You’d never have gotten the job if you’d interviewed as badly as Betsy DeVos [Updated]

It’s official: after a 50-50 yea/nay vote in the Senate, Vice President Pence cast the tiebreaking vote, making her the new Secretary of Education. Normally, when someone lands a big job, your first thought might be “well, that person must nailed the job interview!”

Not this time. The Daily Show has a pretty good summary of the Senate confirmation hearings in which she was interviewed about her qualifications and ideas. You’d never be hired if you were this unprepared for the interview or provided such evasive non-answers…unless you had some kind of advantage over the hiring organization:

If you like to dig a little deeper — and as a reader of this blog, the odds of that are good — here are videos featuring her being questioned by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Al Franken, Maggie Hassan, and Chris Murphy at her confirmation hearing. Be very worried, because we’re in for more of this over the next four years.

And in case you were wondering:
I know what a bad job interview looks like, because I’ve interviewed candidates who performed as badly, and hey, I’ve even been one myself.

Elizabeth Warren’s interview questions

Elizabeth Warren noted at the time of the confirmation hearings, Ms. DeVos had neither yet completed the ethics form nor submitted it to the committee for review. She would sign it two days later, after the hearings.

Warren opened with this statement:

The Secretary of Education is essentially responsible for managing a trillion-dollar student loan bank and distributing 30 billion dollars in Pell grants to students each year. The financial futures of an entire generation of young people depend on your department getting that right.

And followed with these questions:

  • Do you have any experience running a loan program of the size that’s were talking about (on the order of a trillion dollars), or even one that is one-thousandth the size (on the order of a billion dollars)?
  • Have you or someone in your family had to take out a student loan?
  • Your boss settled for $25 million in a case in which former students sued him for conning them into going to his fake for-profit university. What are your ideas to prevent federal funding to going to similar diploma mills?
  • There are already laws on the books that prevent career colleges from getting federal funds unless they can prove that they’re actually preparing their students for gainful employment and not cheating them. Will you enforce these laws?

If you want to see some of the worst answers I’ve seen in a job interview, you’ll want to watch this:

Bernie Sanders’ interview questions

  • How much has your family contributed to the Republican Party over the years?
  • Would you even be considered for this position if those contributions were never made?
  • Would you work with me and others to make public colleges tuition-free through federal and state efforts?
  • Would you work with me to make childcare universal for working families?

Al Franken’s interview questions

  • Where do you stand on the debate on testing for proficiency vs. testing for growth?
  • Your family has a history of bankrolling groups that have anti-LGBT agendas and supporting widely-discredited gay-to-straight conversion therapy. Do you still believe in conversion therapy?
  • Do you know how much has student debt increased by in the past 8 years?

Maggie Hassan’s interview questions

  • When students with disabilities get a publicly-funded voucher to attend a private school, they often don’t receive adequate resources, and in some cases have to sign over their legal rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Do you think that families should have a recourse in the courts if their child’s education does not adequately meet their needs?
  • Will you enforce the laws that require schools to support kids with disabilities?

Christopher Murphy’s interview questions

  • Do you think that guns have any place in or around schools?

Update: A historic first

From Betsy DeVos has won Senate confirmation—after an unprecedented intervention, an article in Quartz:

It’s the first time in US history that a vice president has needed to intervene in a cabinet nominee’s confirmation.

While vice presidents have a constitutional duty to break ties in the Senate, rarely are they actually called upon to intercede. Ties are few and far between; the last one took place in 2008, when vice president Dick Cheney broke a 50-50 vote on a matter related to the federal budget. The last time the Senate was tied over any sort of presidential nomination was three decades ago: In 1986, Ronald Reagan appointed a lawyer to a federal appellate court whom Democrats contested (over his lack of qualifications, much as in DeVos’s case), and vice president George Bush had to step in and push the appointee over the line.

The bitter contest over DeVos’s confirmation may be over, but the tight vote portends a tension-riddled atmosphere greeting the new secretary once she takes office.


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