Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Presidential Job Interview

In my career, one of my best strengths thus far has been in the hiring process. Consistently I have had great success with hiring very high-potential people. In general, you could say that all of my questions come down to two categories: personality and effectiveness. About half of the interview process is involved in analyzing behavior, psychology, and past experience to determine if the candidate can demonstrate a history of working in a diverse team to achieve goals. The other half is focused on the “top five” things that I wish for the position: does something from his or her past indicate an ability to achieve the five most important practical achievements I desire from the position?

I thought of this last week as my wife and I discussed the presidential election. The reality is that when we voters “hire” the president, we spend very, very little time and energy interviewing him or her properly. Instead, most of our energy is spent trying to determine how closely the candidate agrees with our ideological worldview—political, economic, religious, etc.

How strange, when you really think of it! If I am hiring a manager or a leader for a factory, I do not care whether he and I agree on policy or philosophy. Rather, I am concerned solely with whether he has the personality to lead, a history of demonstrated teamwork, and the capacity to achieve the “top 5” results for the position.

So while I rarely post political items on Reboot, my personal preparation for the election might be helpful for you as well. I asked myself the following eight questions. I will not answer them for you, merely pose them. Depending upon the answers to these eight, you should have a pretty good idea of who to vote for. (Note: my “top 5 results needed” may be different than yours, so go ahead and substitute those.)

BEHAVIOR/PERSONALITY – questions designed to determine if the candidate has a personality capable of leadership and teamwork.

1. What is the candidate’s personality style? Anyone can be a leader, but for some personality styles it is easier and more natural than others. Considering the complexity of the job and its tendency for excessive amounts of interpersonal contact, one might prefer, for example, an ENTJ or ESTJ-type personality, which excels in organized thinking, logical thought processes, and collaboration with other people rather than quiet self-work. Is one candidate a natural leader compared to the other?

2. Can the candidate give concrete examples of having successfully worked with the opposing party to achieve positive results? Almost anyone can achieve their policy goals if they have a majority in Congress, but generally speaking the President must be able to work effectively with both sides of the aisle. Reagan and Clinton were both experts at building relationships with others to achieve common goal. Does either candidate have a background of such leadership?

3. Does the candidate have a history of management or leadership experience? The Presidency is first and foremost the chief executive of the largest bureaucracy in the world. As such, the ability to analyze a budget, turn long-term visions into strategies, motivate and evaluate employee performance, delegate clearly and appropriately, etc., is incredibly important to success.

TOP 5 RESULTS NEEDED – which candidate is most likely to achieve these 5 measurable improvements within the next four years? Note – these are my top 5, and may not be everyone’s.

4. Reduction in the number of abortions. I consider abortion to be the great moral evil in our age, and think it should be reduced at any cost. However, as with everything else this becomes polemical and neither side has good approaches to reducing the number of abortions. Reduction in abortions is going to come most effectively through a combination of efforts: increased abstinence focus combined with increased use of contraceptives when abstinence is unrealistic; reduction of federal programs which encourage or fund abortions; appointment of judges to Supreme Court who oppose Roe v. Wade; and more efficient and effective adoption programs.

5. Decreased unemployment. Unemployment is the worst result of an economic downturn, leading to the destruction of marriages and families, increase in crime, poor health, and lower educational opportunities for children. Each of these in turn has long-term future consequences.

6. Balanced budget. Long periods of spending more than we take in will inevitably lead to financial collapse and a tremendous impact on the health and well-being of the nation’s citizens.

7. Long-term energy independence and sustainability. Electrical power is the key to our nation’s future growth and our standard of living. A multi-phase approach is necessary. We must secure our short-term stability by maximizing the availability of oil, natural gas, and coal reserves in the U.S. borders. More importantly however we must make a focused drive toward a sustainable, renewable future powered by energy that will not run out—wind, solar, wave, geothermal, hydroelectric, and tidal power must be pushed aggressively by the government or we will strongly regret it 30 years from now. These technologies need time to mature so the push must begin now.

8. Restarting America’s apprenticeship programs. If we have good wages and benefits, America will never compete with low-cost countries on the cost of finished goods. In order to move away from a service-centric economy (notice Spain, whose service-centric economy collapsed into its current 25% unemployment), we must make a better quality product. This can happen if we return to our history of strong technical colleges and a focus on building apprentices and master mechanics, electricians, welders, etc. Too long has America condescended to anyone without a college education, and the result has been the eroding of high-quality American manufactured goods. We need to refocus on this.

As stated, I will not answer them, but this is a far more relevant discussion than “Which candidate agrees with me the most on X% of issues?” These eight questions reveal who is a good fit.

When I scored the candidates in this election, I found that Candidate Alpha was good in 5 categories, poor in 1 category, and neutral in 2 categories. I found that Candidate Beta was good in 1 category, neutral in 4 categories, and poor in 3 categories. So on a scale of 0 to 16 (0 being “all negative—completely unqualified” and 16 being “all positive—completely qualified”) I scored Candidate Alpha as a 12 (75%) and Candidate Beta as a 6 (38%).

In other words…we have a choice between a “C” candidate and an “F” candidate. I’ll be voting for the “C” candidate—you have to decide which is which. But use something like the above, rather than the more common (and flawed) method of picking the one who happens to agree with you more, or who happens to be more likable.

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