Applicants are often interviewed at Lodge Committee Meetings where an extensive alternative agenda has also been tabled for discussion. The candidate will have been given a specific time for the interview and you should adhere to that time, even if it means you must break off from your discussions and resume later. Whilst the presence of the Lodge Mentor and the Proposer/Seconder will be a calming influence, the candidate may nevertheless be a little nervous and you should not keep him waiting. We are all aware that interviews of any kind can, on occasion, be somewhat daunting.
Good interview techniques are essential, allowing information to be elicited in a friendly and informal manner. Always remember that if the potential candidate is relaxed, you are more likely to be seeing the real man. A defensive interviewee may try to hide his true self.
It is of course necessary to establish -
- Does he believe in a Supreme Being?
- Are his moral and mental standards satisfactory?
- Having advised him of the subscription and other costs, will his acceptance create any financial or domestic problems?
- Having explained the frequency of Lodge Meetings, Lodges of Instruction/Rehearsals, is he prepared for the time commitment that membership might involve?
- Is he prepared to support the charitable aims of the Order, provided it is without detriment to his family and connections?
- What are his motives for joining Freemasonry?
- What are his wife's/partner's views on Freemasonry and his proposed membership of the Order?
- Will he participate in the social activities of the Lodge and is his wife/partner aware that there are such opportunities to be involved?
In particular we need to be satisfied that he is not seeking to become a Freemason because he expects that membership will advance him in his business, or provide him with a material gain or preference.
It is important to read and fully appreciate the views of the MW Pro Grand Master, as reflected in this extract from his Address to Grand Lodge on 14th March 2007.
"Although the number of Grand Lodge Certificates issued in 2006 showed a drop of nearly ten per cent over the previous year, this is an exciting time for Freemasonry. I believe we are at a turning point. This is a turning point for the better. With this in mind we should all be renewing our efforts to find men of quality to join us. To do so we need to be able to openly voice the objectives and merits of our Freemasonry. We need to do this from the very beginning. By beginning, I mean from the moment we first interview a potential candidate. I am looking at initiatives to help this process.
It has always seemed strange to me that, for example, we ask the candidate those three very important questions after the ceremony has begun. He is in a state of darkness, has little understanding of the criteria for membership and even less chance of giving a reasoned answer.
So what we need to do is to give clear guidelines for these interviews. We must tell the candidate what he can expect from us and what we will expect from him. I am on record as saying that in this age of openness we should be able to discuss the purpose of our rituals with a candidate before he decides whether to join. To put it another way, no thinking man is going to join and then stay committed to an organisation that cannot talk about itself openly and with clarity. So we have to be clear in our own minds what the purpose of Freemasonry is and what our ritual means. When we are clear, we need to become good at marketing ourselves. Then, in the interview we can explain our Freemasonry in a way that fits the twenty first century and why it will be relevant to the candidate. That will allow us a better chance of competing for his leisure time, his finances and his intellectual stimulation."
The importance of good selection cannot be overemphasised. Failure to recruit men of real quality, whilst temporarily alleviating falling membership levels, will not provide the future quality of leadership your Lodge requires. Furthermore, it is likely that such recruits will fail to stay the course and will ultimately add to the retention problem we are specifically trying to address.
Ask yourself 'When did my Lodge last reject an applicant?'
By the end of the interview process, the Committee members should know enough about the applicant to decide if he is suitable. For his part, the applicant should have received sufficient information to decide whether Freemasonry is for him. It is only at this point that the Interview Panel will proceed to an explanation of the balloting procedure and why balloting is necessary to ensure harmony is maintained at all times within the Lodge.
It is strongly recommended that the ballot should not be held on the same evening and immediately prior to the ceremony of Initiation, as to do so assumes the decision of the Lodge will be favourable. A member who is reluctant to accept the candidate into the Lodge should ideally speak in confidence to the Lodge Secretary or Worshipful Master so that they may convey those reservations to the Proposer and Seconder and give them the opportunity to withdraw their candidate in order to preserve the harmony of the Lodge. Unfortunately, this does not always occur and there have been instances of a fully prepared candidate waiting outside the door of a Lodge when a ballot has proved unfavourable and this is of course inexcusable.
Similarly, it would seem sensible to leave at least one clear meeting between each advancement ceremony, so that the candidate has time to learn and consider his new status.
When the candidate is balloted for and initiated on the same evening, or advanced from one degree to another extremely quickly, it is usually because the Lodge sees a need to have a ceremony. The progress of a Candidate should not be governed by the needs of a Lodge that wants something to do, but rather should at all times be geared to the needs of the Candidate.