Archive for December 1st, 2008

Getting Appointed: Final Exam

December 1, 2008

My sons were both home from college for Thanksgiving, but they were both a bit preoccupied with their upcoming final exams.  They ain’t seen nothing!

The Government Accountability Office came out with it’s “final exam” questions for new political appointees facing Senate confirmation.  For each new incoming Administration, GAO helpfully prepares questions Senators might want to ask of appointees coming before them for confirmation.  In its 149-page report, “Confirmation of Political Appointees:  Eliciting Nominees’ Views on Management Challenges within Agencies and across the Government,” GAO poses some heavy-duty questions.  Try thinking of how you would answer!  Here are some of the general questions:

** “During your tenure in this appointed position, what key performance goals do you want to accomplish, and how would this committee know whether you have accomplished them?”

** “Describe two or three tangible examples of instances where your personal leadership skills were essential in getting your employees to accomplish a challenging goal. How could those leadership abilities help you in the position for which you have been nominated?”

** “Based on your experiences and knowledge, how would you measure the progress of an agency that was trying to improve the efficiency of its management of its real property portfolio?”

** “Have you had experience dealing with data breaches involving personally identifiable information? What kinds of steps do you think are most important in responding to such a data breach?”

** “Agencies have encountered difficulties when they have attempted to make their performance management systems more results-oriented. How would you address this issue at your agency?”

** “Can you describe your philosophical view of the role that a human capital office plays in fulfilling an organization’s mission?”

** “What is your experience in using cost information to manage and modify large and complex programs for an organization?”

** “When in your prior work have you identified and leveraged the resources of other organizations to accomplish shared goals?”

. . . . and here are examples of some of the agency-specific questions:

Bonus Point: Question for the new Secretary of the Agriculture Department:

**”Forest pests have caused substantial damage in the past and continue to pose a serious threat to the nation’s environment and economy. How have you networked with local, regional, and other organizations such as may be needed to implement cost-effective early warning systems for invasive forest pests, particularly in urban and suburban forests that are at high risk of receiving invasive insects and disease? ”

Bonus Point: Question for the new Secretary of the Commerce Department:

**  “The 2010 Census is less than 2 years away. What do you think are the key challenges facing its managers, and what advice would you give them to help overcome those challenges?”

. . . . I’m assuming there’s no page or time limits in responding! And remember, this is above and beyond the questions raised prior to Senate confirmation!

Still, there seems to be no reticence in pursuing appointments in the Obama Administration.  In a recent Los Angeles Times story by Jill Zuckman, “Go-Getters Seek Jobs in Obama Administration,” there are more than 290,000 applicants for the 8,000 part-time and full-time positions listed in the 2008 Plum Book.