Most politicos work on Capitol Hill at least once in their career, whether it’s an internship, full-time, or consultant work. My turn came during the summer of 2019 in the form of an engineering student partnership. I went through a different type of interview process for my internship, but during the summer I was able to talk to other interns and staffers and hear the various questions they were asked during their interviews. Here are some of the questions I or my colleagues encountered during our interviews:

1) What qualifies you to work on Capitol Hill?

The Hill can be both fast-paced and a drag depending on whether your chamber is in or out of session. Talking about being self-motivated is a great way to answer this question. Being able to work on a handful of different projects at once is another quality that some managers look for – you won’t always be able to sit and work on the same project from start to finish with no interruptions. 

2) What was your proudest achievement in college/in the workforce so far?

This is one of your chances to brag about a project or event you worked on. Planned a large convention or speaker on your campus? Took initiative at your office to make a change? This is the time to talk about that and the lessons you learned along the way. 

3) What draws you to this office specifically?

This is a big question when interviewing for a permanent position. The staff want to hear that you’ve researched the official or committee and know their big policy points and goals. Knowing these points will make you stand out in an interview. And trust me – offices will know if you are trying to make up an answer on the fly. 

4) Have you ever worked in customer service/how do you diffuse conflict?

This is a big intern and staff assistant question. If you are interviewing for an internship, you will be answering phone calls and may even be sitting at the front desk of your office. Staff Assistants will more than likely be stationed at the front desk. If you are answering constituent calls, you have to be able to keep a level head when a heated caller contacts your office. You may even have repeat callers – it’s key to record their concerns and be respectful, but don’t let them take up too much of your time. 

While this happens to offices with open doors more than it does with closed door offices, you may have random people walk into the office and start a conversation/argument with you. Offices want to make sure that you can handle these types of situations – you are the face of the office and the unofficial gatekeeper. 

5) What are some of your long-term goals?

This shows the office that you’re a planner and can rank your priorities. Even if your goals don’t have anything to do with politics or your work life, they can be beneficial to talk about. 

6) Tell me about yourself.

Having an elevator pitch about yourself helps immensely with this question. The interviewers are looking for threads or experiences that they can dive into more. You can also talk about your extracurriculars and what you’re passionate about. It’s a chance to get to know you beyond the context of the office and see if you fit the vibe. 

RELATED READ: 10 Things You Need To Know Before Heading To Your Congressional Internship On The Hill

7) What are your top three issues?

This is in the same line as number 3, but offices may be looking for people who care about similar issues as the senator or representative. They may also be looking for people to fill a specific issue area for the office. This is the time for you to talk about the issues you’re well-versed in.

Having experience on the Hill is a great entry to have on your resume. It’s also easier than ever to afford a Hill internship with programs and stipends available. Working as a staff assistant is often a thankless job, but it is the gateway to working your way up the ladder. Good luck!

Jillian K