The election selection

You need the right profile to win over voters, says Joshua Wood.
By · 5 Oct 2013
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5 Oct 2013
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You need the right profile to win over voters, says Joshua Wood.

Spare a thought for Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott who endured one of the most gruelling selection processes a job applicant can go through. They were under intense scrutiny for every word and gesture, as they sought to be elected Prime Minister. Throughout the hiring process, they withstood reactions ranging from hysterical hatred to complete apathy. Viewed from the perspective of the average job candidate, the system seems a little insane, but the far-reaching impact of the Prime Minister's role, combined with technological advances, has created a unique hiring process.

Most of us wouldn't want to compete against other job candidates in live televised debates, or campaign to company staff for their vote. In fact, I doubt candidates for Prime Minister would ever choose such a selection process either. But the successful candidates are those who best adapt to the process and use it to their advantage.

Although politicians have honed their skills to succeed in the political arena, they would probably be a little bewildered by the recruitment process that most people go through. If Abbott and Rudd had been recruited for a role in a typical organisation, they would have submitted a CV and cover letter in response to an advertisement. The ad would ask for "previous experience in politics" (tick), the perennial "excellent verbal communication" (tick) and "trustworthiness" (it's hard to meet all job requirements). After all that, their application might only be skimmed for less than 60 seconds.

And sure, some of the interview questions that political candidates are asked seem irrelevant to the role, (e.g. "What is the price of a litre of milk?") but imagine if they had to answer some of the questions most people get. Questions such as, "If you could be any animal in the jungle, which one would you choose to be?", or "What would I find in your fridge right now?"

Finally, they would need to provide details of previous managers for reference checks. In Abbott's case, his previous "managers" include Malcolm Turnbull. In Rudd's case, his previous managers include Julia Gillard and Mark Latham!

Selection processes in an industry often evolve into systems that select the best workers for the jobs of that particular industry - people who will flourish in response to the demands of the roles. Practices that are effective, and in fact the norm, for one sector can seem absurd or unreasonable in another. Hiring methods also tend to include some elements that are ineffective, but have found their way into the process anyway. Regardless, the successful candidates are those who best adapt to the process as it exists and use it to their advantage.

When trying for jobs, you can benefit from understanding your industry and adapting to its assessment methods of choice. For example, going for a kitchenhand job in a restaurant often involves an on-the-job trial - so you need to learn how to excel in that selection situation. That requires more than just chopping a few vegies - it's also about quickly fitting into a team in a high-pressure environment, following directions accurately and working very fast to complete tasks.

Air-traffic controllers, on the other hand, don't start with an on-the-job trial. They usually have to go through structured interviews, group exercises, spatial awareness tests and reflex tests.

Group exercises are parallel universes that become easier to navigate with experience, especially once you begin to understand what you are being assessed for. For interviews, some questions come up repeatedly within particular industries. Over time, the questions become familiar and with practise it's possible to develop engaging and informative vignettes about your work experiences which improve your odds of getting the job. It won't necessarily land you a job that you are not up to, but if you are equipped for the role it will give you a fighting chance.

Navigating through the recruitment process of your particular sector is a learnable skill and something you can improve with practise, regardless of your other job skills and experience. Hopefully, you develop your job related skills too. But practising those hiring process skills is particularly valuable, if your goal is to work within a particular sector over the long term.

And if your chosen career is in politics, make sure you know the price of a litre of milk.
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