Resumes, Record, References and Rhetoric

It is not an easy task to make an informed decision when it comes to hiring someone, especially in a ministry field such as my own. There are so many competing issues with which to contend, not the least of which is the notion that all such applicants have that God has led them to apply for the position. Hiring, supervising, and firing people seems such an easier thing in a secular context where personal feelings and question of faith need not be given much (if any) consideration. Certainly when I was laid off from my position in the insurance industry some years ago, no one in management seemed especially concerned about the impact of that decision on my faith. (Ironically, it was wonderfully providential as it afforded me the necessary space and time to transition smoothly into my current work).

However, there are clearly some issues that translate into a secular construct, as I’ve laid out in my title. These four: resume, record, references, and rhetoric (I love alliteration!!) are the key things I examine when weighing in on a hiring decision and I believe that these four things are important to examine in the context of politics.

Resume: The resume is quite simply a candidates (job or political) history of relevant experiences and education. When hiring, it is very important to examine, because experience in a similar type job can tell you a lot about whether a person has the requisite understanding of what the job they’re applying for entails. In ministry it means that youth or missions work relates more easily to campus work than say, parish work with the elderly. In politics it means that executive leadership (governorships, business executive) translates more directly to president than does legislative work — which is why we don’t typically elect senators to the presidency. Legislators rarely have experience running anything other than their mouth.

Record: The record is what person has actually accomplished in their previous work. When I hire someone, the fact that they’ve achieved certain demonstrable goals, or accomplished certain objectives counts for a lot. In politics it should be the same: examination of the actual policy changes achieved or bipartisanship, or significant legislation, or initiatives accomplished matter a great deal.

References: Usually I don’t let references make or break a hiring decision, but they can be the difference between a solid yes and a strong maybe; sometimes they bring me to a full NO! References give insight to the kind of people and relationships a person cultivates. In politics, references are best not done through the lens of endorsements, because the endorsing parties have too much to gain, but by examining the kinds of people, institutions, and associations a politician has. One or two oddities are forgivable; three or four ought to give SERIOUS pause.

Rhetoric: I say rhetoric just because it starts with R, but I mean the interview. This is the least important part of the process for me, because the interviewee is doing all he or she can to impress me and answer the questions the right way. All an interview can really do is give me a face to face sense of the person, or perhaps give them an opportunity to clear up anything that seems untoward from the other 3 things. In politics, the election campaign is the interview, so I don’t put much stock in anything the candidates say about what they’re going to do. They are just interviewing for the job and will tell me exactly what I want to hear.

Of these four, the record counts the most. If the rhetoric matches the record, then it is believable. If not, the person is not honest. So if a candidate claims to be a unifier, look for evidence in their record, their resume, and their references. If a candidate claims to be bipartisan or wants to work in a bipartisan way – examine the record. If he/she has done it before, then believe them. Otherwise they’re lying. If a candidate has lots of bad references and associations, question their judgment and disregard their rhetoric. It really doesn’t matter how well a person interviews / campaigns if everything else about them doesn’t add up. Likewise no matter how poor someone interviews, if the rest of the things stack up, hire them.

Our current president interviewed /campaigned very well, as a compassionate conservative and a unifying figure, but his resume showed a track record of minimal accomplishment, cronyism, partisanship, and pretty poor executive experience. Is it any wonder that his administration has been so thoroughly unaccomplished, and plagued with cronyism, excessive partisanship and horribly administration? The administration of the next president will not reflect his rhetoric, but his record; of that you can be sure.

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  1. #1 by Burr Deming on October 11, 2008 - 9:07 am

    Before we make a choice we may regret for the next four years, the accusations against Barack Obama should be carefully considered, as they are here.

  2. #2 by wayne park on October 12, 2008 - 6:05 am

    u kno what would take the cake tho? if the forementioned rhetorician is elected and he filled his cabinet with the man with the record and the other woman he beat out, that would be promising and uniting a country like i’ve never seen so polarized before. people burning down other people’s political signs and such… we need a prez who’ll do what Lincoln did, build a team of rivals and fix this broken, disjointed mess of a country…

  3. #3 by elderj on October 12, 2008 - 6:29 am

    You know Wayne, that would take the cake, bake it, frost it, and serve it! Unfortunately I don’t think its going to happen. Palin mentioned that she appointed Democrats to positions in her cabinet though I haven’t verified that; it is intriguing though. It would be an interesting and good change to have a genuinely bipartisan administration, but politicians are often so in hock to their party that they either won’t make the appointments, or they won’t accept and appointment if offered. It is interesting that none of the candidates are really baby boomer types – McCain is before and Obama just after, and neither is really at all conventional for their respective parties. Believe me the right wing of the Republican party is fairly disgusted with McCain, and I suspect they wouldn’t actually like Palin very much because she’s not really a prototypical Republican politician except in the superficial ways. My suspicion is that shes more Libertarian in orientation. Fully half of the Democrats either despise or are unenthusiastically resigned to voting for Obama, and nobody really cares at all what Biden thinks (though he’s as likely to be Vice President as Palin given our nation’s unfortunate history of political assassinations)

  4. #4 by Eric Peterson on October 13, 2008 - 3:19 pm

    Great post.

  5. #5 by Bret on October 14, 2008 - 5:22 am

    Terrific post, for the record McCain has reached across the aisle 55% of the time to get bipartisan support. Obama, 13%.

    I dont see Palin as a libertarian however, especially on social issues. I believe she revved up the base of social conservatives, like me, but also to a lesser degree, fiscal conservatives who arent pleased with McCains attempt to run to the left (even more).

  6. #6 by Tracy on October 30, 2008 - 8:18 pm

    There is always on the job training…big smiles. But remember all the four R’s are subject to camouflage of character.

  7. #7 by LaShawn on October 31, 2008 - 7:38 am

    Absolutely fantastic post. A very clear, methodical approach to fleshing out what we should be considering to elect our next president. How could I not have thought of this before?? It seems I have spent too much time with the “rhetoric” and the resume while trying to fully examine the record. I could give a hoot about references–they are usually bottom of my list because you can find anyone to ‘endorse’ or refer you for a particular job…it mostly depends on what the interviewer asks.

    Thanks for opening my eyes a little to help me ‘see’ this a little differently. :)

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