Well, the presidential campaign is over—finally! It was a long, winding, sometimes torturous road for the two “finalists” for the job, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama, both excellent candidates. But still, in the end, only ONE of the candidates was ultimately selected for the position, the President of the United States. It is ever thus for most “job searches.”

When you think about it (as I have done!), there are more than just a few parallels between how this, the most important of “job searches,” unfolded and how the typical, admittedly far more mundane, job search unfolds in the current job market.

As is the case with virtually all the TOP jobs today, many candidates initially queued up for the job as our nation’s chief executive. Most were apparently qualified enough to at least be considered for the job, while a few others clearly were not.

The “pool” of “job candidates” soon began to be culled (again, as is the case in today’s overall job market) and potential candidates were progressively (and sometimes, quickly) eliminated from further consideration, for a whole variety of reasons: They weren’t perceived as having the necessary experience and/or skillsets desired by the “hiring authority” (the American people), they made various faux pas during the early stages of their candidacy (what I refer to as “casting shadows on the wall” in “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!), etc.

Once the pool of potential candidates for the job was reduced to a more manageable size, the “hiring authority” (American people) started evaluating (either consciously or sub-consciously) the surviving candidates essentially on the following four basic criteria, the same criteria, incidentally, that all “hiring authorities” use (whether or not they are consciously aware of it) when evaluating job candidates:

  • Can the candidates actually do the job?
  • Do the candidates genuinely want to do the job?
  • Will the candidates do the job?
  • Are all of the candidates good cultural fits?

It wasn’t long at all before a number of the candidates were eliminated strictly on the basis of the first and third criteria: Can the candidate actually do the job? and Will the candidate do the job? Most candidates were rather summarily deemed to fall short in meeting these important, though certainly very subjective, criteria and were therefore out of the race early on. Just like most job searches.

There was little doubt that virtually all of the candidates more than met the second criterion: Does the candidate genuinely want to do the job? (There are few politicians of national stature and prominence who don’t lust, at least secretly, for the ultimate “prize.”) Still, as can certainly be the case in any job search today, that proved to hold little sway over those making the actual “hiring decision.”

Once the two “job finalists” were determined, i.e., Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama, arguably, the ultimate hiring decision seemed to hinge primarily upon the fourth criterion: Which of the two candidates would prove to be the best cultural fit? That is, which candidate projected both the personal and professional brands that the “hiring authority” (the American electorate) most desired, if not demanded? In order to remain in sync with the electorate, from time to time both candidates had to refine and/or reaffirm their brands at least somewhat during the entire course of the “job search.” Beginning to appear to “liberal,” or too “conservative”? Tweak the brand a little. Appeal among women or minorities slipping a little? Again, tweak the brand.

‘Face-to-Face’ Interviews with the ‘Decision-Makers’

Then came the all-important “face-to-face” interviews, i.e., the televised presidential debates, which gave the “decision-makers” (the American electorate) an opportunity to see how well each candidate was able to “think on his feet,” the opportunity for the decision-makers to get a better feel for the “real” candidates.

Just as in virtually any job search, the decision-makers, We the People, were attempting to learn (among many other things, of course) which of the two “finalists” could best be expected to . . .

  • Provide workable solutions to specific problems facing the “company” (our country), e.g., an unemployment rate that is still too high, an economy that is still faltering, etc.
  • Make the “company” money, e.g., create jobs and thereby increase much-needed revenue, etc.
  • Save the “company” money, e.g., reduce the burgeoning national debt, etc. Or,
  • Both make and save the “company” money.

How well (or how poorly) each candidate was perceived by the decision-makers to be able to accomplish these important objectives would ultimately drive the “hiring decision.” Just as in any job search!

The Final Decision

As with any job search, there ultimately came a time when the decision-makers had to actually make a decision regarding which of the two “finalists” would be chosen for the position under consideration, the presidency. Both candidates represented themselves well throughout the “job search.” And both candidates developed, projected and maintained personal and professional brands that appealed to large numbers of the decision-makers. Still, only ONE would be selected for the position. Just like any job search.

Well, of course, we now know which of the two candidates was ultimately selected, Mr. Obama. Maybe you celebrated this choice, or maybe you didn’t. Nevertheless, the “hiring decision” has been made, and the candidate who was the “second choice,” Mr. Romney, must accept that and move on to other “career opportunities.” Just like in any job search!

So, if you are currently in the search for a new job, and from time to time lament all the various “hoops” you must jump through just to “stay in the game,” it might be helpful to recall that no one—including candidates for the U. S. Presidency!—is ever really exempt from the trials and tribulations one normally encounters in a new “job search”!


Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.