What’s Important to You About a Candidate?

As candidate evaluations go, you gotta hand it to the 2008 presidential candidates. They are “interviewing” for the job for longer than the apprentices on the TV show.

I was watching the news recently about polling results of the 2008 presidential election. I wasn’t surprised at the top few qualifications: experience, competence, values, and character. I was a little surprised at the next few qualifications: warmth, compassion, personality, and style.

I don’t know what your important characteristics are for a presidential candidate, but style—at least clothing style—isn’t one of mine. (To be fair, clothing style isn’t the style the polls refer to.) I don’t care much about a president’s work, meeting, or management style, as long as the president gets the job done. And, I bet not all of you agree with me.

Disagreeing about politics and what’s important to each of us as voters is a human tradition. But let’s use the lesson of politics to clarify what’s important to you as you evaluate candidates for an open position in your organization.

Your organization’s culture will determine what’s important to you for any candidate. You may not have considered your corporate culture before. So take a few minutes and think about it now. Culture is a combination of:

  • How people treat each other
  • What’s acceptable to discuss
  • What the organization rewards

When the presidential polls talk about style, I suspect they’re trying to determine if this candidate will allow nasty comments about other people or if the conversation will be tempered by relative politeness (how people treat each other); if people can discuss anything or if there are sacred cows (what’s acceptable to discuss); or if staying late or getting the job done at any time is more important (what the organization rewards).

You’ll need to consider your own corporate culture to know what’s important to you about your candidates. And it’s not just corporate culture that’s important; each manager puts his or her own stamp on the corporate culture.

One of my colleagues is an engineering director in a hectic environment, where the priorities change rapidly. He’s looking for managers who can thrive in that environment and organize the work. When he looks for people who can fit into the corporate culture, he looks for people who can wheel and deal with each other in a polite way (what’s acceptable to discuss), looking for how the whole organization benefits (how people treat each other). He wants people who can see the big picture of which products are developed when, and how good those products are. Because, although the company says that speed is most important, the speed is tempered by how good the products are. Bad products that fail in the market are not what the company rewards.

So, as this presidential election continues, think about what the polls say about our culture. And think about what your job descriptions and interviewing approaches say about your culture.

The more you consider those implicit practices—the pieces of the organization’s culture—the more you’ll know what’s important for you in a candidate.

© 2007 Johanna Rothman. This article was originally published on RecruitingTrends.com

Like this article? See the other articles. Or, look at my workshops, so you can see how to use advice like this where you work.

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