Assessing Sarah Palin’s Job Interview

I’ve assessed the job interview performance of three of the candidates, and am now on to Sarah Palin. As I have done in the previous articles, I am critiquing 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 Palin’s answer is in the gray area to the right.

Palin’s Answer

In this answer, Palin begins and focuses the majority of her answer on empathizing with the hiring managers. She describes very clearly how she feels and her understanding of how others feel about the financial uncertainty and hardship.

Palin then provides an example of what McCain did in the past. She then states what McCain will do to address the problems, and what he is doing now to make this happen.

Interview Criteria

I am using the same criteria as I used with the other three candidates:

  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

Palin’s Assessment

Palin’s answer measures up very well against the criteria above:

  1. The answer is concise and easy to follow.
  2. The answer discusses the concerns of the hiring managers in great detail, with more than half the answer devoted to this.
  3. The answer discusses McCains experience very specifically by describing how he pushed for reform two years ago.
  4. The positioning statement is very direct – “John McCain thankfully has been one representing reform.”
  5. The positioning statement is supported by an example of how McCain pushed for reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the past.
  6. The answer doesn’t directly state that the candidate wants the job, but it does imply this by describing the current efforts of McCain to work on the financial crisis.

The answer has a very good structure that makes it easy to follow.

Palin focuses on the concerns of the hiring managers – fear about investments, paying for college, or managing a small business. Although implied, she doesn’t directly say that she will aliviate these concerns. The answer would be stronger with an example of what her ticket will do if hired and what specific results they will deliver.

Palin is the only candidate to provide a tangible example of past experience. She discusses McCain’s roll in attempting to reform the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddi Mac two years ago. Giving an example of a situation that deals directly with the job being pursued is a great way to stand out from your competition. Palin reinforces this idea by showing what McCain is currently doing to help fix the situation.

Looking at the example provided, it could be interpreted as either a success or failure. McCain saw the potential for financial problems and took action to avoid them, but he was not able to get passed the reforms he promoted.

This is a great lesson for any job seeker. The same example from your work history could be a great selling point or a major distractor. In this case, Palin emphasizes the foresight to identify and work to fix a problem as the accomplishment. She deemphasizes the inability to drive the changes and pursuade others to support the reform.

If I was coaching this candidate, I would recommend reducing the time spent discussing the concerns of the hiring managers. This could be more concise and accomplish the same thing. I would then add a little more detail to the reforms McCain pushed for in the past, ideally describing what the reforms were and how they would help today. The clearer and more specific the example is, the more effective it will be. Finally, I would relate the candidate’s plan to the concerns of the hiring managers, stating clearly how they will benefit.

Overall: This is a strong interview answer. It focuses on the needs of hiring managers and gives a clear example from the candidate’s (McCain’s) experience that demonstrates an ability to satisfy these concerns.


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…was this the worst of Washington or the best of Washington that we saw play out?

PALIN: Thank you, Gwen. And I thank the commission, also. I appreciate this privilege of being able to be here and speak with Americans.

You know, I think a good barometer here, as we try to figure out has this been a good time or a bad time in America’s economy, is go to a kid’s soccer game on Saturday, and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, “How are you feeling about the economy?”

And I’ll bet you, you’re going to hear some fear in that parent’s voice, fear regarding the few investments that some of us have in the stock market. Did we just take a major hit with those investments?

Fear about, how are we going to afford to send our kids to college? A fear, as small-business owners, perhaps, how we’re going to borrow any money to increase inventory or hire more people.

The barometer there, I think, is going to be resounding that our economy is hurting and the federal government has not provided the sound oversight that we need and that we deserve, and we need reform to that end.

Now, John McCain thankfully has been one representing reform. Two years ago, remember, it was John McCain who pushed so hard with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform measures. He sounded that warning bell.

People in the Senate with him, his colleagues, didn’t want to listen to him and wouldn’t go towards that reform that was needed then. I think that the alarm has been heard, though, and there will be that greater oversight, again thanks to John McCain’s bipartisan efforts that he was so instrumental in bringing folks together over this past week, even suspending his own campaign to make sure he was putting excessive politics aside and putting the country first.

Full Transcript of the Debate