“Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.” ~ George Washington (Note: As a teenager, Washington wrote a book of etiquette.) 

Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he’s hired to do. ~ Malcolm Forbes

So here we are in 2020 going through the process of selecting our next President while simultaneously conducting an Impeachment Trial of our current President. Maybe it’s time that We the People take a minute to review our hiring practices and candidate vetting when it comes to choosing a President and Commander in Chief! 

Our current political pickle brings to mind what the late inimitable comedian, George Carlin, once said, “In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.”

Yes, the election process for hiring an American President does appear to be a free-for-all. But being born in the land of the free and home of the brave should mean that anyone can grow up to be President, but perhaps pursue the path to becoming President a bit differently. Just as anyone can grow up to be an astronaut, movie star, four-star general or major league baseball player, there should be some training, standards and structure to pursuing a career that leads to the Presidency.

The CEO Comparison

As a former hiring manager for a Fortune 500 financial services company and having worked for and with multiple CEOs over a 40 year career, I compare choosing a President to hiring a CEO in the private sector.

Imagine if Fortune 500 companies routinely hired CEOs the way We the People select our Presidents. Of course, private-sector CEO mess-ups also occur: Apple, Compaq, Eastman Kodak , Enron, Pam Am, Sun Microsystems, Yahoo,  Worldcom, to name a sprinkling of disastrous CEO situations in recent history. But when corporate CEOs mess up, they are usually removed and sometimes even go to prison.

Hiring a CEO is a big deal that can impact a company, U.S. consumers and the economy positively or negatively for years. Thus, corporations overall –small to mega — have in-depth processes and stiff requirements for hiring those to powerful positions. Following are steps taken by many corporations:

  • Determine the list of qualifications and produce a clear and precise job description based on past experiences, current and future goals and deep consultation with their existing executive team and possibly an outside management consultant firm.
  • Evaluate internal candidates, again with the advice and consent of other senior executives.
  • Hire if necessary and possible an executive search consultant to recruit external candidates.
  • Select a cadre of experienced, informed and skilled interviewers (including Human Resources staff, senior and line managers and other relevant individuals) who can conduct the most productive series of interviews. This cadre will possess a professional approach, ask the right questions and administer the correct tests to home in on the candidate with the best background, skills, experience and leadership approach that fits in with the culture of the company. This process also will include my favorite, the take-the-finalist(s)-to-dinner-with-the-whole-executive-team interview, which often is the most revealing of all.
  • Confirm candidates’ references on the phone, via Skype or in person.
  • Verify the claims stated on their resumes and in interviews (job history, degrees and certifications, accomplishments, memberships, etc.).
  • Conduct background checks that include credit history, any criminal activity, and on-line profiles. This process might include personal interviews with those who know or are acquainted with the candidates beyond those listed on their references, including business, industry and social contacts and even the neighbors.
  • Eliminate systematically all finalists until the winning candidate stands alone.
  • Extend the offer of the position and finalize negotiations for salary and benefits and sign agreements that are well-thought-out and comprehensive.
  • Guide the newly-hired CEO through the comprehensive onboarding program.

Should a CEO have to be let go, there are procedures and succession plans in place. Usually the Board of Directors and / or company attorneys will issue the termination notification, while following laws, company policy and terms of the employment agreement.

The Hiring of the U.S. President

In contrast to the process of becoming a CEO of a major U.S. corporation, the only Constitutional requirements to becoming President of the United States (POTUS) are: (1) natural-born citizenship (2) 35 years old and (3) a U.S. resident for at least 14 years.

The process by which we currently select our Presidential candidates and ultimately our Presidents comprises a hodgepodge of Constitutional directives, political party policies, and rules that vary from state to state. This complicated undertaking also includes the Electoral College, which has become increasingly controversial. (Note: Many, including myself, believe that the Electoral College is outdated and that we should instead simply hold a National Popular Vote.)

Here is a snapshot of how a Presidential Election works:

  • We the People do not directly elect a President.
  • The People elect their Party’s delegates in each state; those delegates select the nominees for us. The delegates take on a powerful role, especially if a political party has no clear nominee by the summer when conventions are usually held. Then a convention, at which the nominee is named, becomes contested or brokered. Delegates from each state, Washington, D.C., and territories that include American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands participate. (Note: U.S. territories can participate in the nomination of Presidential candidates, but they cannot vote for them in the General Election. The political parties have agreed to allow the former, but the Constitution does not allow the latter.) All vote publicly on the floor of the convention, often multiple times until the candidate who has a clear majority of delegate votes wins the nomination.
  • People must register to vote. Voter registration and voter ID requirements vary from state to state.
  • Registered voters vote for the nominee of their choice — of any Party, Independent or write-in — on the General Election day, traditionally held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November (the 2020 General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 3).
  • The electors in the Electoral College officially select the President and Vice President on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. A real fly in the ointment of this process involves so-called “faithless electors.”

This interesting government website offers fun and simple explanations of how the election system works, but beware that some of the videos contain ads!

As to firing a President, we are going through that process presently. It’s called impeachment, followed by a trial, and either conviction and removal from Office or acquittal.

Please join me next week to consider why pursuing a specific career path to the Presidency would produce better candidates from which voters can choose and better Presidents to tackle the most challenging and powerful job on the planet.

Until next time,


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