How to crush your campaign interview

June 10, 2020

With hiring season in full swing, you may be trying to land an interview with a political campaign. Once you get that first invitation to interview, things can move quickly. What should you expect during your interview? 

We’ve compiled some tips for what to do before, during, and after your campaign interview. 

Preparing for the interview

At the core of most campaign interview processes are three underlying questions: 1) Why do you want to do this work—for this candidate or this cause? 2) How do you respond and work under pressure? 3) What perspectives, technical skills, and tools do you bring to the job that will help the campaign win? 

If you can answer these three questions before the interview, you’re starting in a good place. 

Craft your “why”

Let’s talk about the first one: Why do you want to do this work? Campaigns require long hours, a fast pace, and dedication. Both for yourself and for the campaign, it’s important to know your “why.” Why is this work, this district, or this candidate important to you? 

You’ve probably heard of or crafted your personal story before. If not, we suggest taking a look at Marshall Ganz’s framework and coming up with a personal story you can tell in 2 – 3 minutes. The important part is to connect your story back to why you want to work for this campaign. Different from other job interviews, your personal story is central to campaign work. 

How do you handle pressure? 

Your interviewers will want to know how you respond in a fast-paced environment and juggle competing priorities. Have a few examples ready of times when you had many priorities or a tight deadline. Think about details of how you handled those situations, and any strategies you developed—or would develop next time—to stay on top of things. 

Campaigns will also want to know what underlying systems and habits you have to keep yourself organized. How do you stay on top of work? When things get busy, writing reminders on the back of your hand is probably not the best strategy.

Miscellaneous tips

Before we move on, here are a couple final tips we would be remiss not to remind you to do before your interview: 

  1. Do your research. Spend some time on the campaign’s website to learn about the candidate and the district.
  2. Write down 2 – 3 questions you have for your interviewer about the role, the team, the campaign strategy, the culture, or the job requirements.

The interview

In most campaign interview processes, you’ll encounter two types of questions: behavioral and technical. 

Technical questions

Technical questions relate directly to the skills and knowledges needed for the job. These questions will either relate to your past experiences, or the interviewer might give you a scenario and ask how you would respond. 

It’s best to give a specific, concrete example in response to a technical question. As much as possible, ground your answers in your past experience, even if your experience is in a slightly different field. Incorporate any research you’ve done on the district or race into your answers. The important part is to show the interview how you think, that you understand how your skills apply to the scenario, and that you understand some of the basics of the specific race. 

It’s also okay to say you don’t have direct experience with something—using VAN, for example—but that you are willing to learn. You can give an example of how you have approached learning or problem-solving on a job in the past. Maybe you haven’t used VAN before, but you had to learn how to use a new database in your previous job. Tell that story. 

Behavioral questions

Behavioral questions are designed to highlight your personality and fit with the team, i.e, how you’ll work with others and what kind of attitude you bring to the work. Examples of behavioral questions include how you operate in a fast-paced work environment, how you receive and give feedback, or how you handle differences in opinion with coworkers.  

Behavioral aspects of the interview aren’t always explicit. Think about what you’re conveying implicitly through your words, responses, and body language. 

Make space, take space

A great interview should feel like a conversation. Of course, a conversation relies on two people, and so it’s not just up to you to carry the conversation. But you should engage your interviewer and ask questions. Gather information about the campaign, candidate, and the interviewer’s role. If an interview question seems unclear, repeat it back (e.g. “Just to be sure I got your question right, you asked…”) or ask a follow-up question (e.g. “When you say universe, are you talking about a persuasion or turnout universe?”). 

Most interviewers have 5 – 6 questions that they are required to get through in order to fairly evaluate all candidates. Be aware of your participation. Make space, take space. If you have 30 minutes for an interview and 5 – 6 questions, give yourself 5 minutes per response. Don’t launch into a 30-minute monologue. Do provide enough details that demonstrate who you are.  

Follow up

After your interview, follow up with a thank you email. Make it personal by mentioning something you talked about in the interview. This email only needs to be 2 – 4 sentences long. You can also follow up with any lingering questions about the team or culture on the campaign. 

If you feel like the interview didn’t go well, you can say something about it. Everyone has a bad interview now and then. Briefly acknowledge what you wished you had told them or clarify something you feel didn’t come out right. Don’t write an essay, but it’s better to show awareness than to feel regret.  

Finally, write down your own thoughts and reflections on the interview. Did you like the team? What questions do you need answered before you can say yes? 

After an interview, things can move quickly. Reach out to your references and get them ready for next steps. You got this!

Image via amtec.us.com