Speaking first, engaging brain later
There are many memorable examples of politicians’ gaffes while on the campaign trail – either they have not prepared enough and so don’t know the answers or they should have put more thought into their answer before sharing their wisdom, or lack thereof.
If you do make an obvious and embarrassing gaffe during the interview, acknowledge it succinctly, apologise and quickly move on. Just prove with the next question your real level of intelligence.
Blaming other people for past mistakes
When previous misdemeanors have been uncovered, we have seen politicians scrabbling around looking for someone else to take the rap. ‘It wasn’t me, guv,’ they opine as they try to shift the blame onto anyone but their own infallible selves.
If a past error does come up at interview, own up, explain the circumstances that led you to make that decision, and what you have learned from it. Never blame former colleagues or your past employer.
Slagging off other candidates
Smear campaigns abound in politics from innuendo to downright dirty tricks campaigns. While the latter extreme is unlikely in recruitment, avoid any sort of subtle snipe about a rival candidate.
It’s down to you to show why you are the right person for the role, not to explain why the other candidates are not.
Being careless when they think they are ‘off-camera’
Many a politician has been damaged by making some careless, or sometimes detestable, remark when they thought no one was listening. You’d think they’d learn to check their mics are off.
Be aware of who might be in earshot at all times – so don't sit in a nearby cafe on your mobile after an interview saying how poky you thought the offices were, or share your negative thoughts via social media. Same goes for who you share your opinions with – it is a small world and while some people are the epitome of discretion, others thrive on a juicy tidbit.
Being a bad loser
There will always be losers in the political race to the top. But those who storm around afterwards will only cement the opinion that they deserved to lose. Those who bow out graciously, on the other hand, look professional, and may even sow a possible seed of doubt about the decision made.
While losing politicians may demand a recount, learning that you have not been offered your dream job should not elicit a response of wild rage and accusations that the interviewer has got it all wrong. Thank the recruiting firm for its time and ask to be kept in mind for any future opportunities that may arise.
Flying off the handle
A certain feistiness may be desirable in political office but we’ve seen countless politicians lose it very publicly – walking out on TV interviews, or demonstrating a mean left hook when pelted with an egg, to mention just a few examples.
It should go without saying but never lose your cool in an interview. If you’re faced with a difficult question it may have been designed to see how you react under pressure so pause, reflect and answer calmly.
Not paying attention to body language
Body language experts have a field day analysing political candidates and their non-verbal communication, particularly in televised debates. Perhaps you won’t be under quite as much scrutiny but your body language will most certainly influence how you come across.
Sweaty under pressure? Okay, obviously invest in a deodorant and avoid hot drinks during the interview – otherwise, ignore it, and keep your composure. Looking sweaty and shifty? Not good: think what it did to Nixon’s image after the first televised presidential debate with Kennedy in 1960. A perspiring Nixon seemed to constantly avert his gaze – Nixon had been ill prior to the debate, and had been addressing reporters to his side rather than looking into the camera as Kennedy did. Kennedy looked confident and a picture of health.
Make sure you are well rested the night before the interview, and make eye contact with the interviewers. Never sigh or check your watch – such blunders have cost politicians dearly.
Lessons to be learned?
So, for all their apparent flaws in their race to the top, is there indeed anything we could learn from the politicians? Clearly, they have passion (misguided at times, most definitely) and determination (taken too far by some, absolutely). But the best politicians have tenacity, charm and enthusiasm, and instill confidence in people – qualities that are desirable in job candidates. Do, however, leave any Machiavellian tendencies at the door.