Stuck in a dimly lit office in Washington? Looking to ditch your policy job for the thrill of a grassroots campaign? For young operatives, breaking into national and statewide campaigns can be difficult—mostly because of the sheer volume of applicants.
Campaign leadership and vendors receive stacks of resumes and have to spend an inordinate amount of time interviewing strong candidates. No one’s resume is “too good” for prospective employers to pass up—trust me. But there are still ways to stand out as the ideal choice. Here are my top four:
1. Use your political contacts. The strongest resume cannot make up for good contacts. The best thing you can do to get the next job or the next client is to make sure your relationships are good on the day after Election Day. Too many operatives and consultants burn candidates, coworkers, and/or bosses on their way out the door. These are the first calls your next employer or client will make during the hiring process. If you have strong relationships your contacts may be inclined to recommend you.
2. Know the race. Researching the race you’re interviewing to get on should be a given. But go a step further. Make sure that you know how to say the names of the candidate, the names of the major cities in the district and even how the locals pronounce the name of the state. As an example, I can’t tell you how many people mispronounce Nevada, which is like nails on a chalkboard to the natives of the Silver State.
3. Know the interviewers. While you’re setting up your interview, ask who will be in the room. Spend some time before the interview researching each person’s bio. Most candidates and campaign staff love to talk about their experiences and background, so offer a genuine compliment about what they’ve done at the beginning of the interview. It’s a great way to get off on the right foot.
4. Come with a plan. In the interview, it’ll help to be able to explain what you would specifically do for the campaign. The plan doesn’t need to be detailed, it needs to be just enough so that you can communicate what you bring to the table and are aware of the expectations of the job. This is the part that will make you stand out from other applicants. Plus you’ll have a head start once you get the job.
Jen Harrington is a Republican consultant. She works at the Prosper Group with dozens of campaigns across the country to develop strategy, messaging and fundraising