Sign up with your email address to be the first to know about new products, VIP offers, blog features & more.

Presidential Debate 2016, the ultimate job interview

presidential debate

Presidential debate, job interview or singing duet?

Presidential Debate Disclaimer:

Any political opinions as it relates to the presidential debate in this post are not intentional and merely coincidental. The writer does not take any financial compensation from advertising or placements. This blog is intended to provide tips on interviewing and career advice only. Political opinions are not intentional and intended for learning purposes only. All data and information on this site are for informational purposes only. makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness or validity as it relates to political views.  

Debate or Job Interview

Like many people, I have been sucked into the train wreck of politics. I have been watching the presidential debates and seeing job interview lessons to be learned from both candidates. Both candidates are interviewing for one of the most powerful jobs in the world. The candidates are in the largest panel interview of their lives.

presidential debate

Interviewers Holt, Raddatz, Cooper, and Wallace conducting the interview on behalf or the American public.

Instead of walking into a room where there is just a panel of 3 or 4 interviewers, the candidates are being interviewed by the entire United States of America.

Rest assured I am NOT going to discuss politics in this post

Job Interview Lessons

My one and only goal is to leverage the presidential debates as a platform for job interview lessons. Instead of using my normal dating analogies, I will be using presidential debate analogies. Wish me luck. 

There are a number of lessons that can be demonstrated as it relates to interviewing for a job within this presidential debate. We are only going to focus on one, Behavioral Interviewing.

Behavioral Interviewing

The theory of Behavioral interviewing says that prior success is the best indicator of future success. Recruiters want to find a track record of success and candidates want to prove that track record of success. I am a big believer that this is one of the best ways a candidate can prove their qualifications into a job and have blogged on the topic here.

In the first presidential debate, the 1st question asked of both candidates was on the topic was “Achieving prosperity”.

Lester Holt asked both candidates,

“Why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of American workers?”

Hillary’s response

The central question in this election is really what kind of country we want to be and what kind of future we’ll build together. Today is my granddaughter’s second birthday, so I think about this a lot. First, we have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. That means we need new jobs, good jobs, with rising incomes.

I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future. That means jobs in infrastructure, in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy, and small business, because most of the new jobs will come from small business. We also have to make the economy fairer. That starts with raising the national minimum wage and also guarantee, finally, equal pay for women’s work.

I also want to see more companies do profit-sharing. If you help create the profits, you should be able to share in them, not just the executives at the top.

And I want us to do more to support people who are struggling to balance family and work. I’ve heard from so many of you about the difficult choices you face and the stresses that you’re under. So let’s have paid family leave, earned sick days. Let’s be sure we have affordable child care and debt-free college.

How are we going to do it? We’re going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes.

Not about politics 

This is not about the answer being right or wrong. This post isn’t about politics so please don’t read into it this way. (Noticing a theme?)  But I am an interviewer and I cringed when I heard the above answer as it relates to a job interview question. Behavioral interviewing says that “Demonstrating prior success is the best indicator of future success.” With this in mind, candidates want to demonstrate prior success and give details of prior success as it relates to the question.

Politics aside, and with only job interview lessons in mind, ( a recurring theme) I didn’t hear anything about prior success in Hillary’s answer. The answer we heard is what typically gets candidates declined from hiring managers and department heads. The answer was simple arm-chair quarterbacking.   

Breakdown of the answer

The very first sentence of the candidate’s answer doesn’t relate to the question. There is talk about the grand-daughter and the connection to the initial question is tough to make. As an interviewer, I am IMMEDIATELY wondering “Where is this answer going?”   

Hillary then goes on to list what we should do on a number of various topics including equal pay, companies implementing profit-sharing, affordable child care to name a few. But she doesn’t give evidence that she CAN make the changes. 

Towards the end of the answer, Hillary stated the following but in my opinion, she didn’t close the deal. 

“How are we going to do it? We’re going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes.” 

Is the candidate qualified?

But at no point in her answer did we hear how she is qualified to carry out the solution, has deep knowledge about the situation, or had solved anything similar in the past. 

When it comes to being qualified for the role of president, Hillary Clinton is much more qualified than HRNasty but I wouldn’t have been out-of-bounds if I had given the exact same answer. She could easily differentiate herself from HRNasty as a candidate if she listed prior successes. ( I would not be able to list prior successes)

(Again, politics aside)  Hillary has worked in public service and in politics for a long time. I have done nothing even close. I could have easily given the exact same answer and not been out-of-bounds. The answer didn’t contain specific examples. She could have easily separated herself from a monkey like me by talking about her prior successes as it relates to politics and change.

Demonstrated Success

She could have followed up her initial answer with a demonstration of prior success. “And I have helped put more money into American pockets when I did X, Y, and Z.)

As it relates to Behavioral interviewing, Trump said something very similar.

Trump explained that jobs are leaving the country and that US companies are going overseas. Trump then pointed to a reduction in taxes to keep the United States as an attractive place for companies and corporations. 

Competition didn’t give examples of success

But at the end of the day, I could say all of the above with just as much credibility because the answer doesn’t give any specific examples. And this is exactly what happens in a job interview. The candidate tells the hiring manager what they want to do, or what they think should be done. What we as candidates need to do in a job interview is articulate how we have had success solving a related problem the past. A hiring manager hears candidate and employee ideas every day of the week. It’s all just hot air to the manager.  The candidates that receive job offers are the ones that have been able to articulate prior success and the steps taken to accomplish the desired outcomes.  

A history of success creating jobs or higher salaries would have been a demonstration of prior success. Demonstration of providing tax breaks to corporations would have shown the prior success. In the context of a presidential debate/job interview, the above examples are talking points that I personally would NOT be able to demonstrate. HRC has the ability to separate herself from a monkey like HRNasty as a candidate for the position.  

Demonstration of success

Hillary DID articulate prior successes when she addressed Trumps comment about her being in government for 30 years. Hillary responded with “So let me talk about my 30 years in public service, I’m very glad to do so”.  She then went on to tick off a laundry list of accomplishments directly related to a presidential position. Hillary was able to demonstrate she is more qualified to fill the job of the president over HRNasty. I would NOT be able to rattle off even one of the below bullets.

  • Eight million kids every year have health insurance because when I was the first lady I worked with Democrats and Republicans to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  •   Hundreds of thousands of kids now have a chance to be adopted because I worked to change our adoption and foster care system.
  • After 9/11, I went to work with the Republican mayor, governor and president to rebuild New York and to get health care for our first responders who were suffering because they had run toward danger and gotten sickened by it.
  • Hundreds of thousands of National Guard and Reserve members have health care because of work that I did.
  • Children have safer medicines because I was able to pass a law that required the dosing to be more carefully done.
  • When I was secretary of state, I went around the world advocating for our country, but also advocating for women’s rights, to make sure that women had a decent chance to have a better life.
  • Negotiated a treaty with Russia to lower nuclear weapons.
  • Four hundred pieces of legislation have my name on it as a sponsor or cosponsor when I was a senator for eight years.

Armchair quarterbacking vs. demonstrating success

The above bullets are more effective in proving qualifications over “What we need to do” or “What we should be doing.” “What I could do” and “What we should do” is just arm-chair quarterbacking and not effective in a job interview. The above bullets demonstrate she has plenty of political experience and success. Candidates that provide examples of prior success are a higher percentage bet.

Again, I am NOT trying to show one candidate in a better light as it relates to the presidential debate. (Plug for neutrality) I am trying showcase behavioral interviewing as it relates to a job interview.


Numbers can lend credibility. Both candidates demonstrated this tactic in their answers. Hillary stated she was re-elected to office with 67% of the vote. Trump spoke to numbers when he talked about being endorsed by 16,000 border agents. Numbers put everything into perspective. 

EG: Instead of saying “I am a hard worker” try the following. “Yes, I believe I am a hard worker. I put myself through school in 4 years while working 30 hours a week. I am proud of this because I maintained a 3.0 GPA.” 

What other lessons can we learn about job interviews from these candidates who are both interviewing for our votes? Share them in the comments below and let the games begin!

For my Behavioral Interviewing style answers to the top interview questions click here. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you want to ditch the corporate ladder and take the elevator, subscribe to the weekly updates here. Knowledge drops are free and I promise, no spam.  “Like” us on Facebook here, I read all comments below. Thank you!