Making Decisions

You've made it through the interview process. One of the three things will happen: you get an offer (yay!), you don't receive an offer, or you don't hear back at all. We'll start with the infuriating response and work our way through the rest.

You Never Hear Back

Sadly, this is not unusual. Political organizations are often run by young people who are working crazy hours on low pay, and everything will be over by Election Day. Management practices aren’t necessarily the top priorities at these places, so don’t be too put off by a slow response time. It doesn’t mean you got rejected. It just means...they don’t have a decision. Or they do but forgot to share it with you. Or someone has a cold. Or someone quit and now their HR process is a mess. Anything could have happened.

Here’s what to do:

  • After two weeks have passed since you expected your next interaction, reach back out to your contacts at the organization (HR person, interviewer, etc.).
  • After another two weeks pass, reach out again.
  • After another two weeks pass, try one last time.

If you don’t have a response six weeks after you expected, then you were probably rejected.

You Were Rejected

Getting rejected hurts, but it’s not the end of the world.

The first thing you should remember is that a rejection isn’t personal, and it could happen for any number of reasons, e.g., they miscalculated budget and hired no one; they couldn’t settle on hiring criteria, so people just chose the lowest-common denominator candidate; they realized they needed a different set of skills than what they advertised before; there was some inside candidate that you didn’t know about.1 Some of these jobs will have 500 applicants for a single position, so don’t feel too bad if you don’t get the offer.

The second thing you should do is try to figure out whether you had problems in your hard skills or soft skills. Unfortunately, people are scared of legal action, so no one with whom you applied for a job is going to be willing to give you a feedback. Your best case scenario is to try to casually ask for feedback over drinks, but that still might not work. Another thing you can try doing is asking a friend to take a look over your entire application and give you any feedback.

If you think the issue is with hard skills, then check out the section below and work on them. If the issue is with soft skills, then grab your best friend and ask them for some hard truths about the way you come off in a professional setting. Here are some adjectives you’ll want to avoid: nervous, condescending, shy, quiet, not a self-starter, slow.

The third thing you should do is wait six months and apply again. Write about the new skills and experiences you’ve gained in your cover letter. Try to reach back out to any contacts you made the first time around and reaffirm your interest.

You Got an Offer!

Whoohoo, congrats! Now you actually need to decide whether you want to work there. Hopefully, you have a decent amount of information from the hiring process itself, but you should still take the opportunity to get more. Especially now that they've made you an offer, you really want to take the opportunity to learn as much as possible about what you're walking into. Having someone quit within the first 90 days is a waste of time for you and the organization.

The best thing you can do is try to get a conversation with someone off-the-record. Off-the-record means stalking the organization to see if some guy you went to high school with is there. Or recently left. Ask your friends, and ask your friends to ask their friends.

If you go through official channels, ask if you can speak to someone who occupies the position you applied for. Your interviewers are probably at the level above that, but if you speak to a future peer, you’ll get a better sense of what life is actually like.

Also, learn to read between the lines. No one will ever tell you that an organization is a dysfunctional disaster, but if you speak to multiple people on multiple days and you still can’t get any sense of some enthusiasm, then you should be wary.

Some questions that are good to ask:

  • What is the best part of the job? What is the worst part of the job? If you could change one thing about the job or organization, what would you change?

  • Thinking ahead to the next year, what are the biggest challenges that this organization is facing?

  • What is the work-life balance typically like? When are people typically in the office?2

  • Tell me about the people who have been in this position before. How long did they stay at the organization?3 Where have they ended up?4 Politics has a higher than average turnover, but you're generally looking for a place where analysts can grow.

  • Typically, what are some of the challenges that someone in my role will face?

  • How do you evaluate performance?

  • What kind of professional development opportunities do you offer?

  • What type of mentoring is typical? You should really push hard here for examples of mentorship. Everyone will say that there is mentorship5, but your interviewers should be able to name specific, concrete examples.

  • Is this position expected to last past the election?

1. There are more nefarious reasons. Harassment and discrimination exist, even in progressive politics. If you feel you’ve been discriminated against because your membership in a protected class, seek legal counsel.
2. You should expect people to say they’re in the office at least 40-50 hours a week during the "off-season" and more during the heat of the cycle. Office hours will vary from organization to organization.
3. Politics has a higher than average turnover, so keep that in mind. People staying less than 18 months might be a red flag (but isn’t necessarily one).
4. Generally speaking, you either want analysts to have experienced some growth, or you want them to be happy where they are. If past analysts are now at larger organizations with obvious promotions, then you’re fine. If they’ve all left politics, that's probably indicative of something odd at the organization or their hiring process. If the analyst have only made lateral moves, I might ask why the analysts didn't stay at that organization. If their analysts have been around but haven’t been promoted, I'd probably ask about it. It may be the case that the analyst is happy and competent, which is great, or it may be the case that the organization doesn't actively have a growth plan for analysts, which is less great. I would try to ask someone about it.
5. Mentorship is a huge key to success and happiness, especially in this field, where everyone knows each other. There’s a lot of information that will never be written down, and even if you’re skilled and smart, you’ll need someone who can explain the ropes to you. That said, most people in this field haven’t learned formal management principles. Don’t be put off if there’s not a formal mentorship program. You should be more interested in whether there are people at this firm who will help you grow as an analyst.

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