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Monday, May 10, 2010

2nd Monday Discussion: What (Not) to Wear

As I round the corner toward the end of my current Interim position, I'm looking toward job interviews, and I thought we might have a discussion about what to wear, and what not to wear, at interviews.

Ever since our BE 2.0 presenter, the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney, told us about Design-her Gals, I've loved inventing cartoon versions of me, and at times like this, I wish I could shop for one of their outfits! I've created this Random RevGal to illustrate my point. I am never quite sure what to wear at those crucial moments. (I also have deep regrets about a pair of black pants I no longer possess.)

How do you dress when meeting a Search Committee? It doesn't matter what you wear to a phone interview, but how do you handle Skype? Do you wear a suit? Dress the way you would on a Sunday morning? If you wear a collar, what outfit built around it makes you feel most confident, fully vested in your pastoral authority?

I hope you'll join the conversation in the comments! My apologies that it comes so late in the day.


  1. Songbird, I have NO idea what to suggest so I'm waiting for great answers from revgals!

  2. I did a skype interview for my new position. I just wore a nice top. The big thing with video is checking your "set" and your lighting!

  3. Hoping I don't have to do a skype anytime soon. ugh.'
    Cats get upset when I pay more attention to the computer than them
    As far as in person interviews, I usually go with a nice pants suit and shell or top.
    But, here, we tend to have week-end interviews and so you have to come up with several.
    Really hate it when someone on the committee tells me,"It is okay to jsut go casual."
    What is casual?

  4. Heya im fresh to this. I stumbled upon this message board I have found It quite helpful & it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & assist other people like it has helped me.

    Thanks, Catch You Around

  5. I haven't Skyped an interview yet, so I don't know about that. My guess is that I would wear (at least on top) what I would wear in person, though.

    In person, it SORT OF depends on the day they have planned. Most of my interviews have been day long affairs with no chance to go home or back to a hotel to change based on the event. For that reason I tend not to wear a full suit, and definitely not skirt in which I am particularly uncomfortable because of the hose.

    I wear pants and a seasonably appropriate work-friendly top - twin set, nice blouse. I work real hard to make sure nothing in my wardrobe has to be tucked in. I hate tucking things in and feel very self-conscious in things that are tucked in. The last think I want to be in an interview is self-conscious. I want my clothes to be off my mind, but still professional looking. I tend to dress a little more "up" than some of my colleagues for work and for interviews because I'm on the younger side of ministers (or at least I have been when I've interviewed!). I want to make sure I'm taken seriously as a professional and not looked at as an age with no experience, wisdom, etc.

    Even with the "go casual" instruction I'll keep it to this sort of uniform. I'm not going to wear jeans (even really dark ones) to an interview. I might avoid black pants if they say "casual" since those feel more formal to me. Gray pants or brown feel a little more dressed down for some reason.

    I won't wear, even in the winter, a full on heavy sweater. I DON'T want to be hot and risk sweating!

  6. I was *so* planning to wear whatever St. Casserole suggested ... now I'm still clueless. Good thing I don't have to do interviews, I guess.

    For real, I am short enough that in situations where I "need" authority, I wear a suit.

  7. One advantage to wearing a collar is that it's usually the right starting point for an interview! Of course, then there's all the rest...

    I haven't been in this position for quite a few years. I think I'd start by taking a look at any pictures I could find of the congregation, on a website or in a profile. If it's a one off interview--in person or on skype--I'd consider aiming for about the level of what people wear for Sunday worship unless they are really dressed to the 9's. Photos of the current or recent clergy could be helpful cues too. For an all day/weekend, I'd do something just a tad less formal for most of the day (assuming that's interviews) and judge any other events by their nature (bbq or dinner at a nice restaurant in town?).

    I figure it is better to be a bit overdressed than underdressed, as it shows respect for the people involved.

  8. I too was banking on St. C's advice. I don't have any interview plans, but I think the check-the-website-for-photos-of-people idea is a good tip. We tend to do whole weekend affairs as well, with not as much downtime as one might like, so comfortable and easy to dress up-or-down via shoes or jacket or jewelry would be my vote.
    And, of course, I'm always all for something that subtly expresses your personality! No need to be a clone in a suit unless that classic sort of look is really your style. An embroidered purse or fun shoes or a hip necklace, if they're *you*, can work wonders and make you feel yourself too!

  9. I just find these are the times when I have no idea who my self *is*!

  10. When I interviewed for my first position five years ago, I wore a suit, because I was convinced That's What You Do. The suit was awful. I looked like I was playing dress up. It didn't fit right, wasn't tailored well for a woman, ugh ugh ugh. I've come by better suits, but they still aren't my favorite interview (or general professional) gear. When I interviewed in the Chicago area in February, I wore the most lovely outfit - a pair of black wool pants from Banana Republic, and a cool wraparound black sweater bought on clearance from anthropologie. Altogether, I think my outfit said, "I believe ministry is a creative profession." I think I could have worn the same thing interviewing for a graphic design position... not so much a financial advisor position. I even went out on a limb and, for the evening dinner, added my ginormous cocktail ring designed by one of my dear friends. Ultimately, I felt ten times more like myself than I did when I was trying to fit into some professional mold.

    Skype would freak me out - I'd have to clean the kitchen! Yikes.

  11. Katherine, I don't want to skype either, I need some major cleaning done.
    With the long weekend thing, I tend to "over pack."
    I try for a godo variety and sometime you do not know where and what you will do.
    I did wear a nice pants suit for the actual interview and then ended up doing a city tour afterwords.
    I am on our presby's committee that (in part) oversees the search committees. I have had lots of advice to offer and tried to explain it from a pastors POV.
    Definte bottomline for me would be shoes.
    You are going to be walking a good bit, even at the church. Wear sensible, practical shoes. Little pumps, strappy sandals or slides might make the outfit, but if you cannot walk two miles in them, don't wear them.
    Also, I learned the hard way. I had a sleeveless top under a jacket. I was way hot and felt uncomfortable pulling it off with bare arms.
    Looking forward to reading more stuff in the AM. This is very timely for me as i am in process of talking to churches now.

  12. y'all might get a kick out of this blog - all kinds of questions (and advice) for situations we find ourselves in...

  13. On the interviewee side I am an academic, so go pretty formal. Maximum a full suit, either skirt or pants, and minimum a jacket with either a dress or really nice dress pants and blouse. I don't always dress that way to teach, especially now that I am farther along in my career, but to me dressing a notch better than the average workday is very important for showing respect and appreciation for the opportunity. I make a point of owning at least one suit that I feel really beautiful and relatively comfortable in to make sure I will feel comfortable as well. I have a vivid memory of interviewing a candidate for a crisis pregnancy counseling position where daily work was not at all formal. Both the other interviewer and I were dressed better than the candidate (and we weren't in suits, just really sharp blouse and skirt for me and pants for her). She could have worn what she was wearing to work if she got the job, but gave off a very sloppy impression by not taking more trouble for an interview. We both voted against her, primarily for qualification reasons, but it was certainly a final straw. (The chair of the board of directors overruled our strong objections, and the new person was gone within a month of hire, but that's another story).

    This, along with my own interviewee experience, probably affects my take on church interviewing, i.e. that if I were on a search committee I would expect the same from a clergy candidate. At least a jacket with a nice skirt or pants, a suit would never be wrong and definitely better than too casual unless she had been told to go casual. Remember that 1) a male would almost certainly wear a suit, either with a tie or a collar, so looking significantly less casual can put you at a disavantage and 2) a male candidate already has an advantage over a female so IMHO a woman is well advised to take every step she can to offset that.

  14. When I interviewed for an interim position last August (hot day), I wore a dress and sandals. Most churches I've served were not formal, high church and pretty casual. Often, I am the best dressed at the Session meeting and committee meetings (except for Budget & Finance with a couple professional/businessmen coming straight from work in their suits).
    I just try to be myself, professional and comfortable, depending on the season. I may wear a suit, pant suit or ensemble, dress or skirt and shirt or sweater, simple pumps or sandals when it's summertime. (I will not wear hose over 70 degrees).
    I try to find professional looking dresses. Pretty tough this season (so much sleeveless, plunging necklines, and crazy patterned, loud colored polyester ones! I have some oldies but timeless ones that I can pull out.

  15. When I was interviewing my first time around, the interview "began" when I was picked up at the airport, so I got in the habit of dressing up a little to fly.

    I also did a bunch of phone interviews, seated at my kitchen table. A seminary colleague gave the advice to dress up for those as well, just as if I was being seen. It did give me a different mind set than sitting around in shorts and flip-flops would have.

    I don't own a traditional "suit" but I try to mix well-cut, well-fitting classics (just a few pieces I really love) in a way that says I am professional.

    The final search interview at my last call was at a dinner party with the search committee at one of their homes. When I asked how the committee members would be dressed, I was told they might be in jeans, but that I should dress up.


    I know how I look on skype. That would make me very nervous.

  16. I sooo love being a guy -- throw on slacks, clergy shirt, sport coat and I'm golden.

    I know that doesn't help 98% of the folks here . . . but if I were a woman, I'm thinking I'd either wear something along those same lines or a conservative knee-length skirt, clergy shirt and blazer.

    And what is this skype thing you speak of?? Me and technology . . . not so much.

    Good luck.

  17. My clergy coach has encouraged me to always look my professionl best and my clergy coach's wife "coached" me on how to do that. I always wear a black shirt and collar to work, and I ususally wear a black skirt or (more often) black slacks and some sort of jacket. (I don't even own a 'suit'). She encouraged me to dress it up with scarves, which I do now, and to wear more stylish shoes (and I've found some both stylish and comfortable) and to always look for separates that will mix and match. With black that is easier--I have some black jackets I dress up with scarves and I have some jackets of other colors.

    For my interviews I wore my "best" work clothes: a coordinated skirt and jacket (black) with my clericals and a nice scarf. If I had a two day interview I would usually wear pants the 2nd day and a different scarf. You should ALWAYS remember to dress in things that are comfortable, too. Nothing worse that hurting feet or tight pants when you are trying to impress.

    Never had a Skype interview (although I think it's a good idea). If I did, I think I'd wear work clothes. And as someone else mentioned, check out the background and lighting.

  18. Surprised to see the anti-Skype interview sentiment. I HATE phone interviews...hate, hate, hate, them. I think at least with Skype you can see who you are talking to. But I could be wrong...maybe it would be worse...

  19. Thanks so much for all the input! This is one of those times I wish clergy shirts and collars were part of my tradition. It would make life much easier.
    I don't actually own a suit. I live in a very casual part of the country, and I have worked for the most part in less formal churches. I do have lots of nice dresses and skirts, though they are more Sunday than Interview, from my point of view.
    I've given a lot of thought to Katherine's comment about dressing to show you see ministry as a creative profession, and that is very helpful for me.

  20. Belated comment-- Firefox hasn't been allowing me to post comments for the last couple of days, so I'll try one more time.

    Isn't it a funny dichotomy, this need to present ourselves as God-connected and quietly controlled, fully embodied yet utterly neutral? No wonder we have so much trouble dressing for our profession!

    I day-dream about what it would look like to dress as a fully in-spirited woman: wild purple draperies? Feathered cloaks? it might make for a good costume party, or even a Friday Five!

    That said, I usually opt for something grey and nicely tailored, like the "Quaker preaching dress" my mother made for me when I started doing a lot of church work in college. A black clergy blouse, in combination with my Celtic pallor, would make me look not so much priestly as cadaverous!


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