Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What do you wear on the interview weekend?

When you're getting ready to visit a church for an interview weekend, what to wear may not be a high priority in your preparation.  But you need to give it attention, if only in the days before you go.

[A disclaimer: in this post I'm assuming a lot about culture.  I realize that there are many cultures in which my comments below would not apply-- even within the American context.  I'm assuming, therefore, that you, the reader, understands that I'm coming from an American, protestant, mostly-white, mostly-suburban Presbyterian context, and that you'll forgive my broad-stroke claims if they don't apply to you.]

For the most part, candidacy is not a casual affair.  View it like you do any job interview-- only this one lasts two and a half days.  You wouldn't wear jeans, flip-flops and a worn-out Van Halen t-shirt to a job interview at a corporation, retail store, or even Starbucks; you would probably wear nice pants (not denim), dark shoes, and a nice shirt-- possibly even a tie and sport coat.  Why should you view an interview at a church any differently?

A rule of thumb I always taught my Rhetoric students about public speaking is applicable here: you should plan to dress at least as nicely as the other most well-dressed person in the room.  You are not a mere participant in these situations-- you are the object of everyone's attention, and the way you present yourself communicates a lot to them about how much you respect them and the situation.  (Thus my thoughts from a few days ago.)

So here's a list of what I'll take when I go on my next interview weekend:
  • 1-2 two-piece suits
  • 1-2 sport jackets (2 if I only take 1 suit)
  • 2-3 pairs of nice pants (probably 1 pair of "dress slacks" and 2 pairs of "chino" pants)
  • 1 pair of black dress shoes
  • 2 pair of brown shoes-- one casual and one dress
  • 2 oxford dress shirts
  • 2-3 other shirts (either Polo-style golf shirts or casual button-down shirts)
  • 3 neckties
  • Appropriate accessories (belts, socks, etc.)
Here's what I'm NOT taking: blue jeans, shorts, printed t-shirts, sneakers, or a swim suit.  I won't be swimming or playing sports while on the interview weekend, and you probably won't either (the lone exception to this MIGHT be a Youth Pastor).  Even if one of my opportunities is a beach town in Florida, and even if I were going there in mid-July, I would not be swimming or even wearing shorts.

Along these lines, guys: wear a sleeved, plain white undershirt.  All the time.  (Yes, it does look different.)

One more thing-- the suits, jackets, pants, and shirts will all go to the dry cleaner's a week before the trip.  Yes, that will cost money-- probably about $20, if my experience with dry cleaners is accurate-- but I'm guaranteed to have cleaned, pressed clothes that look neat for the whole trip.
Here's a fact to take to the bank: in even the most casual American church, you will never be over-dressed in a tie and blazer.  You could wear a suit to 80% of the churches in any given town and not stand out.  So remember this as you're packing for your interview weekend.

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