Applying for the Presidency

Whether it's the corner office or the Oval Office, a job's a job.

October 21, 2008, 6:39 PM

Oct. 22, 2008 — -- During an interview with CNN, Tuesday, Sarah Palin mused about what would happen "if [she and John McCain were] hired by the American people to work for them."

The presidential race is not commonly phrased in that way. Journalists, pundits, representatives and even the candidates generally use words like "elected," "selected" or "chosen," but usually not "hired."

But the presidency is, at the end of the day, a job -- even if the application process is a bit more brutal.

"It boils down to both hard and soft skills," ABC News workplace contributor Tory Johnson said of the presidential race. "Hard skills are education, experience, knowledge required to do the job. The other half is soft skills. Is he going to be the right personality? Is he going to mesh well with the needs of the job?"

When the online career resource center asked contributing resume writer Wendy Enelow, owner of Enelow Enterprises Inc., to create a sample resume for McCain and Barack Obama for use on its site, she approached it the same way she would to write anyone's resume.

"How do I determine what's most relevant? It's a combination," she told ABC News. "What have they done in their careers? What are the key issues to their audience, in this case the American people? Where have they had the most success?"

The resulting unofficial resumes, which can be found at, highlight McCain's contributions to political reform, veterans affairs and military experience as well as Obama's contributions in alternative energy, crime prevention and grass-roots organization.

"The concept is that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance," Enelow said.

According to Enelow, the material used to create the resumes was restricted to each campaign's Web sites as well as senatorial voting records.

"They both have remarkably strong qualifications -- different, but remarkably strong," Enelow said.

According to ABC News senior political reporter Rick Klein, however, the resume is "far less important in running for president than the extended series of job interviews known as campaign events, town hall meetings and debates" where "soft skills" reign.

According to Johnson, it's the interview section of the application that is truly prolonged for the candidates in a presidential race.

"This process is allowing us to hopefully catch the candidates with the hair down," she said. "With some of the most competitive employers and opportunities, you have to go through multiple interviews or tests."

"Just like the campaign, anyone can ace one or two speeches and one or two debates or interviews. And yet it's the collective process where you get a sense of the real person."

Even after all this, Johnson said, many voters, like employers, just go with their gut.

"If you talk to most people now, they'd make their decision based on a gut feeling -- who they like better. That's what we see playing out on a national stage."

As difficult as most job interviews are, at least most potential employees are not trying to impress millions upon millions of potential employers.

"It's like most jobs, just slightly more powerful," Klein said. "And you're running to be everybody's boss, but really you work for everybody."

"In a job search process, there's maybe one or two constituents," Johnson said. "You don't have to win over the whole department or the whole company. With a presidential election, you have to win over a majority of the people."

Even then, there are fewer rules regarding a candidate's selection.

"For one thing, you have a nation of 300 million people making the hiring decisions and discrimination is legal," Klein said. "People can vote against you because of age, gender, race, hair color or boring old things like issues."

Then again, as Johnson said, "if you're caught lying about your record during an interview, you'll almost always get knocked out of the running, but with the presidential candidates, the same rules don't seem to stick."