When I was in my final year of seminary in 2010, I had heard that churches weren't allowed to call a pastor until after she/he was approved as a candidate for ministry by Synod. Technically, this is followed. Call letters typically aren't sent until you are officially a candidate. But really ... no one follows this. There were students in my classes flying to Colorado and California, taking second and third interviews in March, and many students had their first call sealed up by April. Of course, many did not. Some churches still try to play by the "rules" and wait until The Banner comes out that summer. Only after looking at the pictures of candidates do they begin to think about calling a seminary student.
After thinking about this for a while, I think we should unleash the whole process. Honestly, I think our candidacy system needs to be overhauled in a big way (different post for a different day) because most candidates begin to panic by the fall if they have not received a call that summer. If they haven't received a call by the time the next batch of candidates come out ... despair sets in. Like I said though, different post for a different day.
My question here is this: Why not just lift this formality of candidacy and go look for a pastor? Why not just call three or four professors/staff (I recommend the Field Ed coordinator before the systematic theology professor) at the seminary and say, "Give me your top five names." Then, take a couple of elders along and go and have lunch with a few students. This is happening informally anyways, let's just call it what it is and level the playing the field for everyone.