The following is an excerpt from my latest St. Louis Post-Dispatch Career Column.
As we begin the process of vetting and interviewing candidates to become president of our great nation, something is clear — debates are a lot like job interviews and how the candidates answer “Gotcha!” questions can make or break whether they ultimately get the job.
A candidate’s journey to the White House definitely has similarities to any other professional’s job strategy — you have to build a network of people who believe in you, establish your own brand (what you’re known for, etc.) and prove why you deserve the job over someone else.
Then comes the debate, which is a lot like the job interview. While debate moderators are expected to ask the tough questions, there has been some controversy over recent debates in which moderators were criticized by the public for asking “Gotcha!” questions — trick questions that don’t really lead to answers. The perception was these questions were designed to pit one candidate against another instead of spurring talk about the real issues America faces.
Now, since the controversy, we’ve seen less “Gotcha!” questions in the debates. That’s good news for the candidates. But unfortunately for the rest of us, our private, individual job interviews don’t have the luxury of public opinion, and “Gotcha!” questions are almost inevitable!
Some questions might make you feel like the interviewer is playing psychologist with you, constantly evaluating everything you say. Often, “Gotcha!” questions are open to interpretation, or intentionally designed to catch you off guard. In short, if it leaves you asking, “Is there a right answer?”, then you’ve been “got.” The question then is this: How will you handle it? Because if you want the job, you have to go through the pain of answering.
In the early debates, one of those painful questions that raised criticism was “What’s your weakness?”, which might as well be translated to “Give me a reason not to hire you!” A politician’s answer is usually to redirect the question. But as job seekers, we don’t get to avoid this one. Prepared candidates will focus on what they have learned, then rehearse answers that won’t raise red flags in the mind of the interviewer.
For example, you might say… READ THE WHOLE COLUMN HERE.