The difference between a panelist and a professional interviewer

Dear Editor,

When it comes to the selection for a high responsible position in the Samoan government such as of a C.E.O. for the Ministry of Finance the way to arrive at the best qualified individual is flawed, in my opinion.

I say it is flawed because of the use of panelists instead of a professional interviewer. 

Unfortunately Samoa does not have professional interviewers as defined in the O*NET Dictionary of Occupational Titles. See on page 104 under 13-1071.01 Employment Interviewers. 

A panelist is defined as “a member of a public-discussion or quiz game panel. Also a select group of people selected to hold a discussion , judge a contest, etc. or decide on a matter.”

This definition is a far cry of what an interviewer should be. Panelists lack the expertise, educational background and an overall knowledge of the position at stake. 

Therefore, their selection is based   by most part in irrelevant factors that does not have anything to do with the qualification expected in a candidate that is: mainly potential and capabilities. 

It is too simplistic to say that the candidate has the “academic qualification and experience.” In fact all the candidates for this position, I assume there were several, have had academic qualification, as required in the criteria and previous work experience. 

So the panelists, I suppose, have to choose the one that has more academic qualification than the rest, say the best candidate has a Ph.D. compared to the others with M.Sc. or B.Sc. degrees. If that is the case here the media does not say. 

As far as experience is concerned, everybody who applies for a position, especially a high caliber position as is in this case must have  excellent job experience. 

The fact that you spend a number of years in a position just below the one you are applying to take over does not necessarily qualifies ipso facto, as some people erroneously believe. It is like saying a Vice President who spent eight years as such should immediately qualify for the President position. Not so in the majority of cases. 

Except if that candidate is a person that has transformed in a very relevant way the functionally of that position, and he  was not a paper pusher  all that time. It is his most relevant recommendation of what he has made of the position that would qualifies him  and to do better if given the chance to take over his boss’ job.

What I am talking about here is about achievements in a job, not just time spent under the shadow of the boss. The term achievement in a job is an obscure and weakly defined here as a primordial condition to qualify for a job, any job. 

In Samoa the C.V. presented for position completion is full of “Duties and Responsibilities” for each of the position in their work experience. Duties and responsibilities in a job do not have, by far, the merit of an achievement per se.

In fact any position, from the tea lady to the C.E.O’s job have Duties and Responsibilities. So how do you grade these two terms when choosing the best candidate? Would you say this candidate had better duties and Responsibilities than the other ones? Nonsense.

 Let us say by comparison. If 4 carpenters are vying for the position in an organization, as a head carpenter and all of them have the same duties and responsibilities, the question is who of the four is the best qualified?  A panelist will have hard time deciding which one is the best, right? Right. Not so for a professional interviewer.

He immediately will zero with the one whose C.V. enumerates the achievements in   his job experience, that separates him from the rest. It is like saying; I have done better and more important jobs than the rest and as such I have been praised by management. While rest all they have done is routine work day in and day out. Mediocrity in any organization is the result of using duties and responsibilities as a deciding factor in choosing “the best.”

For the P.M. to say that he will let his son go if he does not perform his contract is nonsense. If that is so, why he does not get rid of all the C.E.Os and Ministers that do not perform their contract? 

Luckily his son in law is doing just fine uncovering corruption all over the place. Would that be the same with this son?  Panelists are not made of wood to not realize that one candidate is, nothing less, than the son of the big honcho in Samoa. Just suppose they chose somebody else? 

What would the P.M’s reaction be?

I for one, do not go along the way high responsible positions are chosen in Samoa-by panelist; it like surgery performed by the head nurse.


Orlando Huaman 

A Job Counselor, Malololelei

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