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I’ve just finished reading Quiet, by Susan Cain.  The book, which is riding high on the best seller lists, is a defense of introverts, by an introvert.  As the majority of clergy are introverts, you may, like me, enjoy reading this.  Cain writes in her introduction (p.6):

As adults, many of us work for organizations that insist we work in team, in offices without walls, for supervisors who value people skills above all. To advance our careers, we’re expected to promote ourselves unabashedly.

Quiet helped me think about the many clergy colleagues who are reticent to enter search process.  For many clergy the essence of a search process is to open our lives to review and judgment by a large number of people.  This is not an activity that comes naturally to introverts.

The early steps of a search process, reading and reflecting on parish profiles, and writing responses to questionnaires, play to introverts strengths.  The very first step, getting your foot in the door and introducing yourself to a search committee, may be daunting for introverts.  That is an area I have been most helpful to clergy.

The face to face interviews at the end of a search process may be the most daunting part of a search process for introverts.  I know I have a hard time reading social cues from a panel of ten or more interviewers.  I like to think before answering questions.  From my perspective, large group interviews test skills that are more associated with extroverts than introverts.

I wonder what the impact of using large group interviews as the penultimate test in search processes has on discernment.  I don’t think it is a matter of extroverts faring better in the deployment system than introverts.  My unscientific survey of the clergy leadership in my own diocese senses that introverts fill a majority of the prestige positions.   

My question is whether group interviews, which may be biased toward extroverts, can help identify the best introvert for a position.  Are we testing to see who might be least weak in skills associated with extroverts, rather than testing to see who might be strongest in skills associated with introverts?

Several recent bishop searches have tried to move away from the large group interview.  In these searches all the semi-final candidate are brought together for a “retreat” where they engage in a series of small group interviews.  I participated in one such process a few years ago.  While I appreciated the small group conversations, I found cramming so many interviews into a short amount of time with little rest so exhausting that I withdrew from the process.

We need to think about how to structure finalinterviews to better test for candidates’ strengths, keeping in mind that the majority of clergy are introverts.