What jobseekers should learn from political campaigns
There is a remarkable parallel between the election process and the path of the jobseeker who is looking for work. In the case of our election, much of the process is public. I believe there is a lot to be learned we watch this process plays out. At the time of this writing, we are at the final candidate stage.
The citizens of the United States are participating in the interview. The interview is public with millions of stakeholders who are intently watching. Many stakeholders will cast a vote in November. Many are carefully watching the candidates to better justify their decision. And many voters are still undecided, hoping that the public forums, debates and media coverage will offer the information that will help them decide.
Although citizens at large don’t really get to ask questions during the interview process, we do get to witness the questions and the responses of the candidates. Registered voters will have the opportunity to influence the final decision makers as the nation prepares for the initial Election on November 8, 2016.
Presidential interview overview:
Job Title: President of the United States of America
Final Candidates: Winners of the nominating process
Stakeholders: The Entire World
Decision Makers: Electoral College, if a majority does not exist, then Congress will decide.
- Qualified U.S. voters.
- The media: public and private.
- Powerful individuals and organizations with both public and hidden agendas (including funding entities).
The interview process may include:
- Public debates
- Rallies to various constituencies throughout the U.S.
- Fundraising events to pay for media ads to sway voters
- An outpouring of millions of media reports
Lessons learned and thought provokers:
- Social media and endorsements play a huge role for decision makers.
This may parallel the online identity of the jobseeker. Most hiring entities check their candidates out online. Any kind of “issue” has to be managed. A negative for one person, may be a positive for another. LinkedIn recommendations can boost a candidate’s status. They are a public display by a “real” person and what that person thinks.
- Word choices can mean a lot.
One wrong word can be the downfall of a candidate. Somehow there just doesn’t seem to be a way to take back a mis-spoken word, phrase, or response to a question.
- Professional “fact-checkers” examine everything that is said.
Especially in this campaign, it should be evident to every jobseeker that truth-telling is a critical part of the equation. This isn’t just a part of the interview process, but includes ANY documentation (such as a résumé, a professional Bio, or LinkedIn). This includes facts that are requested during the online application process and extends to the request for your previous salary history.
- Credibility is important.
This certainly relates to the previous point about fact-checking. However, this goes beyond the facts. From the initial introduction—which might be a résumé—interviewers put together a composite idea about the candidate. This composite is comprised through the information presented by a cover letter, résumé, LinkedIn Profile, online mentions, recommendations, phone calls and the interview itself. The question is simple: Is this candidate credible? Unfortunately, the path to answer is complex.
- ALL non-verbal behavior is under a microscope.
As I listen to the commentators rehash the debates, the responses from the candidates and every physical movement is scrutinized…even a “sniff” brought a mention. I also found it interesting that critics indicated that strategy and practice are important at every level when preparing for the debate (interview); even the non-verbal behaviors.
- Every aspect of one’s past is fair game.
WOW. This has been a challenge to watch. It seems like candidates can be held accountable for every word they have ever spoken and every action they have ever taken. Here a jobseeker has the advantage. When asked about something in the past, it is possible to describe or explain a change of heart, and even explain the situation. Hopefully, there aren’t too many of these or the credibility factor may suffer.
- Medical records, tax returns, financial credit ratings, driving and criminal records, former employment and professional activities may be the subject of questions and requests for documentation.
Especially if a candidate is in the finance industry; then former tax returns and a credit check may be requested. Sales professionals may be asked to prove sales commissions.
Driving and criminal records also play a role. Together, these documentation requests play a role in the final decision made by a potential future employer.
Definite take-aways from the political arena:
- Keep talking and you will likely give a decision maker a reason not to hire you.
- What others think is important. Our network plays a critical role in our future career stability.(Influencers are critical players.)
- Be prepared for uncomfortable questions. They may provide an opportunity to prove personal credibility.
- Carefully scrutinize non-verbal behaviors and how they may distract from core messages during the interview.
- Social media plays a role and will live forever. This includes LinkedIn.
- Endorsements and allegiances can be helpful or hurtful—it’s all in the eye of the beholder. A person may be “guilty” by association (past or present) with a group, company or individual.
- Negative “chat” and accusations, even in private conversation, will likely be a bad idea.
There are many more take-aways from the public display of the campaign that is generated as the election process continues. It is an excellent forum for jobseekers to watch the reactions of audiences. It is also an opportunity to see first-hand how voters are influenced.
A clear understanding of the audience during an interview can be invaluable as candidates choose words to respond to questions. In the end, the selection process will be made based on a composite idea of the candidate and how he or she will perform the responsibilities of the job.
Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.