Why Campaigning for President is the Most Grueling Job Interview Ever

Think about a typical law firm job interview: the nervousness, the sweaty palms, the uncertainty of how to answer the hard questions. Now imagine doing that every day for about a year, on television with the entire country watching—and the stakes are whether or not you will be hired for the highest elected office in the land.

Indeed, campaigning for president and a law firm job interview have a lot in common.You can prepare in advance for both by doing mock Q & A sessions with someone you trust. You’ll even be asked similar questions about your experience and what has prepared you to take on the position you desire.

In both situations, candidates should remain calm, confident, and respectful to make the best impression. After all, hiring decisions—even for the office of President of the United States—are largely based on the likability factor, also known as “Who would you rather have a beer with?”

But make no mistake, while a legal job interview is undoubtedly tough, campaigning for president is the most grueling job interview ever thanks to some crucial differences:

Panel interview vs. Public debate

When you interview with a law firm, you’re likely to face several different partners during the process—maybe all at once, maybe separately, maybe both. But at least everything is behind closed doors.

Presidential candidates, on the other hand, face a debate moderator who is trained, prepared, and expected to pick apart answers, and everything happens on a public stage broadcast across the world. No pressure.

Judged by a few partners vs. Judged by all of America and beyond

Related to the public/private dichotomy is the fact that when you interview for a job, you’re only being judged by those partners in the firm who will decide whether to hire you.

Presidential candidates, on the other hand, are being judged by the country, which will be reflected in votes on Election Day. And the judging doesn’t stop there. American elections are closely watched internationally as well as many U.S. policies have far-reaching consequences, literally.

Answers recorded in notes vs. Every word videotaped and rebroadcast

In the heat of a job interview, many people have said or done things they later regretted or just wished had come across a bit differently. With any luck, the partners who witnessed the faux pas didn’t find it to be such a big deal or conveniently forgot about it because the positives of the candidate outweighed the slip-up, which now only exists as a note in a file that no one will ever read again.

Presidential candidates don’t get this kind of luck as anything and everything they say is recorded, analyzed, broadcast, and rebroadcast ad nauseam. And possibly forever.

Professional references vs. Everyone you’ve ever known

When you apply for a legal job, you are required to provide professional references who can vouch for your abilities and trustworthiness to assume the new position. Of course, you get to choose the people who have the nicest and most flattering things to say about you.

On the flip side, since most presidential candidates have been in the public eye (and/or in public service) for many years prior to running for office, there is an extensive list of people just waiting to be contacted to give their impressions regarding a candidate’s fitness for office—or even simply about what kind of neighbor they were thirty years ago.

And unfortunately for presidential candidates, they don’t only get to pick the positive references.

So, yes, campaigning for president is the most grueling job interview ever and perhaps rightfully so. After all, the chosen person will be taking on an enormous responsibility over the next four years, so getting to know him or her as well as possible before handing over the reins certainly seems like a good idea.

Added bonus: by proving they have the stamina to withstand a year’s worth of grilling, the presidential candidates can also give us, the American people, greater confidence that they can also handle the most grueling job in the country, if not the world.

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