Saturday, January 17, 2009

Developmental, Selection, & Gatekeeping Interviews

When people think of employment interviewing, they usually think of selection interviews, which are used for appointment, advancement, and entry. Appointment interviews, a.k.a. hiring or employment interviews, are usually competitive. When we go for an employment interview, we know that we need to show the interviewer(s) that we are the best qualified candidates for the job.

An entry or gatekeeping interview is like an hiring interview, except it is usually non-competitive and our objective is to show that we are qualified -- but not necessarily best qualified -- for the position or occupation.

A developmental interview is noncompetitive and is more about acquiring information than providing it. Let's say an office work wishes to be considered for the office manager position when it becomes available. In developmental interviews, the current office manager and her or his supervisor can guide the worker on the training, education, and experience s/he would need to become well qualified for the office manager job. While the worker's current qualifications are relevant, the main focus is on the gap between current qualifications and those required for the office manager position.

One of my favorite bits of movie dialogue comes from Casablanca. Capt. Renault asks Rick why he came to Casablanca. Rick replies that he came to Casablanca for his health, for the waters. Renault exclaims that they're in the desert. Rick calmly replies that he was misinformed.

While there is often overlap between developmental interviews and gatekeeping interviews, the Regional Subcommittee on Candidacy (RSCC) interviews have been evolving from developmental to gatekeeping interviews. It therefore would be helpful to aspirants for UU ministry to understand this distinction and prepare accordingly.

This evolution is laudatory. It's helpful to aspirants for UU ministry to learn as soon as possible that they may not be qualified.

The reform that would benefit the process is that aspirants be taught that the purpose of the interview is gatekeeping so that they can both demonstrate the qualifications they have already acquired and their knowledge of those that they need to acquire before they present themselves to the MFC (Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee).


  1. The distinction between developmental and gatekeeping functions of RSCC's is spot on. I concur that going through an RSCC as early as possible in formation is wise. I wanted to know as early on, before I invested large amounts of time and money, if this movement saw a potential minister in the person before them. Note the word: potential. Formation and theological education take time. We can't know it all before an RSCC interview, yet there has to be that sense that someone has some basic competency appropriate for that early stage in format. Clarity and consensus on what those competencies and aptitudes are is something I hope will be addressed. I can see where aspirants who don't earn candidate status might be frustrated with the fuzziness.

    I can't imagine doing CPE or Internship without that denominational backing. There may be authority from the role in intern takes on in CPE, yet that's not enough. The recent change to require candidate status before intership is also a strong move.

    This candidate thanks you for bringing an OD perpsective to bear!

  2. You're welcome, and thank you for this comment. I appreciate your perspective; however, I have been advising people not to go before the RSCC until they have completed CPE or an internship.

    If the RSCC interview was developmental, it would make sense to take it as soon as possible to learn what one needs to do to prepare for ministry. However, since it has become a gatekeeping interview, it is better to have it after one has acquired the ministerial presence that comes from CPE or internship. Otherwise, the gate may be temporarily or permanently shut.

    There are other less painful and more thorough ways of assessing developmental needs and denominational support.

  3. I don't disagree with the need for gatekeeping, I just don't think that the RSCC, as it is currently set up, is in a good position to do that. The bulk of gatekeeping, by definition, happen at the gate--in the process of becoming an aspirant. As it stands we do no gatekeeping at this point. Instead we tell people to attend seminary for a year (which means that depending on when and how often your RSCC meets you could be nearly half-way through a three year seminary program), go through an expensive, time-consuming and invasive psychological assessment and ideally have a CPE unit and/or internship under their belt before we attempt any gatekeeping. This doesn't really make any sense to me and I don't know of any other denomination who does it this way.

    I realize that some might point out that the gate being kept is access to ministerial fellowship and therefore any gate placed before that point is valid. But MFC's own actions belie that position--the RSCCs were set up precisely because the MFC recognized that washing significant numbers of people out only at the end. But washing people out half-way through an intensive, expensive process is only slightly better. And if the MFC and the RSCC are failing to communicate the purpose and expectations of the RSCC to the aspirants then I would argue that we have a serious justice issue here. If the aspirants are lead to believe that they are going to a developmental interview and find out at the interview that no, that is not the case, then are they really going to be receptive to anything the RSCC has to say or are they just going to feel broadsided and distrustful of the process?