Physical Appearance & Hiring

paperbag
Perry Nobel wrote a blog the other day entitled, “Five things to look for in a Staff Member“, which I thought was a great article. Here’s the short version:

  1. Vision
  2. Potential
  3. Character
  4. Chemistry
  5. Tithing

I agree wholeheartedly with all five of these characteristics, especially vision. At the end of his article he asked the question “what did I miss?”. I started thinking about our own staff interviews and some that I’ve been on in my career. One thing that kept coming to my mind was “What about Physical Appearance?”. I know we all want to be politically correct and such, but I wonder how big of an “Elephant in the room” this is when hiring potential staff?

How important do you think it is? How important should it be?

8 thoughts on “Physical Appearance & Hiring

  1. Chris

    This has come up a couple of times in our hiring process and it has come down to this – are you so locked in to your personal appearance/style that you are NOT willing to change or modify adapt for the sake of the culture you are trying to reach?

    For example, we had a guy apply for a job here and he happened to have earrings. Nothing wrong with earrings, in my mind, but as we had the discussion it became apparent that him having earrings (and keeping his earrings!) was a bit of him thumbing his nose at the older crowd who would be amazed that someone with earrings was a devout follower of Christ.

    “So, would you remove your earrings if it was an opportunity to show grace to the culture of senior adults who are vitally important to the life of our church?”

    His answer? No, he wouldn’t. He wasn’t willing to change his appearance/style because, for him, the congregation should be willing to accept him just as he was.

    So the discussions about hiring him stopped. He was very competent. He had lots of experience. He had great references. But the attitude about appearance and style revealed an issue of the heart which came out loud and clear.

    That’s probably not exactly what you’re talking about but I guess the baseline is yes, appearance does matter.

    BTW – Nice photo of Roy Thomson Hall in downtown Toronto. Beautiful theatre.

  2. Matthew Daniel

    I was randomly thinking about this same thing this morning and here’s the conclusion that I came up with:

    Appearance matters in the sense of are they dirty, do they look disorganized, are they wrinkled (the question I ask there is – did they care enough about this interview to prepare themselves mentally, spiritually, and physically).

    I don’t believe appearance matters when it comes to style. If someone’s style is so obviously a turn-off to you, you have to ask yourself the question – “are we afraid of a certain type of people” and “what are our expectations for the lost when they walk into the building.”

    I had a pastor who required no shorts or flip-flops at the church during the week, and slacks and tucked-in shirts on the weekends. He effectively said, “I want people who look like me.” He was extremely focused on first-impressions (which I totally agree with), he just wanted to give a different first impression than I did (but I wore slacks and stayed away from the shorts and flip-flops for the next 4 years).

    Our children’s pastor has a couple of piercings, always wears black, and has both arms tattooed with full sleeves – but the man is incredibly effective at ministry.

  3. alex

    So, both those first comments kind of lean toward hiring people who might not fit into the culture of the church. I think that you must be willing to be flexible on both ends. But if you are hiring and your vision is strong, then obviously you’ve got to make that apparent upfront.

  4. bobby

    Dude, you’re kinda hittin a sore subject for me. I can fill you in on the details personally sometime if you want.

    Point is, I think there is a line in what matters about appearance and how important it is. And above all, there is a need to be honest up front. I agree with Matthew that they should come to an interview presentable. But as far as “style”, that’s where I think it gets shady.

    I want to do my best to look good in front of people. But for me, I want to be able to be myself. When I look at Chris’ situation, it made sense not hiring someone who didn’t fit in. But I don’t think that is a poor reflection of his heart as was insinuated. God has given him the giftings and personality to reach people as the person he is. Hopefully he walked away not wanting to work there as well.

    So I guess it all depends on the culture of your church. I could go on, but I’ll stop there. you get the gist.

  5. alex

    Yeah this convo has gone in that direction of earings and style and stuff…

    I was wondering about things like, upkeep, physical health, first impressions, height & hair color (thanks vince) – you know, the stuff that people whisper about…

  6. Chris

    Cool – I like this discussion.

    Actually the guy I was speaking about in my first comment DID fit in to the “style” culture of our church. Although I work at a “baptist” church we are pretty laidback when it comes to what people where, how we dress in the office, etc.

    The question about his earrings came out of a discussion of how can we respect, honour and serve parts of our community (in and outside of our congregation) with our appearance. We got to talking about would this guy ever change his appearance for their sake and his answer was “No.”

    We have guys on staff who have earrings, tattoos, dress very formal, dress very casual. As you can guess, this means we have very different personalities on staff – conservative, easygoing, combinations of the two.

    It’s an interesting discussion. I don’t think it’s as easy as “Well if he’s got the ability and he’s got the personality let’s hire him!”

  7. Chris

    I’ll add this – what about race? Does your church hire to reflect the racial culture of your congregation? Do you hire someone of a certain race in the hopes that it will attract more of that racial group to your church?

    What about worship teams? Do you intentionally make your teams diverse – by age, gender, race – to intentionally reflect the diversity of your congregation?

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