Seminary graduation ceremonies have come and gone. The celebration parties are over. This week, recent graduates have turned their attention back to their searches for a ministry position. Late spring always seems to be the busy season for those searching. ‘Tis the season especially for interviews.

These past few weeks I have talked on the phone, gone to lunch, and sat in my office with ministers and soon-to-be-ministers who have asked for advice about interviewing. While our conversations don’t usually include a numbered list like the one that follows, I tend to offer the same words of wisdom. So if you are in the in-person interviewing stage of your search, pull up a chair and let’s talk:

  1. Set aside time to pray, to listen, and to ponder. Never forget that this interview is not simply about getting a job. Securing a ministry position is not only about employment. Ministry is a calling, and discovering where and how you may best use your gifts and live into your calling requires discernment and attention to the movement of the Spirit. Prayer is where you must begin with the search process, and prayer is vital as you continue in conversation with a search committee.
  2. Research! Your seminary training hopefully sharpened your research skills. Now is the time to make use of those skills. Gather as much information as you can–from the church’s website and Facebook page. Do a Google search and see what other sources you discover–look for a published history, articles in newspapers, links to community events, information on staff members and church leaders.
  3. Study! Those exams you took in seminary were serious business. I hope you studied. But the study you need to do now in preparation for an interview is significantly more important. Your future depends on how well prepared you are. So study harder now than you ever did for that church history mid-term! Read every page on the church’s website, not just the pages that seem best connected to the ministry position in which you are interested. Read EVERY page–read the church’s history, the staff page, all the ministry pages. Read the newsletters. Read the bulletins. Watch four or five worship services if possible. Read with curiosity. Write down specific questions you have about programs, ministries, worship, and leadership. Take notes. Read through and study your notes in the days before your interview.
  4. Learn names. If you have not been given a list of the members of the search committee, ask for their names, and do some research on the committee. Find pictures of committee members (and Facebook is invaluable here), and learn their faces and their names! Know who you will be talking with before you go for the interview.
  5. Practice your answers. There are some standard questions that committees ask of candidates. Know what those questions are, and practice your answers. Practice OUT LOUD. Do a mock interview. Ask a friend or several friends to be “your committee.” Ask them for feedback about your responses–both the content and the delivery of those responses. Excellent interviewing skills are learned–they don’t just happen. (For a list of those questions to expect, check out the BWIM resource page here and here.)
  6. Write down the questions you want to ask the committee. Prepare thoughtful, insightful questions! They will expect you to have questions! (For a list of questions to consider asking, check out the BWIM resource page here).
  7. Give some thought to what you will wear. Dress like a professional. Ministers are professionals. This is not to say that you have to look stiffly formal. You don’t have to wear a tailored suit or high heels, but what you wear does matter. Sundresses and flip flops are not okay (unless the church you are interviewing with is on the beach!) If you have interview fashion questions, ask for help. Really! Ask friends for help if you need it. (On occasion, I get text messages from my young minister friends . . . who send me photos and ask: Does this work? Should I wear different shoes? Do I need some accessories? Do I look like I am wearing my grandmother’s jacket or my teenage sister’s dress?)
  8. Be yourself. Be true to yourself. During your interview, be honest about your strengths, your weakness (this is the question every committee asks). Be as candid as you can–this is not to say that you should be unfiltered and vocalize every thought you have. But share of yourself during the interview. You want to leave this interview feeling like the committee has a sense of who you are, what you believe, how you feel called.

In-person interviewing can be stressful–almost as stressful as waiting for a call back from the committee. Being prepared can lessen your anxiety and help you move into the interview with more confidence. Being prepared also helps the committee members know that you are serious about the position and that you are invested in the process! So do the work! Be prepared.

Pam Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.