Political Campaign Staff Hiring Guide: Traits Matter More Than Experience

Sep 17, 2020 by Joe Fuld

woman with a flag leading other professionally dressed people

Traits for Political Campaign Staff and Tips to Hire Great Staffers  

Whether you're running for city council or congress, hiring your political campaign staff is an essential part of the electoral success. Managing budgets, raising money, running social media, building field programs, prepping candidates for public appearances, and implementing campaign strategies; the political campaign staff is the backbone of every campaign. 

To save yourself from unnecessary stress down the line, it's crucial that you hire a capable staff to run your campaign within your budget. Below is a list of the seven most important characteristics to look for in political campaign staff:

1. Organized - Campaign staffers have a difficult job because they have to oversee the day-to-day operations of a campaign while also keeping the long-term strategic goals in mind.  The campaign team has to oversee the work of both internal and external aspects of the campaign. The campaign staff oversees everything from managing the door-to-door volunteers to approving the creative for digital ads and direct mail pieces. A good political campaign staff should also be creating reports on the campaign’s progress, which requires the ability to obtain, manage, and analyze data. With all of these moving parts, it is essential for a campaign staff to be organized.  

2. Engaged - Political campaign staffs not only manage the candidate they work for, but often deal with reporters on their behalf and talk to potential voters. A political campaign staff must be able to manage relationships between the candidate and the press, donors, and the general public. The ability to manage and collaborate with them cannot be overlooked. Whether your campaign staff is making fundraising calls, talking to the press, giving a pep talk to the rest of the team, or even managing up to you (the candidate), a good campaign staff must be able to communicate and collaborate well with everyone in order to run a successful campaign. 

3. Leadership - As we mentioned above, the campaign staff is not only responsible for managing the candidate but also all of the volunteers involved in the campaign. With so many moving pieces involved in a campaign, finding a level-headed political campaign staff that can keep the rest of the team in check on the road and motivated after long hours is an absolute necessity. Due to all of the things a campaign staff is responsible for, a good one must be able to delegate and trust their team, avoid the urge to micromanage, and lead with poise. 

4. Strategic - “Playing chess not checkers” is a common phrase used when it comes to campaign strategy. A political campaign staff must be open to change as the campaign progresses. They must be expected to adapt to polling results, media coverage and respond to other candidates in order to remain well-positioned for election day. In a competitive race, playing it safe can oftentimes be a lethal mistake. Making tough decisions and accepting trade-offs is a major part of the political campaign staff’s job, so the ability to take calculated risks when appropriate is an important quality for an effective campaign staff.

5. Grit - If you’re running for office for the first time, it can be difficult to find an experienced campaign staff who has worked on numerous successful campaigns. In fact, if you’re running a campaign on a tight budget, you might have to hire someone who has little to no experience. One quality your campaign staff should possess is grit: the ability to show strength and resolve even in tough situations. There will be ups and downs in any campaign (e.g. bad candidate PR, a negative digital ad), so being able to handle the job during tough times and work through adversity is something that cannot be overlooked when searching for a political campaign staff. 

6. Trustworthy - Your campaign staff plays the most important role in driving the success of your campaign. The campaign staff is your right-hand throughout the campaign, so hiring someone you can trust to successfully run your campaign will increase the likelihood that you will win. And when you, as a candidate inevitably face pushback, pressure or doubt on the campaign trail, you have a person that you can turn to for advice. In addition, candidates also shouldn’t have to worry about the financial aspect of the campaign, so having a manager who can be fully trusted to deal with the money side of things is a tremendous help. Running for office imposes enough stress as it is, so having a partner by your side who can allow you to focus on the important, long-term goals of the campaign is a key to victory.

7. Diversity – You want your staff to be reflective of the broader community. Look for gender, racial and economic diversity by having a more diverse staff you will get a broader range of input and a better team. 

Tips on hiring campaign staff: 

Hire for culture - When you are hiring for campaign staff make sure you are clear about the culture you are hiring for. I love the book The Ideal Team Player and use their HHS (Hungry Humble and Smart )frame work for our hiring. 

Have a budget – Have an understanding of the budget you are hiring with. Do not hire staffers without a budget.    

Give tests – When hiring a press secretary, have them write a press release. When hiring a scheduler, have them schedule a day’s worth of events. You should pay campaign staff to do these tests, but it is well worth it. 

Check references – This is obvious, but you would be surprised. Have a series of questions to ask references and take notes.  

Pay for Health Insurance – Campaigns should pay for health insurance for their political campaign staff. 

Get Insurance for the Campaign – It is not expensive, and you would be surprised how many people forget to get insurance for their political campaign. Don’t be one of those people. 

Write Agreements – Have written staff agreements. It will help clear up misunderstandings and create a framework to pay your team fairly. 

Whether you're a candidate yourself or an aspiring campaign staffer, make sure you are hiring campaign staff with the right traits. If you are looking for a place to list staff jobs or find campaign staff jobs check out this post.  

For more general advice on campaigning check out one of our blogs on the topic here!

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