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by Vault Careers | November 02, 2010


Every election season offers the opportunity to see high-performing individuals give their all in an extended, extremely public interview session. While that alone makes elections a fantastic place to pick up pointers on the fine art of applying for jobs, there's an extra element required if we're to learn what not to do: politicians taking pratfalls. This campaign has offered more than a few choice examples, and prompted the following nuggets of advice:

Don't Fudge Your Resume

One of the most basic career tips there is, surely? And yet many of us have been tempted to try: if you just changed the dates of your last promotion on a resume, you'd have the five years' experience the position you really want is asking for. But beware: no matter the size of the deception, someone may stumble upon it. Just ask Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell. In claiming that she'd studied at Oxford University—when the reality is that she attended a course that happened to be in a facility rented out by the University—she greatly undermined her credibility as a candidate.

Even the passage of time doesn't mean you'll get away with. Connecticut Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal found that out the hard way when questions over his Vietnam record arose. The problem: he doesn't have one, but delivered speeches that suggested he did.

Dress Appropriately for the Interview

It might be common practice for people appearing on TV to "go casual" from the waist down, but would it have been so difficult for Rand Paul to throw on a pair of pants? In a traditional interview setting, it's unlikely that this would ever be an issue, but bear in mind that we're living in the age of the webcam interview too. As tempting as it may be to do this, don't. You never know: you just might have to get up and go find something—or turn off a ringing cellphone—and you certainly don't want to send a message to your interviewer that you're the type of person who will only focus on the things you think they can see.

Don't Bad Mouth Your Boss

While shooting a copy of the Cap and Trade Bill might help to get Democratic Senator Joe Manchin re-elected in West Virginia, he's also imperiled his relationships with senior members of his party—most notably President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (assuming the latter secures his own re-election, of course). Even if you're interviewing for a position with your company's biggest competitor, you should always resist the temptation to criticize your current or previous workplaces. It's unprofessional, and could seriously damage your ability to work in the industry if word were to get out about your opinions.

Don't Beg for the Job. Prove Why You Should Get It

Leave it to Jon Stewart to put his finger on at least one half of the campaign pulse. In a Daily Show interview with President Obama, he asked how the Democratic party had gone from campaigning on "hope and change" to "please baby, one more chance." The bottom line here: no interviewer (or electorate) will give you a job because they feel sorry for you. Your job is to prove why you're the only person who's suitable for it. Check your desperation at the door, and focus instead on making the best case you can.

Don't…do anything Carl Paladino does

If you must, study his campaign as an exercise in how not to comport yourself in a situation where you're trying to convince people that you're competent and can be trusted with a great deal of responsibility.

But don't take it any further than that.

--Phil Stott,


Filed Under: Interviewing