A President’s Inflated Resume

There is a real danger in overlooking candidates whose capacity for growth and whose character will help them get the job done.
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Have you ever been passed over for a job because your work experience differs from the expectation? Has a promotion not gone your way because the university you went to was not as prestigious as the eventual hires?

Sure, work experience and the quality of education are extremely important; but, there is a real danger in overlooking candidates whose capacity for growth and whose character will help them get the job done.

The danger for the company, of course, is not necessarily who they omit in the hiring process; rather, it’s committing to the wrong hire because they were entranced by the resume they looked through.

Taylor’s Resume

On paper, he had it all. Born into a family of great renown and a descendant of one of the passengers on the Mayflower, he was a veteran of the American wars of the first half of the 19th Century. While the nation was heading into its second half-of-a-century of existence, he was making a name for himself as a captain in the War of 1812 through the Mexican War of the 1840s.

If the precedent of George Washington and Andrew Jackson hinted towards anything, it was that Zachary Taylor was on the same track to the White House.

“Old Rough and Ready” — a nickname Taylor earned during the Second Seminole War — thought his career was over when he sailed home victoriously after the Mexican War. He was reluctant to serve in a political role, let alone the presidency, following his military retirement; frankly, he never voted in an election up until 1848. But both the Whigs and the Democrats lobbied him fervently, and Taylor eventually threw his hat in the ring and ran for president as a Whig. He defeated the Democrat Lewis Cass and former president Martin Van Buren (who ran as a 3rd Party candidate), and much like Washington, intended to enter office as a president who maintained balance as much as possible.

Non-Assertive Action

Expectations were high for this war-hero-turned-president. Though the last person of his kind only served thirty days, the young nation generally expected men of Taylor’s background to excel in the White House. Oddly enough, his inaugural address indicated that Taylor was not going to be a man of action as expected; rather, his presidency was going to be marked by deference to Congress and sectional compromise instead of assertive executive action.

His inaction, specifically regarding the issue over slavery, foreshadowed the crisis of the 1850s that eventually led to civil war.

While the Compromise of 1850 — which included the notorious Fugitive Slave Act — was being negotiated during his presidency, Taylor as usual did not play an active role and allowed Congress to do so. By the time he died in July 1850 after a brief illness, Taylor finished his time in office without any major accomplishments. Much like William Henry Harrison — another general-turned-president — his short-lived presidency was very much a disappointment.

Obviously, one can’t blame Taylor for an act of God — his premature death. Nonetheless, in his eighteen months in office, “Old Rough and Ready” had every intention of being a figurehead rather than an active policy and deal maker.

The history of the United States presidency is numbered with former Vice Presidents, Cabinet Secretaries, Governors, Senators, Legislators, and Generals. And what is often the case was that their experience in itself did not translate into success. The ability to create teams that allowed them to make the best decisions translated into success.

  • Abraham Lincoln had his “team of rivals.”
  • George Washington selected Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson — men of highly divergent political views — to serve in his cabinet.
  • Andrew Jackson appointed Martin Van Buren who was the architect of the Democratic Party and a whole new political era.
  • Franklin Roosevelt created competition within his cabinet, which in turn sparked creative results.

While these men who served as president were by all accounts brilliant, one brilliant person — no matter the resume — cannot ensure success. A better-ensured element of success goes beyond the institution one went to, or the company they worked for in the past.

The capacity for one to grow and to be challenged is the better indicator. The resume is just one of many factors that should be considered.

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[…] Zachary Taylor — his predecessor whose presidency was cut short because of illness — had a presidency that was marked with passivity. While Taylor was serving as a figurehead, Vice President Fillmore was busy filling government jobs with supporters from his home state of New York. Additionally, Fillmore presided over the Senate’s debates over the infamous Compromise of 1850, which included the Fugitive Slave Act, a controversial part of that compromise that expedited the return of escaped slaves to those who claimed ownership. Upon becoming president in July of that year, Fillmore dismissed Taylor’s cabinet and pushed Congress to pass the compromise. […]

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