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How to get a job on the Hill

Posted By Democratic Job Placement Initiative, Thursday, January 15, 2009
The Democratic Job Placement Initiative submitted this post about with advice for those looking for a job on the Capitol Hill.
Believe it or not you have a chance to work for the Senate.  I have heard people say that ‘you have to know someone’ or ‘they only hire ivy leaguers’. Both of which are common fallacies that should not prevent you from submitting your resume.  The hill is populated with hard working type A hair on fire staffers from everywhere in America, who all have one thing in common, they want to make a difference.   Below is a list of suggestions intended to increase your chances of obtaining a Hill job. 
Do your Research
Prior to applying you should take a look at the Senate Employment Brochure available free of charge on line at or call Placement Office at (202) 224-9167 for more information.  The Senate Placement Office is a free invaluable source of information regarding the types of positions available at the Senate.  The Senate has an age old structure for positions such as staff assistants, legislative correspondents, legislative assistants, staff directors, administrative directors, chiefs of staffs, and counsels.  (These titles are not exhaustive but the most common.)  In order to know where your skill set fits, you will need to do your research with the Senate Placement Office.

While on this topic, if you already have an informational interview or an interview lined up you should familiarize yourself with the Senator’s recent legislative activities.  Although this suggestion may be a no brainer to some of you - to others the excitement of the opportunity may cause you to forget to do your research. You should know their State, their Causes, and the Committees on which they serve.
Have an Impeccable Resume

We tend to think that the in person meeting is the first impression, not so on the Hill.  For every one opening, a hiring manager can receive 100 or more resumes.  Your resume is the real first impression. It is your first chance to distinguish yourself. Therefore, it should be concise, crisp, and easy to read.  Font at 12, and your name and contact information easy to spot. 

Be Specific about your Interests

Time and time again, eager prospective staffers say ‘I want to work on policy’, okay what policy?  You should stay focused on policy areas where your skill sets are best suited.  If you are interested in Healthcare Policy be specific; cost of medication policy, preventative care policy, domestic healthcare policy, or foreign healthcare policy?  Be specific.

You want a Senior Level position or even a Chief of Staff position?  Right?  You feel you have experience, education, all the right qualifications but those positions are coveted positions usually earned by people who have prior hill experience.  The reality is that you may have to start with an entry or mid level position. For some of you, that may be too much of a sacrifice.  For others it may be a sacrifice worth making.    That’s a decision you will have to make - just keep in mind that public service is an honor, and getting your foot in the door even in an entry level position may be the start on your path towards a Senior level or Chief of Staff position.

Remain Optimistic

Each Senate Office is autonomous.  Some offices are quicker at responding to staffing needs than others.  If you have sent in a resume and have not heard - remain optimistic. Some offices hire three to six months after interviewing, some will hire on the spot.   There is no way of knowing how rapidly an office will respond or if an office will respond to your resume.  It really has nothing to do with your effort.  So keep applying to various offices.

I hope these suggestions assist you in your job search.  If you have the desire to become a staffer, do not give up.  Be prepared and persevere, the Senate does have opportunities.

Tags:  advice  capitol hill  job seeking 

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