During the last four months we have been in the process of hiring a new music director. Our past music director needed to place more time elsewhere in his career and the part time position with us was holding him back. He graciously agreed to play and direct until a replacement could be found. This is by far the BEST option for this type of transition. We started our search, my first time being in charge of hiring someone and I thought I would share some things I learned for anyone else in small congregations who need to find themselves new employees.
As the Search Committee started the search one of the members brought in a friend from a local university’s music program to give us some guidance on how to look for and what it would take to hire a new person. One thing became quiet clear…we would have to up our pay. But I knew that, we got the past music director on a steal. She did share some things that I would have never thought of before.
Our position is only part time, around 15 hours a week. She, our consultant, suggested that we contact all the schools in the area that have a choir/music department and notify them about that position. Also to contact local colleges and universities music departments with the job posting. Now the colleges and universities I had known about but I never thought about the local middle and high schools. Those teachers are probably very low paid and looking for supplements for their salaries. The time frame we require is on Wednesday nights and Sundays, a time teacher mostly have open. The hard part was tracking down all the contact information, via the internet of all the schools in about a 20 mile radius (around 20 or so). I did get some hits though and it was worth the time.
Free Advertising. The last time this happened for this congregation they placed ads in the newspapers and spent a good deal of money. As we talked we realized that no one really checks those much and more and thus we concentrated on the free options.We did not pay a dime to advertise this job opening. I placed an ad in Craig’s List (got a couple of interesting hits from it), emailed the schools, colleges, and universities (got some great leads from there), posted the job on our conference’s job postings (actually where our new music minister found our ad), and placed it on the Music Educators Associations website (there were two in NC). All of this was free of charge but got the word out and our little congregation received 10 applicants within a month, one in about 12 hours.
Interview Process: I have come to terms with the fact that I am a marathon runner when it comes to decision making. I like to think and think about it. Weigh all the options and then think some more. It is my personality and it a fault in some cases. I thought our two interview process though (which dragged on for a month due to Holy Week and Easter) worked well. During the first interview, the candidate only interviewed with the Search Committee (a committee set up to thin the herd and had people who had a passion for music in it). At this interview we got a feeling of who they were, the style of music they liked, and got to ask them questions about their resume. Then we asked a couple of them back for a second interview, one turned us down because we weren’t the kind of church they were looking for. We were sadden by that but I would rather them deny us than we get our hopes up and waste time and energy.
During this second interview the Search Committee and the Pastor Parish Relations Committee (PPRC) got a feel for the candidate. We asked them to rehearse a piece with our Men’s Ensemble for 30 minutes and then have them perform that piece. Then they played a piece of music of their choosing followed by a time when we “threw a hymn at them” to see how they did on their feet. This second interview gave us some hands on information about their directing abilities, their playing, and their ability to think on their feet. Qualities that were needed for the position. Personally, going into the second interview I had my mind on one candidate and after it changed. This second interview told me a lot more about the candidate than we could have ever gotten out of a single interview. We also bathed the interviews in prayer, before it started and after, and I think that set a nice tone for the process.
Search Committee – PPRC: After the second interview the search committee shared with the PPRC who they thought the best candidate was and PPRC made the final decision along with salary package. Having the search committee do a lot of the leg work accomplished what I was hoping. It gave people who had a vested interest in the music program a way to help pick the next music director although the actual hiring would be done by the PPRC.
Mistakes: I wish we had moved a little faster. The process seemed to drag because of a couple of reasons. One I already mentioned, Holy Week and Easter. It was hard to plan interviews during such a busy time in the Church. The second reason is that we waited a while to cap off applications. I think it was almost a month until after the job was posted that we started the interview process. Some of that was me not wanting to meet but only a handful of times (we stacked interviews on two nights, instead of having four separate nights of interviews). I also would have had the piano tuned before the second interview. Even my untrained ear heard missed notes and when looking back I did not know if that was because of the person playing or because the piano was not tuned properly.
Now that it is all said and done we are very happy with our pick. I was happy that we received 10 applications. The last time they only received one or two. As we went through the process we did not apologies for being a small church and making them go through two interviews. This position is key for our growth as a congregation and we needed to treat it as that important. To do anything less would set us up for failure, so we made the interview process as important as we felt the position was to our church. If we had hired the first person to respond, I don’t think we would be happy at all and would be in the same boat later down the line.
I enjoyed the process and it was fun to get to know the candidates. It was hard to call them up though and tell them that we went in a different direction. I could tell some had their hopes set on this job and in this economy it is hard to crush dreams but we knew in the long run it would not work out and we prayed that God would work through the process and I felt God did.