John Wesley accepted men as itinerants ('helpers') on the recommendation of the circuit Assistant (or Superintendent) and after interview in the Conference. There was usually a one-year period of probation, extended in 1784 to four. Over the years WM evolved a more elaborate system, substantially parallelled in other branches of Methodism, except that in Primitive Methodism candidates were examined and admitted at District, not Conference, level.
The WM system has survived, with modifications, to the present day. Its main features have been: nomination in the Circuit Meeting and approval by the Ministerial Synod, written examinations and trial sermons, personal interview and psychological assessment, examination by District and connexional committees, and recommendation by the Ministerial to the Representative Session of Conference, where the final decision rests. Candidates must be local preachers, possess basic educational qualifications and give an account of their Christian experience and sense of call. Special procedures exist for those who apply to transfer from the ministry of other Churches.
Until 1956 it was rare for candidates to be married or above 25 years of age. By 1996 the average age had risen to 41. Women were not accepted until 1973. From 1956 until 1988 a special category of Senior Candidate was open to those aged 55 or over (50 for women) who were available for stationing without training and who would not require pension provision.In 1998 the Conference adopted a radical change, dividing candidature into two stages: the first (determined by a District committee) for foundation training for authorized ministry (whether ministerial, diaconal or lay), the second (determined by Conference as above) specifically for training as minister or deacon, but this was discontinued in 2006. The role of the Ministerial Synod was discontinued in 1999.
From 2014, there has been a single connexional candidates selection committee, dealing with candidates both for presbyteral and diaconal ministry, and making recommendations respectively to the Presbyteral Session of the Conference and the Conference Diaconal Committee.