested in this particular role?
Churches and organizations want to hire people who are passionate about the role and organization. You should have a great answer prepared for why you want it: what about the role fits with you and why you would want to be a part of this organization. If you aren’t passionate about the position, then do everyone a favor and look elsewhere.
6. How do you handle conflict?
Sure you seem like a nice person in this interview, but what happens when you run into a major kerfuffle with the keepers of the status quo? Again you want to bring up a specific example, the action you took, and how it brought about resolution. It also may be helpful to have a similar example of a way in which you brought about a healthy compromise.
7. What are your greatest strengths?
Here’s where you will be tempted to say what you think they want to hear. Talk about your actual strengths, give real examples, and transition to how they would fit with this position. Be sure not to give common answers like “people skills.” Instead set yourself apart by saying “building lasting relationships.” There is a notable qualitative difference in the response.
8. What are your greatest weaknesses?
What the person interviewing you wants to know is how honest you are and if you are self-aware. Don’t say that your strengths are your greatest weaknesses. It’s best to share something that you know is a weakness but that you are working to improve. You don’t have to be adept at everything, but you do need to be sure you are competent in the basics of your current and future role.
9. Do you have any questions for me?
Always come prepared with questions for your interviewer. If you don’t have questions, it may signal that you’re desperate or don’t plan on being around long term. You might even ask questions or for additional information that might help you better prepare for the interview. You definitely want to ask about the organization, position, and team, but you may also want to ask questions about the interviewer’s personal experiences there as well.
10. What other churches/organizations are you interviewing with?
Congratulations. If someone is asking you this question, they are trying to gauge your interest level and how much competition there is for you. Don’t say that this is the only job you are applying for, as it will cause them to question competency and hurt you when it comes to the conversation about salary. Just let them know that you are currently exploring options that are similar to the role for which you are interviewing. If you were asked to apply for the role by someone at the church or by a search firm, say so and tell them how happy you are in your current role.
As a former executive pastor and a current director at a large ministry who has many interviews, I feel a little funny writing this article. My intention is not to tell you how to game the system but how to put your best foot forward. Ultimately, if you bluff your way into any role, it will be short lived and hurt your long-term success. It would also not be pleasing and honoring to God, who knit you in your mother’s womb and has referred to you as His workmanship. He has given you unique gifts and expects you to steward them well.
Looking for more interview resources?
Here are two 5 Leadership Questions podcast episodes you might find helpful: