The Hill Life: A Few Dos and Don'ts for Jobseekers
Mar 23, 2011
Don’t write the person looking for an unpaid intern and ask if they have any paid positions available. And definitely don’t write the office of the Congressman looking for an unpaid intern and ask the staffer to forward your resume on to the Congressman’s committee so that you can be considered for a paid gig there.
This is presumptuous and deeply annoying and will result (99% of the time) in your resume being tossed into the ‘Deleted Items’ bin. If you really want to know about paid jobs, wait a couple of days and then forward your resume on, and don’t mention the internship that you don’t want.
Do call the office and ask the front desk person to whom your e-mail/cover letter should be addressed. If the contact name is not listed in the job posting, an applicant who takes the extra step of finding out sets herself apart from the horde of people who addressed their letter “To Whom it May Concern.”
Don’t call or drop by if the posting specifically says not to call or drop-in. Failure to follow this directive does not make you look like a go-getter, it makes you look like a person who cannot follow directions.
Do double check the spelling of the Congressman’s name, his district number and his committees. Writing “in the office of Rep. John Smith” if his name is spelled J-o-n, is a giant faux pas. So is getting a state abbreviation, a district number or a committee/bill name wrong. Not getting this basic information correct makes it look like you really don’t care about the job at all.
Don’t apply for two jobs in the same office at the same time. A few months ago, a friend in a Dem Senate office was looking for a Communications Director and a Legislative Aide at the same time, she received 17 duplicate resumes. None of the duplicators was hired for either position.
Do choose the job that you are most qualified for, and apply for that one only. You’re not increasing your odds of finding a job by applying for both. You can’t tailor a resume to one job and then turn around and tailor it for another job without muddying the waters for yourself.
Don’t call or e-mail a hiring manager more than twice to check on your resume. There is a fine line between being interested and over-eager and an even finer line between being over-eager and harassing. If you don’t hear back, there’s a reason. Unfortunately, some HR people just aren’t good about letting candidates know that they’re out of the running.
Don’t play calendar hopscotch with the hiring manager. When I was working off the Hill, I had prospective employee who had conflicts during my first three suggested interview times, who then rescheduled the appointment, twice. When she called the second time, I told her the position had been filled and selected another applicant from the pile.
If you’re applying for a job, you need to make yourself available for the interview. You are not the only person that is being considered for the position, so it is not the HR person’s job to make time for you. Reasonable accommodations can always be made for a qualified candidate, but you need to be flexible because you are the applicant not the employer.
Do bring extra copies of your resume, writing samples and references to the interview with you. Even if you don’t need them, it’s good to have them handy.
Don’t show up to your interview late. And by George, if you are going to be late, call and let them know. But that being said, just don’t be late.
Do wear a suit to the interview. Even if it’s during recess, showing up for an interview with slacks and a polo or other casual attire is not okay. And if you’re a man, you need to wear a tie. Even if you are never going to wear one again, you’re trying to impress someone here, so dress for the occasion.
Don’t talk smack about your last employer. Even if you separated under less-than-ideal circumstances, you don’t want your interview to turn into a litany of complaints against your old boss. Someone who would speak ill of a previous employer during an interview is someone who will speak ill of any employer at any time.
Do send a thank you note to EVERY person who was in the meeting. Bring a stack with you to the interview, then go to a coffee shop or somewhere nearby, fill them out and return them to the office or immediately mail them. Even a short thank you, received in a timely manner is helpful.
Don’t wait more than one business day to send the thank you note, esp. if you’re using snail mail. I once received a thank you note six days after I had filled the position and 10 days after the interview took place. It didn’t do the applicant much good then.
Do have a firm handshake. Nothing leaves a lasting negative impression quite like a weak or sweaty or limp-wristed handshake. Even if you’re a woman, you need a good, firm handshake. Practice on your friends.
Don’t get so caught up about what to wear that you forget to practice your answers and develop sample questions. You need to spend at least twice as much time learning about the company and coming up with insightful questions to ask the employer as you do picking out something to wear.