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On Tuesday, We're All on the Hiring Committee

by on November 06, 2017 5:00 AM

Tomorrow is election day. The day that we cast our vote for our elected officials. Many people will stay home and not make the trek to their voting station because there isn’t a big, flashy office like the presidential campaign for us to cast our votes. In fact, our state and local officials, our local judiciary and the people who sit in those offices have a much more direct impact in our day-to-day lives than the people who work for us in Washington.

Your vote in the local elections can and does make a difference.

I look at the election process as similar to the employment and hiring process. Does the candidate meet the job qualifications as outlined in the job description and, equally important, are they a fit for the job?

I work with students every semester who are preparing for internships and eventual careers in their fields. I help them develop their resumes. How can they describe their past experiences to align with  what the agency is looking for? Can the student demonstrate the link between skills and competencies learned through education or through past positions and sell themselves as the best candidate?

In elections in today’s culture,  it’s not about resumes and interviews. Campaigns are about shiny mailers and flyers and radio and TV ads. The rehearsed answers in debates and in campaign speeches. The self-promotion as “the most qualified candidate.” Unless you’ve been lucky enough to actually speak to one of the candidates as he or she knocked on your door or in an interaction at a political event, elections have become more about marketing and advertising than about getting the right person in the position.

At various times in my career, I’ve been involved in hiring decisions. I’ve served on several search committees at Penn State. The first step is to wade through the applicants and eliminate those who don’t meet the qualifications for the job and the job skills and competences that we are seeking.  

Look at Tuesday’s election for the Centre County Court of Common Pleas as just one example. One of the candidates for judge admits he has never tried a case before a jury and touts that his legal practice has focused on mediation as his primary skills. Judges are guided by state sentencing guidelines and are prohibited from mediating cases from the bench. He touts his experience as an accountant and Divorce Financial Analyst as a reason to vote for him for judge.

In elections, it falls to the voters to sift through all of the glitz to find out who is really the most qualified.  We are the search committee to eliminate those who don’t meet the qualifications.

Conversely, the other candidate for the Centre County Court of Common Pleas has over 30 years of experience in the matters that most often come before the courts including family and criminal law as well as in cases tried before a jury. He has tried criminal cases, has extensive experience in the courtroom and could start on day one of the job. He comes to the “job application” with a resounding reference from local law enforcement.  

If we look at just this race alone as a hiring decision, there really is no decision. Hire the experienced applicant.

In the last search committee I served on, we picked an amazing candidate. The others were really strong but one stood out based on experience, education, preparation for the interview and motivation and enthusiasm for what the candidate would to contribute to our mission.

We saw the same thing happen with the local race for District Attorney. In the May primary, the decision was made based on qualifications, experience and who the county voters decided was a better “fit” for the position. Voters crossed party lines and overwhelmingly supported or, one could say, ‘hired” the best candidate.

There are people who complain that our current issues in Washington, D.C., as well as the bumps we had in the prior eight years, were because we didn’t look at the election process as a process of hiring the most qualified candidate for the job. This week, we’ll have the ability to do that on the local level.  From the mayor of State College to our township supervisors, make it about resume over politics.  Qualifications over popularity. Experience and understanding of the job instead of whether they are a D or an R.  

Let’s hire the best people for the jobs.



Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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