A committee appointed to call on applicants for
membership, to check their references, to determine the
moral character and other qualifications of said applicant
and recommend the admission or rejection of said
applicants. This committee shall also determine the
proficiency of applicants for admission by card in the
degrees indicated on the card. –Code of General Laws
Does your lodge have an official interview committee? Or, is your interview committee more along the lines of this question: “who’s available to interview Justin and Latisha tomorrow night?” If this question illustrates your lodge’s approach to interviewing, it might be a good idea to bump up your lodge’s game a little. Just having random people interview an applicant is probably not a good move. You need a standing interview committee that is skilled at interviewing.
I’m not a pro, but here are some thoughts I had about interview committees.
The interview committee is the first key to your lodge. By not recommending an applicant, this committee can prevent arguing, personality conflicts, rumor mongering, theft, or the take over of a lodge by those whose personal agenda may involve politics, religion, or other hidden plans that are in violation of our Code of Laws.
This committee controls the outer door to the inner sanctum. It has the ability to decide the direction of the lodge. Sometimes it has to not recommend applicants for the sake of the Order and the community.
Rejecting someone for membership is an awful decision to have to make.
If rejecting an applicant, base the rejection around the Code, and not an arbitrary “I don’t like dude, ’cause he owns a Chevy,” observation. Further, the applicant should not be rejected in a way that violates our new anti-discrimination policy.
A.B. Grosh in his work The Odd Fellow’s Manual, 1858, page 204 states:
“If a candidate is proposed with whom we have unfortunately had a collision in business, in politics, in religion, or social intercourse, we should at once institute a rigid scrutiny of our opinions and feelings concerning him” (or her).
Grosh goes on to suggest a two-step approach for the member to reevaluate one’s opinion of the candidate:
- Re examine the conflict with the candidate and your role in it, especially your own doings and attitude toward it. If you still feel averse to the candidate, go to step two.
- Speak to the close friends of the candidate and ask their opinions about the morals, conduct, and reliability of the candidate. If these are good and only your personal conflict is a problem, then you should consider voting for the candidate.
In the old days the interview committee visited a person’s home to interview them, although that isn’t always possible today. A home visit gives you a real view of who the person is and the environment they cultivate for themselves. Also back in the day an interview committee was often comprised of three people. If visiting a home, one Odd Fellow would ask the applicant questions, another Odd Fellow watched the applicant’s reactions and took notes, and the third Odd Fellow looked over the room for any irregularities that could be a reason for rejection.
Next, be sure the committee has the interview questions written down. This gives the committee continuity between interviews and can also be used to bolster an argument for the admittance or rejection of an applicant. Should someone say the interview wasn’t fair, the committee can document that the same questions are used for each interview. Here are some suggestions for interview questions, in no particular order. I imagine most lodges use something similar:
1. Describe yourself.
2. Why are you interested in joining Odd Fellows?
3. What skills can you offer the Odd Fellows? Which of these skills are you willing to put to work for us and how might you do it?
4. What is an accomplishment you are most proud of?
5. On a scale of 1-10 with ten being perfect attendance, how available will you be for lodge activities and meetings over the next year?
6. Are you a leader or a follower?
7. What are your hobbies?
8. What do you think the Odd Fellows can do for you?
9. What is one of your character flaws?
10. How do you feel about reading or speaking in front of people?
11. Do you have skills in accounting, writing, Microsoft Office Suite, social media, or web design (or other skills)?
12. Have you been arrested or been to prison? If so, when, where, and how old were you?
13. If you had to serve on one of these lodge committees, which would it be and why? (ritual, recruitment, publicity, interview)
14. What other organizations do you belong to?
15. Do you believe in a supreme being?
16. What sort of job do you have and do you like it or dislike it? If they dislike it, ask them to explain why. Then watch their response carefully for extreme negativity, their desire to gossip about other employees, their inability to take responsibility, etc. I’d ask this question toward the last after a rapport has developed between the committee and the applicant. Odd Fellowship requires certain skills that are also required in the workplace: teamwork, being on time, completing jobs, conflict resolution, etc.
17. Should you Google the person’s name? Darn straight, Skippy. Check Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too.
The interview committee should also educate the candidate on the lodge fundamentals:
- Our stance regarding politics and religion in the lodge and among members.
- Let them know up front that there are prayers in lodge (United States). Many people are uncomfortable with this issue today and I’ve seen it be a deal breaker for many people who were otherwise interested in being Odd.
- If they are rejected they may reapply in 6 months. Encourage them to do so.
- Our degree system
- Initiation fees
- How balloting for membership happens
- Meeting times and location
- Dress code if applicable
- Any requirements in individual lodge by-laws
- Email addresses, cell numbers, and other contact info.
Use your interview committee to improve your lodge. The goal is to make the lodge accessible to the people who can most benefit the community. The interview committee should not be used to make your lodge inaccessible so that it dies off, leaving your community without the benefits of Friendship, Love, and Truth!
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“The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) will not discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability, age [other than that of minimum to join the Order (lodge, club or group)], ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or other social identity.” –Resolution No. 5, Code of Laws
Scott Moye is an award-winning history educator and collector of Arkansas folklore. He grew up on a cotton farm and is currently a museum worker. Hobbies include: old house restoration, writing, amateur radio, Irish traditional music, archery, craft beer, old spooky movies, and street performance. He is a member of Marshall Lodge #1, in Marshall, Arkansas, and a founder of Heart In Hand Blog.