Palladian Career Resources

Assessing Joe Biden’s Job Interview

Assessing Joe Biden’s Job Interview

Joe Biden gave a very concise answer in the Vice Presidential debate. His answer illustrates several important facets of interviewing.

I looked at the Presidential debate and assessed the interview performance of Obama on Monday and McCain on Tuesday. Today, I am assessing Joe Biden in the Vice Presidential debate.

Although this debate has many similarities to a job interview, there is one big difference. The candidates in a Vice Presidential debate are focused on getting their running mate hired. Despite this difference, the debate does illustrate some excellent interview principles.

I am assessing each candidate based solely on the content of the first answer they gave in their debate.  I chose the first answer because it was very predictable – a question about our current financial crisis – and it is likely the candidates scripted some or all of their answers.

The transcript of Biden’s answer is in the gray area to the right.

Biden’s Answer

In this answer, Biden begins with a clear positioning statement – that the economic problems are a direct result of the policies of his opponents. He then outlines the criteria for assessing a bailout bill. Biden concludes by stating the benefit of helping the middle class, in an attempt to imply that he will deliver this benefit.

Interview Criteria

I am using the same criteria as I used with Obama and McCain:

  1. Organized clearly and concisely
  2. Focused on the values and needs of the hiring manager and company
  3. Reinforces the skill and experience of the job seeker
  4. Separates the job seeker from their competition with a strong positioning statement
  5. Backs up the positioning statement with accomplishments that demonstrate an ability to succeed
  6. Demonstrates enthusiasm for the job and company

Biden’s Assessment

Biden’s answer is very similar to the Obama answer, in both structure and content, and the assessment is also similar:

  1. The answer is very concise and clearly organized.
  2. The answer explains how helping the middle class will benefit the hiring managers. It does not state how Biden will help the middle class. He only implies this with his answer.
  3. The answer is very light on experience, and only references prior actions in the proposed criteria Obama has put forth.
  4. The positioning statement is very clear. Biden goes one step further by reinforcing that his side’s policies are in fundamental disagreement with his opponents.
  5. The answer has no statement of accomplishment backing up his positioning statement. Biden relies on criticism of the his opponents’ policies to imply that his policies will be successful.
  6. The answer is mainly a statement of position and does not provide the candidate’s motivation for seeking the position.

The clarity of the answer is very good. The wording mirrors the answer Obama provided in his debate. I expect that the positioning statement has been scripted and worked on by the two candidates.

This is excellent tactic to help keep an answer on topic. Write your positioning statement in advance so that you can use it and adapt it during an interview.

The answer is very weak on demonstrating the ability of the candidate to succeed. Biden omits any statement showing his experience. He also does not provide a single example of an accomplishment.

In a typical job interview, you cannot boost yourself by attacking your opposition. You must stand on your own merits. In Biden’s answer, he fails to do this.

The answer concludes by saying that improving the middle class will help everyone. This is an attempt to show a benefit to the hiring managers.

If I was coaching this candidate, I would work with the candidate to change three things. First, I would condense the section that outlines Obama’s criteria for a bailout bill to save time for other topics. Second, I would add an accomplishment that demonstrates success and experience. Third, I would make it very clear how the candidate will directly benefit the hiring managers when hired.

Overall: This answer is a very poor interview answer for one important reason. The only justification given for hiring the candidate is to replace their opponent. In a job interview, it is essential to give a strong positive reason to be hired.

Tomorrow, I’m going to assess the answer from Sarah Palin.


IFILL: The House of Representatives this week passed a bill, a big bailout bill — or didn’t pass it, I should say. The Senate decided to pass it, and the House is wrestling with it still tonight.

As America watches these things happen on Capitol Hill, Sen. Biden, was this the worst of Washington or the best of Washington that we saw play out?

BIDEN: Let me begin by thanking you, Gwen, for hosting this.

And, Governor, it’s a pleasure to meet you, and it’s a pleasure to be with you.

I think it’s neither the best or worst of Washington, but it’s evidence of the fact that the economic policies of the last eight years have been the worst economic policies we’ve ever had. As a consequence, you’ve seen what’s happened on Wall Street.

If you need any more proof positive of how bad the economic theories have been, this excessive deregulation, the failure to oversee what was going on, letting Wall Street run wild, I don’t think you needed any more evidence than what you see now.

So the Congress has been put — Democrats and Republicans have been put in a very difficult spot. But Barack Obama laid out four basic criteria for any kind of rescue plan here.

He, first of all, said there has to be oversight. We’re not going to write any check to anybody unless there’s oversight for the — of the secretary of Treasury.

He secondly said you have to focus on homeowners and folks on Main Street.

Thirdly, he said that you have to treat the taxpayers like investors in this case.

And, lastly, what you have to do is make sure that CEOs don’t benefit from this, because this could end up, in the long run, people making money off of this rescue plan.

And so, as a consequence of that, it brings us back to maybe the fundamental disagreement between Gov. Palin and me and Sen. McCain and Barack Obama, and that is that the — we’re going to fundamentally change the focus of the economic policy.

We’re going to focus on the middle class, because it’s — when the middle class is growing, the economy grows and everybody does well, not just focus on the wealthy and corporate America.

Full Transcript of the Debate

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