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Peer to Peer Hiring Advice from Greg Speed

Posted By Nikki Enfield, Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Greg Speed currently serves as the Executive Director of America Votes, a coalition of the largest membership-based progressive groups in the country, representing a broad range of issues including the environment, civil and human rights, choice, education and labor.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your career path, and your current job.

Over the past 15-odd years I've attained experience in nearly every aspect of campaigns - from communications/media to field to fundraising - doing work for candidates, Members, progressive groups and party committees.

I refer to myself as a Generalist and do not view that as negative in any way. I counsel my staff and those who come for informational interviews not to view their own career paths too narrowly and to sieze every opportunity to expand their skill set. This is especially important for young people who have the benefit of being able to take risks on varied experiences without worrying about 401ks, kids, mortgages, etc.

What do you feel is the most important information to include in a job description?

Obviously there are core responsibilities to every position that must be specified, but it's important to write the description in a way that makes clear that applicants are expected to contribute in a variety of areas. This is especially in a tough fundraising environment limiting staffing budgets and helps instill a broad understanding of responsibility in new staff.

What steps do you generally take to find a pool of talented, qualified applicants?

Job posting services like Democratic GAIN are essential resources and the first places to post positions.

However, distributing positions individually within your own network of contacts is also enormously helpful - not only for that particular position, but to remind friends and colleagues of your organization's mission (America Votes, in my case) and ongoing staffing needs. Tapping my own contacts has resulted in friends regularly sending great resumes they come across.

In general, which do you feel is more important in an employee:  good personality or specific experience?  Why?

I'll take strong personal skills and work ethic over specific experience every time. However, personality and work ethic themselves are a result of strong, positive experiences in the workplace. 

What are your three favorite questions to ask in an interview and why?

1) In past jobs, what have been your strongest skills and where have you needed improvement? (points against any candidate who can't articulate an area for improvement)
2) What do you want to be doing in ten years and how do you believe this position advances that career goal?
3) Why motivated you to get in Democratic/progressive politics in the first place?

What advice do you have for people who are hiring for the first time?

Be kind to everyone you come across in this business - many of us have had interns who are now running the world.

Is there anything we haven't already covered that you'd like to share?

Did I say be kind to EVERYONE in this business? I've never forgotten those who don't adhere to this rule...

Tags:  hiring advice  interview tips 

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