What was that old Einstein definition of insanity? Something about doing the same thing again and again, yet always expecting a different result?
Well, it feels like that’s kinda how we’ve long hired for public office, no? In our city (not to mention our state and country), those of us in the media (mea culpa) tend to either ask would-be leaders simplistically-framed queries on issues or we succumb to the easy lure of horse race coverage — treating elections like they belong on the sports page. Hell, we don’t even have an agreed-upon job description for this hiring process.
There’s got to be a better way, no? Well, we think we have one. Let’s really conduct a job interview, complete with — stop the presses — an actual job description. The Citizen has polled nearly 300 residents throughout the city and interviewed a handful of public policy and political experts to come up with the definitive mayoral job posting.
It starts with a summary of the job:
The Mayor of Philadelphia serves as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Cheerleader for America’s sixth-largest city. The Mayor needs a bold vision for the city and a strategic plan to achieve that vision; furthermore, the Mayor must attract a team capable of executing his or her vision and plan. She or he must be a masterful convener, able to bring together stakeholders from the public and private sectors to bring about meaningful change.
The ideal candidate will possess institutional knowledge of how city government operates, demonstrate the intellectual skills to envision a new future for Philadelphia, and be an exceptional communicator who exudes warmth and empathy. That candidate should be capable of establishing new relationships and building on them to achieve short- and long-term political goals and navigate the politics of each policy initiative for its successful execution.
It goes on to include things like focusing on public safety and peace-keeping in the city, working with other stakeholders to lower violent crime; overseeing quality-of-life issues, including but not limited to fixing potholes, street sweeping, and anti-blight initiatives; implementing measures to compassionately and meaningfully address our city’s opioid use disorder epidemic and behavioral/mental health crises. It also includes smiling, and wearing team jerseys and the tees/sweatshirts of local public schools and colleges on a daily basis.
To read the whole job description, go here.
That will be used to inform a series of Town Halls, starting next Tuesday night, in which candidates will undergo questioning from a panel that includes former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; a CEO and/or a nonprofit leader who actually, um, hire people (first up: Philabundance CEO Loree D. Jones Brown); and, most importantly, experts in the art of how to conduct a job interview.
Few know better how to find the best candidate for a job than the folks at Diversified Search Group. The litany of business and civic leaders who have been placed by Diversified is seemingly endless. The firm, founded by force-of-nature Judee von Seldeneck, is the nation’s largest woman-founded and woman-led executive search firm, and a sponsor of our series along with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism’s Every Voice, Every Vote project. Along with von Seldeneck, Diversified’s Jim Langston, Ken Hirschman, and Leslie Pickus Mazza will split the duties of questioning the candidates throughout the series.
In addition to Diversified’s expertise, the series will include questions from Michael Haugen and Dan Kempson from ghSMART, an advisory firm that uses data and patterns of behavior to learn more about how somebody is likely to perform in the future.
As ghSMART founder Geoff Smart writes in his bestselling book Who, the biggest challenge in business today is unsuccessful hiring. When it comes to public sector hiring, then, rather than asking, “Where do you stand on cutting the city wage tax?” or “What are your strengths?” adopting the research-informed ghSMART approach would dive deep on a candidate’s past performance to get a sense of the future.
Take this one example from the book: “How would you rate the team you inherited [from your last position] on an A, B, C scale? What changes did you make? Did you hire anybody? Fire anybody? How would you rate the team when you left it on an A, B, C scale?”
Now we’re getting somewhere, right? Questions like these hold much more promise for sussing out just who is equipped to run the $6 billion corporation that is the city of Philadelphia, no?
So, keep in mind that the mayor works for you all. What questions would you ask, in keeping with the job interview metaphor? Here are mine. Some would probably qualify as behavioral, and others overlap with policy. But, taken together, the goal is to really dig in so (speaking of Who) we don’t get fooled again:
- Give an example where you’ve put together a diverse set of interests toward a common goal. What challenges did you have to overcome?
- Give an example where you’ve had to say NO to supporters and/or donors. What did you learn from the experience?
- Walk us through an issue where you’ve tried to shape the public will.
- What mayors, or other public officeholders, map your approach to governing?
- What missed opportunities in your public life haunt you? What should you have done differently?
- In presidential elections, we get to gauge a candidate’s judgment through his or her vice-presidential choice. Can you name three hires you’ll be bringing into City Hall? Will you keep Commissioner Outlaw? If not, what qualities will you look for in a police commissioner?
- Each mayor carves out his or her own brand. Ed Rendell was the rejuvenator of Center City; John Street was the neighborhood mayor; Michael Nutter was the good government reformer; and, unless he turns it around in his final year, Jim Kenney was the guy who didn’t seem to want the job. What will you be?
Join us next week. First up will be former Councilmember Derek Green; he’ll undergo questioning from the panel, and then from you, so come prepared, like a Boss.
The Ultimate Job Interview is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, the Wyncote Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit www.everyvoice-everyvote.org. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.
This project is also made possible by the support of Diversified Search Group.
MORE ON THE MAYOR’S JOB FROM THE CITIZEN