Friday, June 13, 2014

First impressions: Skype and search committees

Remember:  Blinking is a bad idea.
A search committee asks a difficult question during an interview with a candidate.  What is the question?  It may be a "hot potato" social issue or a question pertaining to the candidate's proficiency in an area the candidate really considers "not their area" of ministry expertise.  The committee members lean forward, ready to hear the answer.

So what happens next?  In the space of the following five seconds, the candidate fidgets, trying to prepare a response on the fly.  Feeling a bit nervous, the candidate squirms in the chair, coughs (for time) and then addresses the question trying to project as much calm in vocal tone as possible (all while the brow is furrowed in tense concentration). 

If this moment happened over the phone, most of what the candidate did to prepare for answering the question would not be seen.  For many clergy, search committees are asking for first interviews by Skype or similar platforms, beginning to adopt to available technologies yet changing how a candidate is perceived by adding "face" as well as "voice" to their formation of a first impression of a candidate.  The nerves, the fidgeting, the furrowed brow: all are literally on display in that brief moment!

The advent of free video conferencing programs and apps has created a challenge for clergy to learn new interviewing skill sets not necessarily fathomed that long ago.  In the older way, churches would have the first interview with several candidates, selecting a smaller number to come and visit "face to face".   Church consultant Bill Wilson notes that the economic savings to church search committees is tremendous.  "The old days of loading up the mini-van and driving around the country to hear preachers doesn't happen, unless you choose to ignore the obvious sort of resources available to you."  (SOURCE:  Recent Skype interview with, available via:

With new tech tools at their disposal, churches are now moving toward a hybrid "first interview" where the first impression is via Skype or similar platforms.  It's up to the candidate to think through more than just the way we sound.  Being at ease "on camera" makes a lasting impression.  Ill prepared candidates may find the first search committee interview is the last interview!

Some resources to help you understand the planning needs for Skype interviews:

A video with specifics discussed on creating a “backdrop”:,32068,46937715001_1933401,00.html

The full interview with Bill Wilson on search committees:

For the resources available to ABCNYS churches for Regional Enhancement (aka "pastoral search and call support), contact Rev. Jerrod Hugenot, Associate Executive Minister at 518/380-4510.  More information is online via:

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