Not only are we blessed with sloppy Baptist polity, we are prone to become bogged down by it.  Fortunately, the interview itself is pretty standard and favors the candidate who makes a positive impression.  Being a woman in ministry has enough challenges!

Often discrimination is based on elective ignorance, and the perpetrators rarely are aware of their blinders.  You have already come to terms with God’s call on your life, and now you have an opportunity to help a search committee do the same.  So if you’ve made it to the interview stage, take a few actions to demonstrate your exceptional competence.

(1)   Research the church and position thoroughly. This seems obvious, yet it is the most common area where candidates slack off.  In the interview, it can be painfully apparent.  The committee will perceive you as not being serious.

(2)   Get a head start. When invited to interview, the person calling you is probably the committee chair.  This is your opportunity to peek into their minds.  Simply say, “I want to make the most of your time, so may I ask you a few questions now about your objectives for the interview?”  The chair is likely to disclose much about the committee’s process and hopes.  Thus you can customize your content to touch every point.  Before hanging up the phone, ask for the chair’s contact information “in case of an emergency.”  With that email address in hand…

(3)   Email an outline of your presentation to the chair in advance. This lets the chair know you value their time and you consider them very special.  Other candidates rarely show any gesture along these lines.  Keep it brief—just the talking points and questions you would like to ask the committee.

(4)   Check your tech. If your presentation involves any kind of technology—a DVD, PowerPoint, YouTube—make sure everything is in working condition before your time on the agenda.  Don’t waste the most valuable opening moments fumbling with electronics.  Have a low-tech backup plan in case things do not work.

(5)   Arrive early. Sometimes other candidates back out at the last minute.  Agendas shift around during the meeting.  Most committee members are busy and may need to leave early or deal with distractions from their Blackberry.  Your being early could provide you with some extra face time with the committee.

In the interview, hit the ground running.  Your first 30 seconds create your primary impact.  Sympathize with the committee, expressing appreciation for their courage to interview you.  But then move on and directly address their larger task.  This is your chance to exhibit your experience, results, and potential as a ministry leader.  Don’t hold back.  Provide every indication that you can start employment very soon.

The last stage of the process involves negotiations around the compensation package.  We will discuss these details in an upcoming article.  For now, focus on helping the committee want YOU as their first choice.

Dr. Z. Allen Abbott is senior benefits consultant with The Ministers & Missionaries Benefit Board.