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Saturday, March 13, 2010

How To Pick A Candidate

Ask a man which way he is going to vote, and he will probably tell you. 
Ask him, however, why, and vagueness is all. 
- Andrew Lack

This quote reminds me of school exams. Everybody loves multiple choices but never problem solving questions. The reason is quite obvious: with multiple choices, you’re allowed to be lazy and still have a chance of getting it right simply by guessing an answer. Solving problems however require a lot more deliberate effort called thinking, and when you don’t know what to do, it really shows.

It’s election time once again. In the midst of traditional mudslinging, melodramatic political ads and motherhood statements, have you picked a good candidate? And if so, how did you make a choice? A.) The candidate has the most powerful ads, B.) Looked at the surveys and followed the herd, C.) The candidate is the cousin of your officemate’s neighbour... Obviously, it’s easy to make a choice for all the wrong reasons.

The real question is, can you justify your choice with confidence? 

What then is a good way to select a candidate that would fit the job best? How does one pick? Hmmm... Eureka! Beauty pageants?

We need to establish a basis for selection—a criteria for judging: 30% beauty, 30% personality, 20% talent, 20% intelligence. Yeah, that could work...

So here's a rating system that works the same way, but applies to judging politicos (anyway, an election is nothing but a pageant of ugly people making us believe they’re beautiful, right?). What I like most about this system is it tries to make the process quantitative and balanced, removing as much subjectivity as possible.

Here goes...

Step 1: Set the criteria – This is first and foremost. What qualifications are we looking for? Do not pick a candidate just by looking at one facet. The whole package must be considered, all angles inspected.


Leadership20%Observed influence, role-modeling.
Character20%Observed integrity, credibility, fairness, objectivity.
Accomplishments30%Actual accomplishments, competency, experience.
Platform15%Specific and attainable action plans to achieve goals.
Forums/Interviews15%Observed intelligence, show of experience and communication skills.

There are of course other criteria out there, so feel free to make up your own based on what you think should be good measurements. Just be sure they have value and are balanced. Next is to put weight on each of these qualities (the more important the factor is, the bigger the percentage you assign to it).    

Remember, be objective: wipe out the names of the candidates from your head as you build these criteria, else you might make it biased and that won’t make this exercise effective.

Step 2: Research about the candidates – It’s time to pick them apart. List down the candidates and gather as much info related to the criteria as you can. Thanks to the Internet, we got news, candidates’ web sites, blogs and forums to grab these data from. Write them down or put everything on a spreadsheet. This is where the bulk of the work is done, but it should be all worth it.

Step 3: Rate the candidates – After digesting what you’ve researched, it’s time to rate the candidates. I used a 5-level system to keep it simple (20, 40, 60, 80, 100) and rated them per criterion (horizontally). In the table below, Candidate B and D have the best showing of leadership so they were both given a 100; next is Candidate C (80); then Candidate A last (60). Do the same for the other criteria, and you would have something like this:

Again, be objective as much as you can. If you’re putting perfect scores on one candidate, you know you’re showing favoritism. Get real!  

Do not continue to the next step until you’re fully satisfied that you've been objective about your ratings.

Step 4: Sum up the scores – First, multiply the ratings against the weights and put it on the blank columns.

Then, sum up the candidates’ scores.

From this example, Candidate B is the best choice.

Whether you agree or not with the result, is a matter of discipline and personal deliberation. Like I mentioned in Step 3, do not proceed with tallying up the scores until you’re convinced that you’ve rated objectively. If you have, then you should agree with the outcome with conviction.

What this demonstrates is that there are quantitative ways to make an independent and impartial choice. This is much better than simply being swayed by a politician’s flattery, by surveys and by the crowd.

Now, when somebody asks why you picked your candidate, you can be confident and say that you did some decent research and analysis.

Be a good judge... Vote intelligently!

 Attachment: Criteria Scoring Spreadsheet.