Job interview

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

In my decades of experience in senior management, I have found it important to personally interview an applicant for a job opening. Resumes do not always tell me who the applicant really is.

Running for public office is like applying for a job. Candidates must reassure the public they have the skills required. Participating in public forums where seasoned journalists or experts in relevant fields ask questions helps us in getting to know candidates.

We do not just look at the answers to questions. It is important to also look at how a candidate reacts under pressure. We must know if the candidate has the personality to inspire and lead.

That is the theory in our so-called democratic society. However, electing a public official, specially the president, is now like buying luncheon meat. A candidate is treated like a consumer product… like Coke, Nescafe or Spam.

The same professionals using the same techniques for selling products are packaging and selling candidates. Like any consumer brand, the candidate is presented to the voters with a “brand” personality that may or may not accurately depict who the candidate really is.

The campaign manager for a controversial candidate will want to control the candidate’s public exposure. The less the candidate says, the less chances the candidate makes mistakes.

I guess that’s why BBM declined the Jessica Soho interview. He got so far in the survey ratings without saying much. It is his winning strategy.

Ask his supporters and they can’t even explain why him… basta lang. They don’t know or care where he stands on issues like relations with China. Many think he is a lawyer rather than a college dropout.

BBM has said very little in his public life. We don’t know where he stands on many public issues. Unlike his father who shined by eloquently speaking in public, BBM seems the shy type.

Accusing Jessica of being biased to justify avoiding her interview is unfair. She is a seasoned and multi-awarded journalist. But there is something in that excuse too.

The lines have blurred between real journalists and celebrities doing political interviews. Real journalists like Jessica have the public interest in mind. Their reputation and credibility are at stake.

On the other hand, celebrities like faded movie stars are interviewing candidates even if they are not too conversant with public issues. Celebrity interviewers may also think there is nothing wrong in throwing soft questions that serve no public interest purpose.

Then there are also out and out partisans. Many are bloggers and media commentators, as well as publicists working for candidates, but pretending to be legitimate interviewers.

There is also the motive of the interviewers. The objective is not to shame the interviewee, but to introduce him or her to the audience of voters to help them make up their minds on who to choose.

That’s the other point. Most viewers of such interviews are also partisans who have already made up their minds. I doubt if too many viewers changed their minds after the Soho interview. A cynical handler of a candidate like BBM can easily claim such interviews serve no purpose, but are too risky.

Sometimes what candidates say on key issues don’t matter much. The personality of a truly charismatic candidate who speaks generalities and looks good will be enough for many voters. A campaign built around a “kurot sa puso” or emotional appeal will go further than one that is more cerebral.

Given that the attention span of folks in our social media environment don’t go beyond a few seconds, a TikTok appearance with a memorable soundbite wins more voters than an erudite explanation of West Philippine Sea issues.

But the business sector wants more substance. They want to know how candidates view key business issues. Otherwise, they will adopt a wait-and-see attitude towards investments. We need those investments badly and fast.

As it is, a UK-based think tank Pantheon Macroeconomics considers a win of BBM in the May 2022 elections as a risk to the Philippines’ economic and investment recovery from its pandemic-induced slump.

“Elections in the Philippines are rarely fought on economic policy. But they still carry significant event risk, particularly if Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the current frontrunner and the son of an ex-dictator, wins…,” a Pantheon Macroeconomics senior Asia economist said in a report.

Nomura Global research is of the opinion that Vice President Leni Robredo is “likely seen” more qualified to oversee the post-pandemic recovery of the country, citing the presidential candidate’s strategic roadmap that focuses on vital sectors, such as health and education.

“Marcos Jr., in our view, will likely be regarded as less market-friendly than Robredo, particularly when it comes to experience at the national level and in articulating a strategy for the country to recover from the pandemic,” the report read.

The group also believed that Marcos’ possible victory might cast doubt on the 2022 elections. “A Marcos victory will likely be viewed negatively owing to perceptions against him…” BBM must speak up to alleviate fears.

The perception of the business sector is important because our recovery depends on it. The major candidates should face a panel of economic experts so we can see exactly where they stand.

Yet, BBM also snubbed a Manila Rotary invitation. Business leaders say it is difficult to invite him to speak to them. As a result, many are worried that a BBM presidency will cause problems like crony capitalism, which may happen again.

If only to address the concerns of the business sector, all the presidential candidates should name their economic advisers and potential economic Cabinet members. Do they have a Sonny Dominguez with a reputation for competence?

Our country’s economy has failed to keep up with our regional peers. Entrepreneurs want to know if it is safe to risk capital here or go elsewhere in the region. The decision of entrepreneurs to invest is as important as the votes to be cast on electionday.

Those applying to be our president should submit to a public job interview. It is a duty that comes with running for the presidency.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco


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