Crafting a good interview question

Well-crafted interview questions allow search teams to ascertain the most helpful information. Here are some of the characteristics of powerful questions.

  • Aimed at what this search team in this context needs to know vs. boilerplate queries
  • Open-ended vs. yes/no
  • Relevant to ministry vs. simply to satisfy curiosity
  • Focused on what candidate has done vs. focused on hypotheticals
  • Questions search team does not know the answers to vs. leading questions
  • Clarifying as needed vs. assuming
  • Concentrated on how candidate would approach a hot-button issue pastorally vs. concentrated on what the candidate believes about the hot-button issue
  • Aiming to connect vs. aiming to interrogate
  • What, when, how (invitational questions) vs. why (questions that put candidates on defense)

Questions should be consistent across all interviews – particularly in the early stages – except for a few questions tailored to the specifics of candidates’ resumes or profiles. Those more tailored questions might probe such matters as resume gaps, a pattern of short tenures, or the lack of a logical professional progression.

Just as there are questions that promote healthy dialogue during interviews, some types of queries understandably put interviewees in a defensive posture.

  • Questions that fish for a buzzword
  • Litmus tests
  • Vague questions
  • Questions based on gender, age, race, family status, health, ability, sexual orientation, etc.
  • Questions that invite rehearsed responses

When the search team is unsure about asking a particular question, consider the following.

  • What do we hope to glean by asking this question?
  • How would I feel if I were asked this question?