Have you had some tough job interviews? Imagine what it’s like to be running for President of the United States. “Off days” are disastrous. Bad haircuts, weird outfits, the slightest slip of the tongue, or a mistake in rhetoric wreck their images in an instant. Every action is scrutinized, which is why presidential candidates and the strategies they use to promote themselves, provide valuable job interview tactics as you defend your own image.

Presidential candidates are bombarded with questions ranging from their leadership record and stance on the issues to their connections and personal lives. By turning back the clock and looking at the wins and losses of presidential candidates, you can better shape your interview.

Never Try to Be Something You’re Not

It was the ’88 election. Michael Dukakis was the Democratic nominee, a Massachusetts Governor and economic miracle worker predicted to beat former VP George H. W. Bush. Polls projected a double digit lead for Dukakis, but PR blunders tainted the Democrat’s chances. Dukakis’ strength was effective and devoted governance, yet he lacked military experience, an Achilles heel for a potential Commander in Chief.

The Dukakis campaign had a solution. Put Dukakis in the gunner’s seat of an Abrams tank, record him as he played war in a courtyard wearing a monogramed helmet that looked like something his mother made, to imply…military strength? Dukakis just looked clueless. Making matters worse, the Bush team ran a ruthless campaign with the footage alongside a list of defense measures Dukakis opposed. Yikes.

What’s the most valuable lesson of this debacle? Always be yourself in a job interview. Faking skills in a job interview (especially technical ones) overshadows the strengths you have. Plus, recruiters and project managers are very good at spotting phoniness.

Instead, successful job interview strategies address shortcomings, but also emphasize talents. Weaknesses can fade with on-the-job experience, especially if you can prove the competencies you have grown over the course of your career.

Use the Past to Project the Future

In the ’48 election, Harry S. Truman faced different odds. The Democratic Party had a three-way fracture, giving advantage to Republican Thomas Dewey to win in a landslide. Truman’s fiery speaking style and his support of the Civil Rights movement also made him a controversial candidate at the time. Yet his firm stance and well communicated plans earned him the upset.

Dewey’s handlers thought a cautious approach would give Truman enough rope. Playing it safe, Dewey’s speeches were general and only gave vague answers. Even his movie theater ads showed the difference: Dewey’s ad is at times ambiguous while Truman’s ad consistently speaks of results. And the majority chose Truman because of it.

Truman’s campaign tapped into one of the best job interview strategies: tailoring your talking points to your audience. In his role as President, Truman made an impact on foreign policy, the post-war economy, and desegregation of the military. Yet Truman tailored his speeches to what the audience wanted to hear. Farmers heard about permanent price support for small family farms. Families heard his plans for federal education aid.

Strategic job seekers study their audience in advance, learning a company’s values and objectives before the job interview. Their anecdotes parallel what the company does and values. Their proposed ideas build upon what the company is already doing well. And their demeanor accurately reflects the company’s culture. This isn’t an act of deception, just of targeted truth.

Be Willing to Address Your Mistakes

The ’78 election was an opportunity for Gerald Ford to distinguish himself. He had entered the presidency on a fluke thanks to Nixon’s impeachment, and wanted to prove he could handle the job. With an anemic economy and the Cold War still raging, that would be no small feat.

Jimmy Carter held the lead against Ford for a time, but lost face in a disastrous interview with Playboy Magazine. All Ford had to do was appear capable in the debates. Instead, he exuded incompetency.

In a televised debate, the spread of communism was mentioned and Ford said, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be” during the midst of the Cold War. The moderator, barely containing a smirk, asked for clarification and Ford decided to dig himself a deeper hole. Not until a week later did Ford change his tune too late.

Ford’s faux pas was he wouldn’t admit his mistake. People misspeak and bad decisions are made with the best knowledge you have at the time. Though you cannot take back the misguided action, you can admit your mistake and explain what has been learned in the process, reframing the error as a learning opportunity.

The Secret to Thriving Job Interview Strategies

Though presidential candidates provide valuable job interview strategies, job seekers need to ensure they are interviewing for the right role at the right company in the first place. The idea sounds simple enough, but plenty have pursued unsuitable jobs for a paycheck or a prestigious name on their resume. Finding a partner that can weed out inappropriate options is half the battle with any interview.

TransTech IT Staffing can help with that. Our recruiters are well-connected with decision makers throughout the Chicagoland area. We present compatible positions, guide our candidates through the interview process, and give them insight into how to appeal to their target audience. Check out our job openings today.