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Candidates for political office and candidates for a job have much in common.

Job seekers are probably more offended by that comparison than politicians.

political candidateIn the interview, there is a dance of sorts between the person asking the questions and the candidates who frequently struggle with how to be responsive while emphasizing messaging points about their beliefs, values and accomplishments, all the while trying to avoid any hint of the negative.  Deep down, job candidates and politicians would like you to believe they walk on water.  Very few do.

Over the years I have observed some interesting dynamics in the interview process that offer great lessons for those looking for work:

  • As a recruiter, or a reporter, I go into an interview with a strategy — to get answers to certain critical questions.
  • Job candidates, especially those with one or two glitches in their career, go into the process hoping to avoid any hint of poor performance, previous political miscues or less than stellar performance.  In most cases, the candidates with career bumps in the road are ready to spin a good story to explain what happened.
  • Political candidates quickly learn how to pivot from a question they may not want to answer and transition to their stump speech talking points.  There is the inevitable push and pull, perhaps even some adversarial scuffling, as to who is going to really control the interview.  This is not that uncommon in job interviews, especially when the candidate is accustomed to being in charge.
  • Most job candidates think it is all about answering the questions, not selling themselves. (Actually, it is both.)
  • Politicians think it is all about selling themselves and avoiding answering the questions they do not want to discuss.
  • Politicians, especially those actively running for elective office, live by messaging points.  Those talking points are their protection from wandering off point and committing an embarrassing gaffe, and their salvation when they need an escape route from an uncomfortable question.
  • Rare is the interview when a job candidate comes in with a messaging strategy and great examples of relevant experience and quantifiable examples to make their points.  It happens maybe one in 10 interviews, a fact that I find shocking given the competition for the best jobs.
  • Even candidates with a message to share often times are passive, even indirect, in using that information.  It is as if they are uncomfortable with self promotion.  Good politicians can be found on the other end of that particular spectrum.
  • When cornered, politicians like to hurl hypothetical questions in hope of distracting the person conducting the interview.  Far too many job candidates stumble through an answer.
  • It is not uncommon for job candidates to ask questions that were thoroughly addressed in the Position Prospectus or in an overview of the job and organization that they received prior to the interview.  Poor preparation leads to poor performance which typically leads to elimination from further consideration.