Job Hunt Lessons from the Presidential Campaign

By Leslie Stevens-Huffman

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Every four years, job hunters have the opportunity to view the hiring process from the other side of the desk, as presidential candidates try to convince voters to hire them for one of the most important jobs in the world.

No matter which side you’re on, you can learn a lot about running an effective campaign by observing the candidates’ behaviors and interactions with the public and the media. Here are some examples to help you get started:

Be Ready to Seize the Moment

Even an experienced orator may stammer or ramble if they haven’t anticipated the tough questions. And unlike politicians, job seekers rarely get a second chance to recover from a less-than-stellar performance. That places a premium on rehearsing possible answers before your interview.

“You only have a finite number of opportunities to convince the hiring manager, so every answer counts,” explained Jeff Altman, head coach for JobSearchCoachingHQ.com.

Conveying clear ideas and summoning examples on-the-fly can be difficult when you’re under pressure. Perfecting a list of talking points, one liners and interesting vignettes well before an interview can help you shine when you’re in the spotlight.

Stick to the “Issues”

Although pivoting is a staple for politicians and basketball players, it’s not something you want to emulate.

“As we’ve seen in the recent presidential debates, the main question is either ignored and goes unanswered or is answered vaguely before quickly switching topics,” noted Jon Forknell, who oversees and manages a development team for Atlas Business Solutions.

The key to convincing a manager that you’re the right hire is to focus on the “issues,” which, in this case, are the job requirements. “There’s nothing wrong with providing some ancillary information,” Forknell added, “but make sure you’ve covered the main question(s) first when you speak with the hiring manager.”

Develop a Powerful Brand

Could you articulate your unique value and characteristics to the CIO if you bumped into her in the elevator? Are you ready to answer the eternal question: “Why should we hire you?”

Presidential hopefuls spend hours figuring out what voters want, then developing core messaging and a catchy slogan that resonates—and so should you.

Steal a page from the political playbooks by creating a robust online presence and establishing yourself as a go-to expert in your specialty before you hit the market. In addition, stand out amongst a sea of professionals by garnering validating endorsements from colleagues, clients and former managers.

Articulate a 100-Day Plan

Show the hiring manager that you’re ready to hit the ground running by bringing a 100-day action plan to the interview, especially if you’re vying for a management position. Laying out what you intend to accomplish not only shows that you have a command of the issues, but have come up with some viable solutions.

Create an Advisory Board

“It takes different skills to find a job than to do a job,” Altman noted. Having a group of mentors and advisors can ensure that you have the right strategy to win and a core message that resonates.

Be Humble and Likeable

Studies show that likable people are more apt to be hired, get help at work and have their mistakes forgiven. Putting others down or refusing to consider alternate solutions or approaches to technical problems can make you seem difficult and hard to work with. Embracing the habits of likeable people can make you seem trustworthy and increase your chances of success.

Run a Clean Campaign

Don’t embellish your projects or responsibilities, or it may come back to bite you. “Be true to yourself, not who you think they’re looking to hire, as this will increase the likelihood of you being a good fit for your new employer and vice versa,” Forknell noted.

While politicians may get away with telling tall tales, job seekers who get caught lying on their resumes or who bash their former co-workers or bosses are usually shown the door.

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