Parish profiles do not match up to the job, say clerics

09 November 2011

by a staff reporter

A SURVEY of clerics, How to Make Great Appointments, conducted earlier this year, suggests that fewer than ten per cent of the respondents found that the parish profiles they were given when they applied for a job matched up to what they found when they arrived in post.

Clerics who had been interviewed in the past three years were asked to respond, including assistant curates and vicars.

The survey, which was conducted by 3D Coaching, an organisation that ad­vises interviewees and selection panels on making appoint­ments, found that more than a third of the respondents experienced a large gap between the profile and the reality. One successful interviewee said that he had since discovered the “com­petent, able, thriving parish . . . pre­sented on the profile, to be myth”.

Another said: “The process openly acknowledged that I wasn’t quite what they were looking for, which was true. However, I found that quite undermining when I took up the post.”

Others said that parishes should be more honest about what they were looking for in a priest rather than ask random questions about what books the applicant was cur­rently reading.

In what it describes as the first survey of its kind to ask clerics about their selection process, it reports that many panels were con­ducted well, although there were often too many interviewers who were badly pre­pared. In some places, ap­plicants spoke of being interviewed by bishops who did not stop using their BlackBerrys while asking ques­tions.

In other cases, interviews were carried out in inappropriate places — including one in a back garden, where children were playing in a paddling pool; and another in a kitchen, with the interviewer’s spouse present.

The director of 3D Coaching, Claire Pedrick, said that the findings suggested that there was good practice in many dioceses. Ninety per cent of interviewees considered that the right person had been ap­pointed in the end — even though only 70 per cent were themselves successful in gaining the post for which they had applied.

“Many of those asked were happy with the process, and it is clear there is some good practice out there. Anecdotally, though, it seems many parishes and bishops have a long way to go. The fact that so many find a big mismatch between the parish profile and the reality is concerning,” Ms Pedrick said.

She advised parishes to be open about their situation. “Often, parishes think if they don’t disclose any problems, it won’t be found out, but most clergy don’t want to go to the perfect parish, anyway.”

Many respondents felt that there should have been more focus on discernment, and some complained that the process felt too “secular” or “competitive”.

Nearly 62 per cent said that their interview focused mainly on com­petence; and 20 per cent said that their interview focused on chemis­try. Just seven per cent said that their calling was the focus of the inter­view. One respondent remarked: “I nearly withdrew because of the secular feel of the interview.”

Others said that there needed to be shared prayer, and more questions about personal faith and the ap­plicant’s vision for a parish; some complained that the process was too impersonal.

Many panels were far too big, with large numbers of parish representa­tives joining clergy and bishops. One interviewee said that her interview, conducted in a tiny room, felt like a “very up-close conversation with [the Bishop] and numerous hench­people”.

Ms Pedrick called for advertise­ments to say whether assistant curates would be considered for a position, to save wasting time.

“Those looking for first posts put a huge amount of emotional energy into applying for posts, only to find they would never have been short­listed because a parish wants a more experienced priest. It would be amazingly helpful to everyone if adverts could say whether the post was suitable for curates.”

The full survey is available at


The full survey is available at


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