If You Think Politics are Fair, You Need an Education in Hiring

So 24 million people watched the GOP debates last night – and about half of those people, or so it seems, have been blowing up social media crying about how unfair the debate was. How their favorite candidate wasn’t asked as many questions as other candidates received. How all of the candidates weren’t asked the exact same questions. They should have balanced the questions better! It was all just so unfair!

Boo-freaking-hoo. Guess what? Life isn’t fair. Politics damn sure aren’t fair. And as far as the debates go, there’s a few things I want to point out. I’m not going to get into the actual politics discussed in the debate. I just can’t. Well, I could, and I’d love to, but I won’t. I’ve noticed a trend over the past few years – I lose a lot of friends around election time. Actually, it’s more like I lose a lot of respect for people I’ve considered friends in the past, and sometimes our opinions contrast so dramatically we just part ways. That hasn’t occurred this year, and I’d like to keep this post civil, so I’ll bite my tongue. Fingers? Whatever.

What I do want to discuss is the format of these debates. To break elections down to understandable terms, elections are basically an in-depth, multi-year job interview in front of a hiring panel of about 319 million people, where Title VII and other laws governing discriminatory practices in hiring are thrown out of the window and every thing you’ve ever said or done gets factored in. The televised debates are essential a group interview – a “cattle call” in HR terms. Some companies favor this type of interview because they say it brings out the leaders and team-players in the group. They may work, in some positions. Personally, I only advise companies to use this interview format when they’re hiring a large amount of people for the same position – think entry-level seasonal retail or warehouse employees. For other positions, such as a bookkeeper, medical professional, or an executive assistant, they’re the worst way to find what you’re looking for. You need to be able to get one-on-one with candidates in these types of positions and get an honest, upfront answers from them. During the debate, when the moderators don’t just go down a line and ask the same questions to each candidate, they are doing three things…

1.) Avoiding common interview problems…

Here’s the problem with a group interview. If you go through each candidate and ask the exact same questions, you’ll get an honest answer from maybe the first two people. After that, every other candidate is going to be forming their answer around your feedback to the answers already given, so you end up hearing the same answers over and over, with very few original responses. If you allowed politicians to do this – you know, the group of people who you think already lie about everything – particularly while they’re on a stage, in a live interview, in front of millions of people, who knows what answers you’d get. Their minds would be working overtime to say what they think you want to hear, instead of giving spontaneous answers and asking questions of each other. The basic group-interview format also tends to eliminate the necessity of follow-up questions, though there are other interview formats that do that as well. Interviews for government positions, for example, will sometimes be conducted by hiring managers who have a set list of questions they’re not allowed to deviate from, even to encourage a candidate to speak more in-depth on a certain issue. The people who create these hiring systems think that they’re eliminating bias and making the interview ‘balanced and fair,’ when what they’re really doing is ruling out the possibility of obtaining additional necessary information. When you’re interviewing politicians, it’s even more necessary to dig deeper and find out the thought behind the response, so it would be difficult to literally ask every single question (including the follow-up questions and questions from the other candidates) of every single candidate and get a real response.

It would also be somewhat pointless, as the opposite can be true as well. Some candidates have more to say. They give better, more informative responses that actually answer the question instead of dancing around the issue. Some candidates are better informed on some issues than others. It doesn’t do an interviewer any good to continue to probe a candidate who hasn’t really given you anything worth digging into. It creates a lull in the interview and wastes time. If you’ve already found out that they don’t know what you’re asking them, or that they don’t have a concise thought about a particular topic, a good interviewer will move on.

2.) Managing broadcasting time…

Let’s also be clear on this – if the candidates were asked the exact same question for every issue that was discussed, the debate would still be going today. The politicians have their platforms – part of their job in campaigning is to market those platforms. Yeah, the debates are one way to do that, but there are other ways for the candidates to make the public aware of where they stand on the issues. Particularly this year, with the number of GOP candidates that were on that state, if the network allowed them each to talk for equal amounts of time and thoroughly answer every question the moderators had…well, the debate would have lasted until the inauguration in 2017 and the GOP would have lost 24 million votes because viewers would have still been watching instead of going to the polls. This much time spent debating would also put the public into information overload. You know, that thing that happens when your 1-hour meeting goes for 3, and by the end of it your mind is so filled with facts, action items, and general confusion it’s difficult to accomplish anything? There’s no way we’d be able to process that much information and make an informed decision, nor does the public have enough time to take out of their lives to listen to it all.

3.) Meeting the public’s expectations…

This is the reason I like the least, and I imagine it’s the reason everyone is complaining about… but here’s the thing. You people created the media circus! By clicking on articles and sharing your outrage or support for certain candidates, you played right into the moderator’s hands when they were deciding what questions to ask which candidate. They do it for viewers and ratings, people! That’s why 24 million viewers tuned in to watch the debate – because in the weeks leading up to it, there has been a torrent of emotions and views dividing the public on a few key individuals *cough* who seemingly starred in the debates. Love them or hate them, people turned their TVs on to see them. So if you’re upset that your favorite candidate didn’t get enough screen time, think about how many articles and videos you clicked on regarding his (and I can say ‘his’ without worrying about being politically correct because the GOP has zero female candidates) competition in the past few weeks. Sitting behind a keyboard and complaining that ‘it’s just not fair’ is dumb and hypocritical, because you helped create the situation. Hypocritical also, because if your candidate had been the one in the spotlight, you wouldn’t have said a word about the unfairness of the debate format. If you think your candidate deserves more of a voice, get off your whiny butt and give him one. We have a position that needs to be filled next year, and complaining that the interview formats favor one candidate over the other isn’t the way to fix the hiring process.

There’s a reason some candidates shine in a political debate, just the same as in the hiring process. Whether it’s because they have a better, more original and more functional (bleh, those words were bitter) plan for this country, or because their personality is better suited for the role, or because they say things that create shock value that makes for a great story later, is beside the point. Crying ‘unfair’ because the person you like didn’t garner as much attention as you wished they would have isn’t going to make the process any better, and just because they weren’t asked as many questions doesn’t mean they aren’t still in the running. Sometimes the shocking interviews are just stories to be told later at the water cooler – it doesn’t mean that candidate will be hired. If your candidate is the best person for the job, we’ll find out after the election. In the mean time, be positive, quit complaining, and if you’re really motivated, do something about it.


For some reason, I feel the need to watch V for Vendetta earlier than usual this year… >.<

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