Political consulting as an industry is notoriously difficult to break into. There aren’t specific courses of study or on-campus recruiters for jobs, and its practitioners comprise a very small pool of people who have all known each other for years. And most agencies, including Rising Tide, prefer to promote from within. So when we do post a job, it’s usually an internship or an entry-level position — and we always get a ton of interest.
In the course of looking through hundreds of resumes and conducting dozens of interviews, I’ve noticed that people tend to make the same mistakes over and over. So, in the interest of saving us all time, I’m going to let you in on some secrets — and tell you exactly how to get hired here.
Unless you’re applying for a senior level position (again, rarely posted), the first person who sees your resume is going to be one of our mid-level staffers, and they tend to see about a hundred applications for every job opening. They are tasked with picking the best several applicants to conduct phone interviews with in the hopes of finding a few final candidates to interview with partners. When you make stupid resume or cover letter blunders, you make it easy for them to weed you out.
- Have a resume that is more than one page for an entry-level job.
- Submit something with terrible formatting. Lots of colors or confusing columns = bad.
- Send us a boring, form cover letter where it’s obvious you did a find and replace to insert our agency name.
- Forget to tell us why you want to work for us, and in this industry in general.
- Fail to address and explain a lack of relevant experience.
- Be creative and catch our eye – we love to see that you understand design.
- Give us an idea of who you actually are. Formality is not as important as transparency.
- Highlight any relevant experience, even if it’s not professional in nature.
- Demonstrate an enthusiasm for our industry and the job function.
Once you’ve gotten an interview, its OK to realize that you’re one of the people who has impressed us the most and feel confident about that. But you don’t have the job yet! At this stage, we’re assessing your skills but also making sure that we want to work with you in our small business environment. I conduct a ton on-phone and in-person interviews and I see the same mistakes over and over.
- Answer my question about your working preferences by telling me you are happy doing anything.
- Tell me you don’t have any weaknesses and/or have never made a mistake.
- Be creepy or ask overly personal questions.
- Talk too much!
- Come off as arrogant, entitled, or having no deference to experience.
- Check your phone or your watch.
- Ask for a reminder to send a thank you note (this actually happened to a friend of mine)!
- Be honest about your interests and strengths. You may not be the best fit for this job, but if I think you’re smart and hardworking, I’ll do my best to find something for you elsewhere.
- Demonstrate a working knowledge of both politics and your desired job function.
- Tell me about a time you really screwed up, how you fixed it, and what you learned from it. Show that you can take responsibility when necessary.
- Stay formal enough to show that you have an understanding of how to conduct yourself as a professional.
- Ask intelligent questions that show you’ve done your research about our agency and our clients.
- Be likable and demonstrate humility. If we hire you, we’re going to have to work long hours together!
- Make sure I understand how much you want the job, and why.
RESPONDING TO AN OFFER
You got the job! Hooray! Yeah…not so fast. This deal is not done until we have both signed that offer letter, and though it’s rare, I have seen people lose an offer in the negotiation stage.
- Forget that we are going to be working together in a small office and haven’t signed anything yet and suddenly morph into a total jerk.
- Fail to seem enthusiastic and grateful. It’s cool that you have other job offers — we have other candidates.
- Hold out for a salary or benefits that are way out of the range of what we previously discussed.
- Let the due date on the letter expire without explanation and assume the offer still stands.
- Tell us how excited you are to work with us!
- Ask any clarifying questions in a respectful manner.
- Feel free to negotiate within reason, within the agreed upon timeline.
- Sign the letter by the deadline!