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Think your job search is tough? How would you like to go on 300 interviews a month as your competitors try to discredit you and the media stands ready to report (and continually replay) any gaffe or failing to a snickering public.
Next to running for office, a job search is a cake walk. But that doesn't mean you can't learn something from the world of politics. Here are a few lessons you can carry over to your own candidacy:
Define Yourself and Your Message
Just as every candidate needs to differentiate himself to survive the primaries, your resume needs to stand out to get you the interview. Target it toward what the employer is looking for. Read the job description and research the organization. Ask yourself, "If I were the hiring manager, what would I want to see?" Showcase these skills and qualities in the top third of your resume.
Develop a concise sales pitch that explains why the company should hire you. Be ready to show thorough examples why you're right for the job and to answer any tough questions. Rehearse with a friend until you've got it down cold. Don't even think about winging it.
The best candidates leave nothing to chance. Bill Clinton's performances were intricately choreographed, down to how and where he would move to look good on camera and catch his opponents off-guard (remember George H. Bush checking his watch at the town hall meeting?!). Even Reagan's "spontaneous" debate lines: "There you go again..." and "I won't hold my opponent's youth and inexperience against him," were well-rehearsed.
Present yourself and your abilities in the best possible light -- without stretching the truth. Howard Dean's professing to be the only candidate from a farm state (Gephardt's Missouri has 100,000 farms to Vermont's 7,000) and his claim to have extensively studied the Bible "especially the book of Job from the New Testament" were mistakes of biblical proportions. And will Al Gore ever live down being the inventor of the Internet?
Look the Part
Image consultants give both Kerry and Bush high marks on their attire and grooming. They dress slightly better than the dress code and always wear well-tailored, high-quality garments that are stylish, but not trendy; authoritative, but not stuffy.
According to body language expert Dr. Daniel Hill, the candidate to emulate is John Edwards. "Edwards is amazing. His smiles are genuine and he almost always looks composed and engaged. He's even loosened up John Kerry!"
This comes as no surprise. As a trial lawyer, Edwards led seminars on how to establish intimacy with the jury. "Talk to them like you talk to people on your back porch," he says in a training video. "The jury needs to feel good about what you're asking them to do."
Going After "Undecideds"
Veteran campaigners know it is the "undecideds" who can make or break them. According to political analysts, undecided voters typically aren't happy with the incumbent and are waiting for a reason to vote for the new candidate. The same can be said for an external job candidate competing against an internal one. If your interviewer seems conflicted or resistant, try to uncover their concerns. Follow up with a note or sample of your work that might help win over the undecided interviewer.
Let them know you're eager to prove yourself. At the end of nearly every talk show appearance during the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush ended by saying, "I'm askin' for your vote."
Don't Burn Bridges
Don't go negative on your past employer. It weakens your stature and makes people wonder what you'd say about them! Instead follow John Edward's lead. Be positive and gracious toward everyone even if you don't land this job, they may be able to offer you another one down the road.
Never Give Up
You can't win them all. JFK ran for class president at Harvard and lost. Nixon unsuccessfully ran for both president and governor of California. And Lincoln lost his bid for the Senate before going on to become one of the most revered presidents in history. The great ones take losing in stride and come back to run and win another day.
This article has been reprinted with permission from CareerBuilder.com.