recruiters are sneering at my work on a political campaign

A reader writes:

I recently worked on the presidential campaign and, needless to say, it was for the loser. My position was a higher-level executive administrator where I traveled full time with the candidate. Post-election, I have been looking for work as an executive assistant and I come across a lot of resentment for my prior work. It has ranged from recruiters asking me how I could possibly work for someone like the candidate, asking how they could “spin” the position so “I didn’t look that bad,” and asking questions like, “are you going to be able to work with people who have opposing political views?” and the condescending, “you should probably look for work in a different state, based on your political beliefs.” (I’m in northern California.)

Should this be an issue?

I thought the opportunity of a lifetime to see the insides of a national high-level campaign and work hard within my strengths would be a positive addition to my resume, not a determent. How do I field these questions and come out shining?

No, it shouldn’t be an issue. These people are being ridiculous.

Obviously, if you’re applying for positions with organizations that work on issues counter to those that you represented in your last job, it might give people pause. (Although even then, they should take the time to ask you about it, not be jerks.)

But assuming you’re applying to non-political organizations, some of these questions are obnoxious and unprofessional … and I say that as someone who voted against your candidate. I also say some of the questions, not all, because asking, “How do you feel about working with people with very different political views than your own?” isn’t a crazy question to ask if you’re going to be in a culture that they might reasonably assume you could be unhappy in. But suggesting you move to a different state is ridiculous.

In any case, you can try answers like, “I’ve never had any trouble getting along with people all over the political spectrum. My last job taught me X, Y, and Z, and I’m excited for the chance to use those skills in a non-political context.”

If that doesn’t work, then consider it a flag that you’re dealing with a small mind that doesn’t understand what does and doesn’t matter in hiring well.

{ 169 comments… read them below }

    1. Robbiedo*

      All the work I’m looking for is outside the political realm.

      Thank you for taking the time to address my question Ask a Manager- I’m going to take your approach on this.

  1. Anne*

    Yup. My boss and I couldn’t be more different politically, but it has little to no impact on our work. We deal with political issues all the time due to the nature of our work (media/internet monitoring), but our own political views are unnecessary in the workplace.

    1. Anon*

      To take that one step further — in my previous job my boss and I were on opposite ends of the political spectrum in a field where politics would occasionally come up and I think it actually worked in our favor.

      We were able to debate pros and cons of a situation like adults, without it getting personal, and I think that made us BETTER at our jobs. Being able to see all sides of an issue and maintain respect for people who think differently than you are critical in any job!

      1. jmkenrick*

        I worked at a small office (four people) where I was the only person on the opposite side of the political spectrum…they were fairly dramatic differences. It actually did make me a big unhappy, so I do think that some of the questions are valid. But everyone was very adult about disagreements, always.

        1. Laura L*

          Understandable, but it’s up to the candidate to decide whether or not they’ll be comfortable in that situation. The company doesn’t get to decide that for them. And recruiters certainly don’t get to be jerks about it.

          So, yes, organizational fit is a concern and should be discussed respectfully, but maybe the OP will be perfectly fine in a situation in which they are the minority political opinion.

  2. EnnVeeEl*

    This is very distasteful. I don’t know if I would want to work for such unprofessional people. I know someone who got themselves wrapped up in a political debate during an INTERVIEW. They should have known better and steered the conversation back to the job, but I was pretty disgusted with the hiring manager for starting down that road in the first place.

    I love interviews where you learn everything you need to know right then and there.

  3. Jamie*

    I would think that was a fabulous wealth of experience in a very high stress/high pressure situation and I’d be way more interested in that than the specifics of whose name was on the bus.

    Hopefully someone will see that soon. I agree with Alison that asking if it would be an issue to work among those with diverse opinions is a fair question – because it’s an issue for some people – but they should let you address it and move on since it’s not for you.

    I really don’t like the close minded nature of making an issue out of non-workrelated matters. Good luck.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        It’s possible that these recruiters will push you to like minded companies. You might need new recruiters

  4. Legal Eagle*

    They are being obnoxious and unprofessional. I did not vote for your candidate, but if I interviewed you I would be impressed by that experience, not malign you for it.

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly. And at the professional level, people change parties/candidates etc. all the time. They go where the work is. They don’t even always agree with the candidate’s policies. And even if they did, it’s not really relevant to the next job unless they’re obnoxious about it and you can screen for “obnoxious member of x party platform who can’t keep their politics out of the office.” In an interview.

      The concern should be whether they did a good job and whether their skills transfer to the new job they’re applying for.

  5. JoAnna*

    How open-minded and tolerant of them. *roll eyes* I agree with AAM – totally ridiculous. I hope you can find something soon.

  6. Liz in a Library*

    That’s crummy. Like others have said, I didn’t vote for your candidate, but I would think the pertinent information is that you did such high-level work on something as high stakes, high pressure, and expansive as a presidential campaign!

    I wouldn’t want to work with the jerk who told you that. Has this really happened often?!

  7. khilde*

    Look, I voted for your guy, too but I would be annoyed and so turned off by the same situation if parties were reversed. No matter my personal preferences, it shouldn’t be an issue if it’s really not a function of your work! In other words – you just don’t do that no matter what side of the spectrum you’re on. I guess it’s telling you a potential aspect of their culture and that might be the best possible screening you could get. Not because you couldn’t/shouldn’t be able to work with others of a different political persuasion, but because it’s obvious that it’s a sticking point for them.

    I agree with Jamie above that you have got to have some awesome high-pressure, high stakes experience that you could capitalize on. Your experience cannot possibly be a deterrent for the right organization with the right fit for you.

    1. Jamie*

      What bothers me most is that this isn’t individual opportunities, but recruiters screening her out.

      So if you and I were in the position to hire and didn’t give a rat’s behind about her political views…but we’d love someone with that level of experience we wouldn’t even hear about her because the recruiters are too busy telling her to move out of state.

      The intolerance of this really bothers me.

      It’s funny, back in college I worked on a campaign of a Chicago politician (who will remain nameless or Josh S will lose all respect for me) and back when I had that on my resume the only thing people had to say about that was to ask me what he was like in person.

      Chicago is a different world when it comes to politics, though.

      1. khilde*

        Oh, yeah, good point on the recruiters. I have never been involved with recruiters so I admittedly glaze over when recruiter questions come up since I am not familiar with how that all works. But the way you put it makes sense. That maybe the org itself or the individual hiring managers might be ok, but it’s the first gate OP needs to get through that’s causing the bias, right? That makes sense.

        I’d be like the people you encountered – I don’t care what party’s candidate it was – I’d want to know what they were like as a person! What’s their favorite candy bar? Do they take naps? etc. I’m often too focused on the trivial, though.

          1. fposte*

            The stories would be incredible. Though Fast Eddie must have had quite a parade through the office as well.

            My dad was a lawyer in the great Machine days, and though his area of law had nothing to do with any of it, even he was occasionally witness to the Chicago way unfolding before him.

            1. Portia de Belmont*

              No matter how much they try to fictionalize the Chicago way, it can never match the truth. All you can do is get out of the way.

              Special to fposte – I loved Cold Comfort Farm!

          2. mas*

            I know how you feel – one example of a major accomplishment I used to talk about in interviews was that my company had organized a major event for Blago and I was the project manager for it. Oh well, it was still a great event, now I just use it as a joke at bars instead.

      2. Josh S*

        Meh, I know lots of people who have worked on lots of campaigns for many different candidates. While I hold a great amount of disdain for the self-serving way the politicians in our city tend to act, I don’t hold it against anyone who chooses to work a campaign.

        After all, having done a favor (like campaigning) for a powerful politico is often a good way to make sure you get a favor (or two) in return when you’ve gotta cut red tape or get stuff done in this city. Sad to say, but if you don’t have money-in-briefcases, doing favors (and building relationships with the powerful) is a good way to get things done on your behalf.

        1. Josh S*

          LOL. Just saw who you worked for. I don’t respect you any less (how could you have known, unless you were delivering said money-in-briefcases for the guy??) I just think it’s funny now that he’s been convicted and all…

  8. likesdesifem*

    Hmm… I don’t think a recruitment manager should allow biases to influence his or her judgments. Even if the person in question is a staunch liberal/Democrat, it doesn’t mean s/he has licence to exclude Republicans, or even those who worked for them (in this case).

    Best practice is obviously to focus on a recruit’s skills, experience, training and references, but as in all professions not all participants do follow best practice. It seems, in my suspicion, that the recruiters here are liberals and don’t want a (supposed) conservative working with them.

  9. fposte*

    If there are culture areas we thought might come up as an issue as a result, we’d ask about them, but I don’t think scheduling software has a partisan bias. This is just neener-neenering, and people who do that are being jerks.

    1. Leslie Yep*

      “This is just neener-neenering, and people who do that are being jerks.”

      Perfectly put.

  10. Joey*

    So the assumption is that your political beliefs will dictate the business decisions you’ll make? If they’re concerned you’ll make ultra conservative business decisions why not just speak to that. Although I imagine no matter what you do you’ll still come across more than a few die hard liberals in Cali that won’t consider you no matter what. Unfortunately it is what it is.

    1. Anon*

      I actually have a colleague in southern CA who is a hard line republican, but cannot let anyone know – only her husband knows her true beliefs, for fear of getting canned. Apparently it has happened before in her industry… its unfortunate that there are people like that out there. (Not just in southern CA, all over the country in all different ways!)

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I have a liberal friend in a similar situation working for a financial firm in Manhattan. He does a lot of smiling and nodding.

        1. Jessa*

          Yeh, politics makes people crazy. It shouldn’t though. And at the recruiter level is not the place to rule the OP out. If the recruiter sends the OP to “we hate who you worked for company, and anyone who worked for them EWW,” I guarantee they just won’t offer an interview if they see that on the resume. They’d be dumb, but that’s no on issue here.

  11. Claude*

    Agree 100% that the reactions you are getting are way out of line. I think it’s a sad reflection of how politically polarized this county has become, and you are getting caught in the backlash. I hope you find something worthy of your impressive skills and experience soon.

  12. Dave Wakeman*

    I actually have done a lot of work for Democratic Party candidates and progressive organizations and a good way that I have found to work around this situation is to sort of find a way to smooth over the political nature of the position by focusing on the skills.

    I’m not sure if the questioner played up the candidate aspect of the job too much, but anyone that has done political work should remember that it is very important to remember to play up the skills and role and not just the fact that it was a national or statewide campaign.

    1. Mints*

      I’m wondering if the OP has too much emphasis on the values or maybe has lines about traditional values or conservativism that are unrelated to skills. Instead of focusing on the transferrable skills. Maybe I’m wrong though, and those guys are just out of line.
      PS. OP, try targetting conservative industries like finance if you can.

      1. Robbiedo*

        I am currently targeting industries within finance.

        My resume doesn’t say anything about traditional values or conservatism.

        I’m a solid administrator and my bullet points were about my job duties and accomplishments (i.e. traveling full time with candidate/ high degree of professionalism and discretion, supported to ensure accurate and timely financial management).

        1. Natalie*

          It seems all the more odd that the finance industry would have a problem here. They always seem to lean quite a bit more conservative than the public at large.

          1. Risa*

            She’s in Northern California – as a Bay Area native, I’m not at all surprised that she is encountering this kind of reaction even in the financial sector. The Bay Area is so firmly left that meeting someone who voted Republican, much less worked on a campaign is rare – they probably don’t know how to handle it, having no practice (*sarcasm*). It’s completely unprofessional and out of line, and really unfortunate as they are probably missing out on a talented candidate.

            NorCal has it’s own special brand of politics, where a moderate is often considered too conservative.

            1. EngineerGirl*

              Yes, this. One phenomenon I’ve seen in the Bay Area is making assumptions of people’s belief system simply based on where/if they go to church, where they work, etc. I’ve never seen anything like it. They find out you work at a certain place and then start yelling at you about your beliefs – without ever asking about them!

              It appears that the recruiters are doing the same thing.

              1. jmkenrick*

                I’m born and raised in the Bay, live in SF.

                There are rude and judgmental people everywhere…I disagree that it’s a phenomenon localized here.

                I work with plenty of Republicans, and while the conservatives in my office are outnumbered, we’ve yet to have any yelling matches, even during the election. ;)

        2. jmkenrick*

          :-/ You may have to just keep trying. If you’re not from here, then it’s true that NorCal is very vocal about it’s liberal pride, but there are plenty of hidden conservatives…and either way, it shouldn’t be relevant to most jobs.

          If you’re new out here, maybe try looking into some meet-up/networking groups for conservatives and hit-up them for advice?

  13. -X-*

    The recruiter is off-base on the political beliefs part.

    But I want to point out (in a non-partisan way) that some aspects of that campaign were poorly done, and that might reflect on the OP. I understand, for example, that the polling, IT/get out the vote, and social media aspects of that campaign were nowhere near as strong as the opposition’s.

    The recruiters response is wrong, but if the OP was involved in those aspects of that campaign, I would tend to downgrade that person in my mind. Depending on their other strengths, I might or might not move forward with the person. It’s not a deal-breaker alone (maybe the person was trying to mitigate the problems in those areas). Or maybe learned from those troubles. So it would depend on the resume, cover letter and job in question.

    1. E*

      Point well taken, but someone travelling with any candidate in an executive capacity who’s looking for exec. asst. jobs now is unlikely to have been involved in those areas. If the candidate is truly playing up the skills/strengths gained from the job, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what kind of role they played.

      Either way, there’s a big difference between a recruiter who says “I’m not very familiar with campaigns; did you do X or was it more Y/Z?” and one who makes the comments above.

      1. Robbiedo*

        Yeah, I had nothing to do with those aspects of the campaign- couldn’t have been further from them actually.

        1. fposte*

          I wonder if it’s not just a partisanship thing but also a loser thing, like if you were coming from Countrywide or AIG only worse and more personal. Some losing candidates are more punchlined than others, and it could be people are stupidly not letting go of that.

          Not that that helps you deal with it, I’m afraid, but that might be why it’s coming up in fields that wouldn’t seem to have strong partisan issues.

  14. FiveNine*

    Wow. Just, wow! Is there a way to very quickly turn the tables in those situations, I wonder? I’m not sure precisely what your responsibilities were, but really, if you traveled as an executive assistant or any kind of executive staff member with the presidential candidate you should be an extremely attractive prospective employee to any CEO or high-profile personality (including celebrities) that needs demonstrated excellence and fierce protection of confidentiality by employees in a fast-paced and high-profile environment. All of that is aside from the obvious positions you might seek with other politicians at either the state or national level.

    I’m floored, honestly.

  15. KayDay*

    (I am assuming you aren’t applying to the DNC or

    As a card-carrying member of the winning team, this is ridiculous. I work for a boss who I secretly suspect is part of your team, but we share the same views that related to our job, so it’s not an issue. at all. (and I say secretly suspect because we’ve never actually discussed our political views about things other than work). Most reasonable people would be impressed by your experience. Campaigns are infamous for being very competitive and grueling environments.

    There some organizations that, while not political in nature, might have a staff that swings predominately in one direction. If that’s the case, I think it’s fair if the employer said something like, “we have a predominately liberal staff. Are you comfortable working in that sort of environment?” but to suggest you move to another state or to ask how to spin your experience is ridiculous.

    1. AP*

      Agreed on that last part. The political views on my office swing from “die hard liberal” to “we should give Iran nuclear advice just to be fair,” and everyone is pretty open about that. So I think if I was interviewing someone whose work history showed a significant lean in the other direction, I might at least ask to make sure they’d be comfortable in environment like that. And to be honest, I would want to make sure they weren’t going to try to engage Mr. Bossman in long debates every day, because we’ve all heard enough of those. After that, the only question is really whether you can do the job I’m hiring for.

      1. Jamie*

        From an office culture POV this is an interesting point.

        I’m uncomfortable hearing people’s political views at work even when I happen to agree with them. It’s just not something I want to discuss or have foisted upon me at work…I put it in with religion and how much I paid for my house in the category of things my co-workers don’t need details about.

        Nothing to hide – I’ve run into a co-worker at church, but that doesn’t mean I want to say a novena with them before the budget meeting.

        That said – nothing wrong with people discussing it at work as long as the decisions are made based on the work and not intolerance from any side.

        1. KayDay*

          My work isn’t necessarily political, but it does deal with government and policy to a certain degree. So it does come up, often indirectly. I’ve worked anywhere where people openly debate candidates, but people also don’t hide there beliefs. So you will hear things like, “I think Mittarak Romnama’a support of continuing tariffs on cocoa powder would damage the chocolate teapot industry.”

          At the same time, I would find it highly inappropriate for people to take this too far and personally attack candidates or their supporters, e.g. “Romnama is a d!ck for supporting cocoa powder tariffs and your an idiot for supporting him.”

          1. KayDay*

            holy typo batman! I meant to say, “I’ve NEVER worked anywhere where people openly debate candidates….” /facedesk

            1. Mike C.*

              I have, and it was awesome. And frankly it was the only nice thing I can say about my previous job.

              So at lunch, there was a table of older scientists who called themselves the “dinosaur club”. They’d get together and argue about the politics of the day and I chimed in enough that they asked that I sit with them. My opinions and theirs were most of the time opposites, but here’s the thing:

              1. Nothing was personalized.
              2. At the end of the day, there was an understanding and a mutual respect for the fact that while we saw the world differently, we had good intentions behind those beliefs.
              3. It’s ok if there are some things you can’t come to an agreement on.

              I get that work is usually not the place to do this, but it made me realize that we aren’t as polarized as many would make us out to believe. And frankly, I think it would do us all some good to have these sorts of discussions more often, when appropriate.

              1. khilde*

                Love your list. That’s so true and really good points for all of us to keep in mind!! I also agree that when we have to look another person in the eyes and start talking about our perspectives, the polarization we might feel while watching TV or behind a screen melts away. I think you realize you’re talking to another person and suddenly find you have more in common than not when you get to the heart of it.

    2. likesdesifem*

      Even if the organisations that the OP applies have predominantly liberal staff, unless she is pushing conservative beliefs on them, I don’t see how it should be an issue. I think in general, people shouldn’t really discuss politics at work anyhow.

      That said, whilst it’s not acceptable IMO, recruiters often do use political bias in hiring decisions, and wouldn’t recruit or even selection somebody of a rival political party or ideology. I don’t think a professional recruiter would do this, but to say it never happens is being naive.

      1. Anonymous*

        likesdesifem: someone asked about this yesterday and now I am wondering – does your user name mean “likes desi fem” as in “I like southeast asian females?” if so, that seems inappropriate for this site. it’s not a dating site.

  16. Apostrophina*

    I’m not sure the question about working with people who have opposing political views is all that bad: a campaign job like the one OP describes requires being focused, politically vocal and maybe a little bit zealous. You probably end up saying a lot of things in a workplace like that which would be out of place in the private sector, and a person might have to re-acclimatize briefly in a mild-mannered office environment.

    But is sounds like the question could have been phrased better, and the other questions are just obnoxious.

  17. Natalie*

    I’m curious if these reactions are coming from in-house recruiters, or from independent recruiters, i.e. from a staffing agency. If these are external recruiters, I wonder if they feel like they are being straight with you and don’t realize how obnoxious they’re coming across. I personally question their assumption that this is an issue they need to spin, but people do seem to love to stereotype every which way.

  18. Meg Murry*

    When OP says recruiters, does he mean hiring managers at companies? Or does he mean 3rd party recruiters that work at placement agencies? Because some 3rd party recruiters just aren’t that great, honestly, so if they make comments like that, you might as well just leave because you probably aren’t going to get good connections/ interviews out of them.
    But in fairness, is there any possible way to re-write the resume to simply say “Presidential Campaign Executive Administrator” and completely leave off which candidate it was, to eliminate some of the snark? Obviously that won’t work as well if you did things that are known to be unique to your candidate, but its something to consider.
    Last, could you work your political connections to see if you could find a staff position in the office of someone in your party? Or a lobbying group who supports the same issues as your candidate? They might see your work on the campaign as an asset and commitment to their cause, not a negative.

    1. Robbiedo*

      I’m still trying to network with colleagues but I do not want to work in politics/ live in DC.

  19. Bagworm*

    I worked for a couple of years at Planned Parenthood and before I took the job I did think about the possible impact on my career having that on my resume and I have been told by more than one individual/company (including my alma mater) that I was not considered for a position because I don’t share their values. I don’t think it should happen and it’s unfortunate that it does but I always just chalk it up to a place I wouldn’t want to work any way.

    1. COT*

      My conservative Catholic university denied a much-loved professor tenure (allegedly) because she had worked at Planned Parenthood in the past. Working for controversial organizations/campaigns totally can tarnish your resume even when it’s not fair and has zero bearing on your ability to excel at the job in question.

      1. Jamie*

        I see this differently, though. A religious institution should be able to screen based on shared beliefs…because it is a religious organization. The same as if it were a political organization they should be able to screen for shared beliefs. It’s when it’s irrelevant that it becomes an issue.

        Planned Parenthood shouldn’t be an issue in a secular workplace, just as a political leanings shouldn’t be an issue in an non-political workplace.

        1. T*

          I don’t think it’s that surprising that a Catholic university would have reservations hiring a professor who had worked previously for Planned Parenthood ….

          1. COT*

            Totally understandable–it’s within their rights, whether or not I personally thought it was a wise choice. Like Bagworm said, it’s just important for people to be aware that certain employment choices may limit their options in the future, especially for employers with religious/political/etc. slants.

          2. KayDay*

            While I agree that it’s the university’s perogative, things do get a bit muddy when talking about many Catholic universities. There are many Catholic universities that do not emphasize religion as a primary aspect of their mission….but then clamp down on following “the rules” from time to time (ahem, birth control). In cases of universities that make religion central to their mission (some even have students/faculty sign “statements of faith”), it’s totally understandable, but for universities that only pay lip service to their religious affiliation it gets a little bit shady when they suddenly decide to make decisions based off of their religious affiliation.

            1. Jamie*

              It gets sticky because of funding from the diocese.

              Money filters up through local parishes to the diocese which funds (in small part) Catholic schools including universities.

              So the money donated was given in faith and so operating in contradiction to the tenets of the church would make that a very messy issue.

              (and the tenets of the Church can vary greatly from some personally held beliefs of individual members. That’s where personal conscious comes in at least for Catholics – but when you donate money you expect it will be used in keeping with the profession of belief.)

              And this applies not just to Catholics, but any institution which is taking funds from a religious group. Whether it’s family or funding like this – most of the time when people gift you money it comes with strings attached.

  20. Steve*

    Warning – snark alert.

    Q: “are you going to be able to work with people who have opposing political views?”

    A: “Yes, are you?”

      1. Jamie*

        At least dogs will forgive you instantly for that. The cats remember and then next time you’re taking a nap…they will wake you.

  21. Chinook*

    My heart goes out to you because it really is hard to convince close-minded people that you are more than the stereotyped image they have of you or that it may be to their advantage to have some diversity when it comes to political views within their organization. I ran into this problem in Ottawa when people heard I was from Alberta – they immediately saw me as a conservative, unilingual redneck who blindly follows are current Prime Minister’s ideas. (Whether or not that is me is neither here nor there).

    Just remember – these opinions tell you more about the speaker than they tell the speaker about you. And, really, do you want to work for/with someone like that?

    1. Chriama*

      Well now the Conservatives are in power so you’re on the winning team lol.
      Sorry, I know it’s off topic but I always have to chime in when I hear people are from Alberta b/c my hometown is Calgary :)

  22. HR Guy*

    Personally, I would heed Alison’s last bit of advice and flag any employer that would ask those sorts of questions using unprofessional tone, wording, etc. It would definitely help you avoid further communication with jerk recruiters/employers.

  23. Tiff*

    Ya know….I think that if some person wants to call and talk about a job prospect and they float into derogatory or otherwise stupid conversation, that it’s totally ok to just say:

    “I’d like to focus on the skills that I’ve developed in those positions instead of personal political views.”

    Perhaps it will gently remind the recruiter that they are calling to do a job, not heckle a candidate. How lame of them.

  24. Beth*

    Poster: you must have wicked skills to work at that level. A recruiter who doesn’t see that is doing his clients a disservice. I hope you find something awesome.

  25. MF*

    I’m curious, like many others, about whether these are in-house recruiters or external recruiters… because if they’re in-house, I’d think that’s telling you a lot about what the culture might be like. (Particularly if they’re saying things like “are you going to be able to work with people who have opposing political views?”… because honestly, that’s a pretty valid question, depending on the org.)

    On the other hand, if these are external recruiters, and you’re mostly looking for positions in the business world (rather than, say, an exec assistant at a non-profit, where the culture might be very liberal, despite the mission of the non-profit having no obvious political slant), then that’s just really unfortunate and unprofessional of them. I work in politics (on the opposite side of the aisle from you), and didn’t vote for your candidate, but if I were hiring (at some new non-political job), and I saw your resume, I imagine I’d be impressed by the intensity of the work you did – because I’ve worked on campaigns, and I know how hard it can be! I hope you soon encounter some recruiters/hiring managers who can just see your experience for what it is – excellent preparation for being an executive assistant!

  26. the gold digger*

    And this is why I didn’t want to tell anyone last summer that the reason I was returning to work after a glorious six-year break was because my husband was taking an unpaid leave of absence to run for state-level office and someone had to be making money in our house. I just did not want to get into politics with anyone.

    1. Jean*

      Can I assume that you and your husband have different last names? No snark here; I just can’t imagine how you could stay anonymous otherwise unless so many other people in your area have the same family name that your potential employers would not immediately recognize you as Spouse of Statewide Candidate.

      More non-snark: I don’t have any opinions re whether married folk do or don’t keep, change, or combine their pre-marriage names. I suppose that some arrangements could get challenging for present-day onlookers with poor memories, or future geneaological researchers.

      1. The gold digger*

        I did change my name legally when we married, although I have regretted it ever since and use my maiden name socially. But for my job interviewing, I used my married name because I couldn’t think of a way around it.

        However, nobody was paying attention or nobody cared. My husband was running for state-level office, but nobody outside of our district cared except the most rabid politicos.

        My boss lives 70 miles away and commutes. Another co-worker lives 50 miles away. Another one hates politics and won’t pay attention. And the last one was also out of our district. So after the election, when I mentioned something about how my husband had run, nobody said ‘boo.’

        Which I thought was odd, because I would have had all kinds of questions for the spouse of a candidate, such as, “Did your husband sleep around during the campaign? That seems to be what politicians do” and “How do you get people to give you money?” I don’t have an answer for that one.

        As far as the sleeping around, I don’t know how campaigning politicians have the time or energy for affairs. They must start with some light flirtations in their early campaigns and work their way up.

        What made it really interesting is that my husband and I do not share political views. And yet I was running a lot of his campaign. (Which is why I think it’s nuts that these companies aren’t interested in the LW: it takes a lot of organization and influence management to run a political campaign. It’s a pressure cooker and there are a ton of things to do and there is no time to do them, even at our puny level. If the LW can do what she did, then she would be a real asset to anyone needing an executive assistant.)

        PS No snark detected or taken!

      2. Al Lo*

        Our marriage certificate is dated a month prior to our actual wedding, because of a clerical error by the officiant when he was filling out the license.

        We didn’t catch the error when filing at the registry office to get the actual marriage certificate, and while there was a 60-day window to make changes without a fee, we opted not to do that, since we’d booked a trip for 3 months after the wedding under my married name, and I needed the marriage certificate sooner that the change would have been processed in order to get my new passport (I deliberately booked it that way so that it would keep me on-the-ball when it came to changing all of the documentation in a timely manner).

        Long story short, we decided to keep our two anniversaries — our legal one and our actual one — and my mother has annual conniptions about this, since she’s an amateur genealogist and is convinced that we’ve just made it much more difficult for someone down the line to research our family easily and accurately.

        1. Jessa*

          If your mother is really up about it, perhaps she can pay the fee to have it fixed? Or is it now such a tangle of bramble and thorn that it’s impossible to straighten out?

          1. Al Lo*

            Nah, it’s more that we’ve kept it the way it is because it’s a good story, and she thinks it’ll be confusing to future generations. Conniptions was probably too strong a word, but she does roll her eyes at us every year when we hit our “legal” anniversary — and then wishes us a very happy anniversary a month later.

  27. MiketheRecruiter*

    I’m a recruiter and I would kill to see that experience on a resume. Unfortunately, a good portion of staffing agency recruiters are unprofessional, uneducated and can’t keep emotions out of business. A good recruiter shouldn’t have to spin someone who has worked in what was likely one of (if not the) highest pressure, most visible, and most exciting executive admin roles possible.

  28. polisci*

    I work in politics, and I was confused by this. Honestly, with this kind of experience, why the heck are you working with recruiters?! Now’s the time to be schmoozing with all of the contacts you made during the campaign. Make appointments to go out to coffee or send them a short email with your resume in case they know of any openings – that’ll get you much further, at least in my experience!

    1. Robbiedo*

      There are a lot of things I could say but in short, I do not want to continue working in politics.

      1. E*

        Nothing wrong with that, but you might be underestimating the ability of your contacts/network to help connect you with non-political jobs. At the very least, any personal connection to a job opening is going to put you one step ahead of a recruiter who can’t get past the R on your resume.

        1. Anonymous*

          Didnt the guy himself work with one of the top consulting companies earlier??? These guys know everybody whos anybody in the business world….has to give you leads, unless you are not in a position to tap this network…

    2. anonymouspublicservant*

      This is a really interesting discussion. What if you ARE the candidate/politician/public servant who won last year, but it is a small time, local, barely paid PT job, and you are using it because 1) you are truly interested and you want to give back to your community but 2) you also need a FT job….now you’re worried how it will reflect. So far, I think most people think it is cool. Not sure if industries who expect you to work 24/7 will appreciate it though (Sorry, I have to leave at 7 pm Tuesday because I have a Town Hall Meeting in half an hour…..)

  29. Sniper*

    It says more about the recruiter(s) than yourself if they hold your political affiliation against you.

    There are many, many employers that don’t care about your political beliefs. Just keep at it…you will find one.

  30. Steph*

    Perhaps it makes sense to spin this discussion into more of a jobs-based discussion – like Alison suggested. What I mean by this is focusing on the fact that you took the opportunity to work for a very high-level executive, on a very demanding schedule…leave the political piece out of it altogether….and focus on the skills that you built, how you were valued, the types of meetings you had to arrange on short notice, the confidentiality that you had to keep, etc.. When asked about your political views (or even when you begin the conversation), you can simply refer to the fact that you “saw the opportunity and jumped on it to build your exec admin skills, regardless of your personal political preferences.” I see this as being neutral – sure, the interviewer may interpret that you’re saying, “I didn’t vote for the guy, it was just the job” but on the other hand, it’s not really their business if you vote left, right, or for your write-in candidate, Snoopy the Dog. [Signed, I voted for him too!]

    Alison, would it be a no-no to simply use “US Presidential Candidate” instead of the politician’s name on a resume? That would at least put you in control of the message.

    1. MF*

      While I can’t speak for the OP, it would be very, very unusual for someone to have such a high-profile, working closely with the candidate position without having a fair bit of previous work for that political party (or candidates from that party, obviously). You could definitely try to spin it that way… but anyone who knows much about political campaigns would know that is, at the very least, disingenuous.
      I would say definitely focus on the skills you gained and improved, experiences you had, but to act as if you took the job entirely unrelated to your political views risks coming across as lying. (Also – you shouldn’t have to deny that, because for most jobs, it shouldn’t matter!)

    2. Natalie*

      I think the problem with obscuring the candidate’s name is that working for one of the 2 major party candidates is, frankly, worlds beyond working for a 3rd party or fringe candidate.

      1. Jamie*

        Right – and not politically but just in terms of what the work experience was (which I am assuming is what you meant.)

        A major campaign vs working for me and my $200 budget where I run on a platform to get Kitty made the official anime character of the USA…and you arrange our one stop to pass out flyers (and get bagels) at Dunkin Donuts…

        And of course that’s hyperbole, but without a name there is no way to evaluate the experience.

        Hiding the name would shortchange the OP from some truly awesome experience.

        1. Natalie*

          Oh, yeah, I wasn’t even thinking about the political aspects of the different, just the actual work experience. It’s like the public sector equivalent of Fortune 100 and, well, not.

  31. Steph*

    I guess the other thing that I’d suggest is contact the candidate and ask HIM for some assistance with looking for a job. Assuming that you did a fantastic job, he’s going to point you to people who might not be asking you those types of questions. :-)

  32. Luke*

    I’ve worked for many political candidates. Some have lost, and some have won. But I know why I was working for them, and it had nothing to do with “seeing the insides” of anything. It had to do with making change. If you aren’t prepared to be branded with a candidate and defend him for the rest of your career, you probably shouldn’t work for him.

    1. E*

      Sure, but being branded doesn’t mean it’s okay for a recruiter 1. to make snide comments about it and 2. to eliminate you from consideration for a non-political job solely on that basis. Everybody has political preferences, but a candidate applying for a non-political job should be given the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he’s applying for and doesn’t see the job as a covert way to “make change.” Plenty of political folks burn out and want nothing to do with that type of workplace after the fact, no matter what their personal beliefs are.

    2. bearing*

      It’s not the candidate you ought to be prepared to defend, but your own role *during the campaign.* Candidates often behave very differently once the campaign is over; is it OP’s fault if the candidate OP worked for goes on to look bad for some other reason?

  33. MiketheRecruiter*

    One way you could go about this (I work in tech recruiting which has lots of slimy things like NDAs, and non competes, and vengeful bosses who put out ransoms when they find out resumes are floating around)…


    Executive Adminstrator
    Confidential Candidate (US Politcal Campaign)

    Served as an executive adminstrator functioning on the Presidential campaign for a highly visible candidate in 2012…etc.

    If they pry which candidate, I would say “due to the NDAs I’ve signed/the highly confidential nature of the work i was exposed to, I’m not at liberty to divulge the candidate in this initial phone screen but i would be happy to speak more about it in the future”…

    But that’s just my .02

    1. MF*

      Since you’re a recruiter, I will certainly take your word for it that doing that wouldn’t raise any red flags for you. However, NDAs when working for actual political campaigns (as opposed to a consulting or compliance firm, where confidentiality is more common) are pretty much unheard of…. Because expenditures on staff are public, you can’t really hide who’s working for you. I’m not saying the OP couldn’t/shouldn’t do that… but it’s just not something that’s really common enough to make sense, at least to me. (But again, that’s just my .02)

    2. -X-*

      Mike, you suggestion is weak. No way is the info of who you worked for “confidential”, and trying to position it as such will look, at best, silly. The work you did might be confidential, but not the fact you did such work for that campaign.

      Plus if you start talking about an NDA saying you can’t mention you worked for the candidate, and you didn’t actually sign one like that, you’d be lying, which is worse.

  34. Liz T*

    The funniest part is the shock that someone might be affiliated with one of the TWO MAJOR PARTIES. My students did this recently, saying they didn’t understand how someone could hate [extremely polarizing politician]. I wanted to say, “Really? Have you not heard of…Democrats?” If you’re shocked by the very idea that a candidate might be a Republican, you have a problem understanding basic statistics.

  35. PEBCAK*

    Okay, I guess everyone is assuming that we are talking about the losing presidential candidate, but what if it was someone way, way, way more extreme? I really feel that there are candidate names or political issues that I would see on a resume and immediately put them in the round file.

    I am *not* at all trying to compare a mainstream GOP candidate to a crazy extremist; I’m just saying that at some point things cross from “difference of opinion” into “bad judgment”, and I’m not quite sure exactly where that point is, but it exists (somewhere between Mitt Romney and David Duke?).

    1. MF*

      I assumed that because the OP said “the loser” he/she meant Romney… but I agree, if it was someone much more extreme, then I could understand some of the reactions.

      1. Jamie*

        The problem is that some people will put voting for “the other” (whomever the other happens to be for them) in the same category of working on Hitler’s posthumous campaign.

        I am of the belief that reasonable people can look at issues and come to different conclusions about the best way to tackle those issues or the best person to lead the charge. That doesn’t make people who disagree with me idiots, morons, evil, or whatever. That’s why I have a problem with a lot of workplace discussions of this stuff. If it were as civilized as Mike C’s experience then yes, it could be fun and even beneficial…but too often in my experience it’s made personal and people get combative.

        Some people don’t understand that you can feel strongly about your own convictions and still respect the fact that others feel differently. Heck, I may not even always be right – but even if I’m not…I’m not evil or moronic and that’s the danger of workplace discussions oftentimes.

        1. PEBCAK*

          It really depends on the issue, IMO. There are some opinions that show a real lack of critical thinking skills and/or questionable character.

      2. PEBCAK*

        Right, I am talking more in a general sense than for this particular OP. If someone was working for a hateful candidate, it would absolutely color my opinion of him, and I make no apologies for that.

    2. Liz T*

      “The loser” rather than “a loser” suggests that we’re not talking about Gary Johnson.

      Also, I doubt recruiters are reacting this violently to Virgil Goode, as I myself did not know he was a candidate until I Googled the ballot just now.

      1. Liz T*

        (Which is not to liken either man to David Duke. Those are the only two national candidates who might be disliked by stereotypical Californians.)

  36. BCW*

    To play devil’s advocate, I can somewhat see their apprehension. I have plenty of friends who have differing political views that we get along fine. Then I have acquaintances (Facebook friends or friends of friends) who are far more radical in their support of one side/bashing of the other. I have to assume that if you actually worked for that party, you’d be a little more on the extreme side. So depending on the type of place it is there are certain things that that side was totally against, which would give me pause about bringing someone in. Now I think it was not very tactful the way they did it, but it happens. Here is an example, I worked at a Zoo once. If someone worked at a high level at PETA then applied to the zoo (which did happen actually) it would be irresponsible to not question how well they could separate the 2.

    1. T*

      YES TO THIS! My brother works in the horse industry, and they once hired a groom who had previously worked for PETA. During a major horse show, the groom went into the stables and tried to liberate several of the horses … in California …. right next to the highway. Luckily, none of the horses were injured, but my brother said he and the other trainers decided to never hire another PETA activist after that :p

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For what it’s worth, PETA has never, to my knowledge, themselves liberated animals from labs, farms, etc. So it sounds you like had a rogue activist there, and it’s not about PETA. (And the people I know at PETA were way too smart to do something like that right next to a highway — that’s obviously absurd.) PETA tends to be the group that gets tagged for anything like this, because they’re the name people know, but that doesn’t mean they’re the ones doing it.

        I do not want to host a debate on PETA here, but I do want to potentially correct the record since they were cited here.

        1. BCW*

          Well whether or not they would free the animals, the point is in general they are against zoos and other places that keep animals in captivity. So I don’t think questioning it at that point is a bad thing

      2. Jane*

        This reminds me of when I was deciding between law schools. I ran into a lawyer who advised against going to one of the top law schools (the one I eventually chose) because her company determined that people from that school were socially awkward and refused to hire them. I think that was pretty silly but of course the company was basing this on its experience with, at most, a handful of people who happened to go to that school and who were not a good fit for her company. It’s not unusual for people to make assumptions about a large group of people based on experiences with a few. Misguided and irrational, but sadly not uncommon.

    2. E*

      Yeah, but I think the only way that analogy works is if the candidate is applying to left-leaning organizations. Plus, in my experience, most people who make a living working as political staffers aren’t the bombastic ones. Fanatical staffers do not make their bosses look good, especially when their boss inevitably needs to compromise on a policy position.

    3. Henning Makholm*

      I’m not sure I buy this.

      It doesn’t seem plausible that an extremely rabid/radical/scary person would be able to work efficiently as close to the center of a campaign as the OP seems to have. Someone in that position is bound to get at least to listen to strategic/tactical discussions about which points to stress and which points to downplay and how to adjust the course during the campaign, etc. That seems to call for someone with a sense of perspective and a flexible approach to which political points are important when — i.e. the opposite of a zealot.

      1. E*

        ^^ this. I worked on the Hill, and people would be surprised by how moderate/tempered most long-time political staffers are when they’re talking policy. Strongly held opinions, yes. Rabid fanaticism, no. Now, the interns…

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In my experience, staffers for politicians are frequently more moderate than the extreme wings of their party (in part because they better understand what’s realistic and the necessity of compromise).

      1. The gold digger*

        In my limited experience, this is the case. We hired two consultants to help with my husband’s campaign. My husband and I do not agree on many political issues, but the consultants (one of whom is now a staffer for a state representative) and I agreed on many issues. They were both quite moderate.

  37. Anon in NorCal*

    I won’t defend what the OP has experienced, but I am not at all surprised. If you are in the Bay Area itself, we actually have no elected officials on that side of the fence at the federal or state level, throughout the 9-county area. (Which would also explain why OP would not realistically be able to get a job here that relates to politics.) It is unfortunate that you are encountering closed-minded people, but they may be thinking that you do nothing positive for them given the politics in this area. I agree with those that are suggesting a shift to job-specific matters.

  38. Katie the Fed*

    A new guy showed up at my office last year, and we asked about his background. He mentioned working for the senate. We pressed on – what kind of work? “A member.” Oh! Which member?

    “Rick Santorum”


    1. Elizabeth*

      In that case, I’d be concerned if that were the guy’s latest work experience, considering that Mr Santorum was defeated in 2007.

    2. Lillie Lane*

      So no one in your group was gracious about it? I have met people that worked on campaigns for candidates I absolutely loathed, but I would immediately say, “Wow, that’s really interesting. Tell me about it!” The discussion inevitably would be fascinating and was a great networking opportunity because I didn’t burn that bridge.

      1. Jean*

        Being able to remain civil and redirect a conversation from Big Disagreement (with a long, long half-life) to productive, team-building Discovery of Mutual Interests are both essential skills for the workplace. Without these you might survive, but you, your coworkers, and your unit/division/organization are probably not going to thrive.

  39. Gobbledigook*

    I agree with what others have said about going the route of networking through the contacts you gained working on the campaign. That sounds like a much better option, not to mention you probably won’t have to deal with any of this kind of bashing since most likely those contacts will have seen your work and will also be of the same political stripes. I’m not saying to try to avoid looking outside your circle; people will always have an opinion especially when it comes to politics and that should never stop you from taking a career path of your choice, it’s more that going from the position you had to random recruiters feels like taking a step back in the sense that you aren’t harnessing the potential contacts and opportunities gained from your work experience.

  40. Chriama*

    Ok, I’m in university right now but even in school they teach us about the “hidden job market”. I also just read some book that talked about the “strength of weak ties”, and the majority of people who get jobs through connections get them from acquaintances (as in, you see them less than once a month), NOT friends.

    Considering you worked in a high-profile role, I’m assuming you spent a lot of time interacting with people who were not politicians, like their private industry supporters.

    You should be actively pursuing your extended network.

  41. JC*

    I agree with Alison and the general consensus here. I mean, if working for the losing political side means you’re unemployable, there will be lots of talented, hardworking people who are unemployed!

    That being said, I want to share “Red State, Blue State” episode from This American Life with everyone. Being a Canadian, I was shocked at some of the stories of how bipartisan some Americans can be…going to the length of ending long-term meaningful friendships over it! Sadly, this is the reality for many people.


  42. Anony1234*

    .I have heard stories about how one party would treat another party at work, even if the office was not in the political arena. When a staff member’s candidate lost, the rest of the staff treated the office as if they were at a funeral because they thought the one staff member was going to blow her cork over the loss. I get that they didn’t want to rub her nose in it, but to some degree, she was insulted that they would treat her like that. While she wasn’t happy about the candidate’s loss in the election, she certainly handled it with the maturity they should have never doubted she had.

    I’m sure this door can swing the other way too. I wonder if it happens in which the 2012 campaign staff on Obama’s side has a hard time finding a job because they’ve run into conservative managers.

    1. Chriama*

      I feel like maybe candidates on the winning campaign would have more obvious opportunities available by virtue of being on the winning team. Like, they might have more people proactively extending them offers or referring them to openings.

      1. E*

        They typically do, especially on a presidential campaign, and especially when your party controls at least one house of Congress. Even with an incumbent’s campaign, there’s typically turnover in between cycles.

  43. Anonymous*

    Irrational. Reminds me of when we got Direct TV in winter 2007. Had a great picture until the spring. Found out that our satellite couldn’t get a signal when the trees grew in. Their answer: cut the trees down. Our house backs to a wooded area with tall trees. End of story…they let me out of my contract after I got done with them.

      1. Anonymous*

        I was relating to the advice from recruiters that OP job search out of state. Some people make irrational statements. I know this doesnt have anything to do with OPs job situation; just reminded me of how people say stupid things.

  44. Steve G*

    A usual response in the comments on this blog is “wow that person is totally inappropriate,” instead of admitting the person in question has a valid point, but is just going about it the wrong way.

    I’d do 3 things:
    1) accept your candidate made some major gaffes during the campaign and didn’t speak to the “47%,” and made alot of sweeping generalities as well as flat-out mistakes in many speeches. You should be prepared to talk about how you worked w/ the candidate to minimize damage done by these, and to educate them on public speaking, framing messages, having a coherent view on a point, etc.
    2) Think through your prior experience w/ the candidate and decide whether any of these gaffes were foreseeable.
    3) If they were foreseeable, you need to frame this that you did job more for the position than the candidate. If the gaffes wereunforeseeable, I would explain how the credibility of the candidate changed during your campaign work, or you were not aware of certain issues until you were too deep in the campaign.

    I would view this situation as the same as working for any boss that did not manage well. After all, he did promise to grow the job market by 12 million one day, then say another day that government does not create jobs. Politics aside – lets call the candidate “manager” – a manager that gives such divulgent messages does not sound ready to lead, so I think it is legitimate to address in interviews at least how you felt working for someone with such a mixed message.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It doesn’t sound like the OP’s position involved advising the candidate on any of those things, so that’s not reasonable to expect him to do. Furthermore, not everyone agrees with the perspective you lay out here on the campaign or the positions it took, so it’s not reasonable to expect a campaign staffer to do a mea culpa just to get another job, particularly if the OP’s job was unrelated to campaign strategy (for instance, if he was a body man or did scheduling).

      1. Robbiedo*

        My position did not involve advising the candidate on any level, whatsoever.

        When I Asked A Manager my question, I had attached my resume. (I was actually hoping to get in the $99 review thing a few weeks ago but missed the cutoff).

        I don’t want to have to defend or make sense of what the candidate said or did. I want to talk about my role, how the experience highlighted my talent and how it made me a better administrator.

    2. nyxalinth*

      Reading this makes me think that they might be reacting less to the candidate and maybe seeing it in terms of “You were in his campaign, didn’t you nor anyone else try to coach him to not say/do the things that he did?” and seeing it as something which fairly or unfairly might come into your work with them. Employers, especially in this market, have nitpicked over lesser things, so I think it’s worth considering.

    3. darsenfeld*

      My understanding is that the OP is being denied a position merely on the basis that she served on Romney’s campaign. So in essence it’s because s/he worked for the Republicans, and the recruiter is a liberal/Democrat and thus hates Republicans.

      That said, I don’t agree with your comments, since recruitment decisions should be as fair and unbiased as possible. If denying recruits based on political beliefs is valid, then why not on sports teams (if one lists this in their CV hobbies/interests)? Maybe a Real Madrid fan is a recruiter and the recruit is a Barcelona fan (I’m in Europe and these are European football teams that are rivals). What if a recruiter is highly pious/religious and never drinks alcohol, and a recruit used to work in a brewery? I doubt any HR professional who works in recruitment would cite those examples as professional, fair or even ethical practice.

      1. BCW*

        Its already been established on this board that denying someone a job based on those things is totally legal. Is it a valid reason? Again I think it really depends on the industry you are in.

    4. E*

      “I would view this situation as the same as working for any boss that did not manage well.” Doesn’t sound like it, because I doubt you’d advise a non-political candidate to apologize for or bash a former manager. In any interview, it’s your skills, not your manager’s skills or lack thereof, that you’re trying to convey.

      1. Lillie Lane*

        +1. Based on Steve G’s rationale, I would have to explain to interviewers why exactly my current boss is an epic tool with no tact or filter….and then cite examples of how I worked with him to minimize the damage he did by sexually harassing my coworker.

        Why should an employee be responsible for their manager’s behavior? This is crazy.

  45. Rachelle*

    I can sympathize. Back in 2005, I was on the job market with a new degree and experience working for the Howard Dean campaingn. While Houston, TX is actually fairly Democratic, the hiring managers in oil and gas were not.

    I would stress that working in politics with an unpopular candidate gave me thick skin. Campaigning is much more about listening than preaching, and much of the listening entailed hearing all the negative details of your candidate and responding politely. I think this is the exact opposite that lay people expect when they see political activity on a resume.

    I also stressed that the work experience burned me out on the idea of politics as a career, and I was specifically in the market for a workplace environment free of the horse race.

    While I shouldn’t have had to apologize and make excuses for being a Democrat, it definitely helped me make the transition into an industry dominated by Republicans.

    Now I live in the Bay, and I’m still shocked how much pity I get for the fact that I have family members who vote Republican. It’s really very insular and weird. And completely unprofessional that they let that insularity creep into their jobs.

  46. bluefish*

    I’ll probably be blasted for this, but I can kind of see where these recruiters/hiring managers are coming from. Over the years, I have developed an increasingly negative view of the media and politics. During the most recent election season, it got to the point where every campaign commercial I heard made me want to throw the TV out the window. Part of me can’t understand how any rational human being could bring themselves to work in politics.

  47. blue dog*

    That’s too bad. Most people will kill for those connections.

    Unfortunately for all of us — this Blue Dog included — this was a hugely devise campaign. A lot of people dug in deeply. Your problem is that you are in Northern California and you “backed the wrong horse.” I would imagine if someone moved to Salt Lake and indicated that they worked on “No on 8” they would have similar issues.

    Hopefully, you will find a nice, moderate “Blue Dog” company that appreciates what you can bring to the table. Buena suerte.

  48. Judari*

    While I think the recruiter is way out of line saying “move to a different city” as it just is bottom line unprofessional and rude, I can’t help but think there might be some truth to it.

    I lived in Seattle and worked in the advertising industry. Hipster liberal tree-huggers abound. Even when I worked for a corporate agency during the re-election, we were encouraged to be PC as company policy, however it was clear that if there were any dissenters among us, they knew best to keep quiet. Depending how low or high up on the latter the position you are applying to it may vary but in general I think a person who was that involved in the opposing party’s team would be over looked over others.

    Our company especially, along with a lot of other independent agencies I worked with, was big on happy hours and we spent a ton of time with our co-workers as pulling long nights or traveling to client locations was a frequent occurrence. This wasn’t a place where you could just get by being cordial to your co-workers and keep your head down and do your 9-5 job. So I would understand why in agencies like that it would be important to have similar outlooks.

    However getting back to OP I don’t think that 3rd-party recruiters have the right to make that decision. They should pass on the resume like it was any other if OP meets qualifications. Let the hiring manger decide if that previous experience would not fit with the culture and whatever decision they come upon is just that. I don’t think it is a 3rd-party recruiter’s job to make that call.

    Although I think like in all things OP has to expect some push back on this. While personally I consider being that high up in any campaign to be an impressive feat if the company you are applying to is notoriously known for their opposite views it would be wise to realize it may negatively effect you. Just like if you apply to a company with the same views it could positively effect you and put you leaps and bounds ahead of your competition.

  49. Penny*

    Wow, that is just crazy! You should move to Texas, people would hire you fast here. I’m a liberal in a very conservative state so my coworkers are generally pretty conservative and occasionally Obama bashers, but we work great together. Sure there are some types of people who have to be overly outspoken at inappropriate times about their political beliefs, I’ve worked with a couple, but most people live and let live and keep their mouths shut just like I do all the time. I’d rather not discuss politics with coworkers anyway, but if it comes up, it doesn’t affect our relationship or our respect for each other.

    I would just address these concerns by saying you’ve successfully worked with people with a variety of political beliefs and try to focus on the unique experience of working on a presidential campaign and the challenges it brought.

  50. Athlum*

    I agree with Judari and others that the recruiters are being unnecessarily rude to you and it’s really the hiring manager’s call, but a less snarky message from the recruiters to the same effect (“this experience is going to give you difficulty in this market”) might be worth paying attention to — mentioning that particular candidate/presidential race on your resume could very well be costing you jobs in what you (reasonably) think are unrelated, non-political industries.

    Let’s say I work at Chocolate Teapots 501(c)3. Everyone needs and loves chocolate teapots; it’s a pretty apolitical concept. But my particular department specializes in making tea available to the underserved: we customize teapots for the homeless and folks with HIV/AIDS, we run some teapot making classes for teen moms, and we run an outreach program for LGBT chocolate teapot designers — and all of these clients tend to come in person to our offices at various times. If your resume winds up on my desk, I am going to think two things: one, *you* might not be a zealot, but someone who would choose to accept a job actively working to elect a Republican president in the present political climate is not likely to be someone whose values are deeply in line with our mission. And two, the recruiter who sent you to me probably doesn’t “get” us our our mission, and I’m more likely to trust candidates referred by other recruiters. See how that works?

    If the economy were different and we were hard up for good applicants, I might give you an interview anyway and ask you some really pointed questions about your comfort level working in the presence of your candidate’s “47%.” (And if I did, I would be open minded about your possible answers!) But in an economy where I’m flooded with applicants for your position and the other 99% haven’t worked for causes that are actively working to harm the people this part of my organization serves…

    tl;dr it’s not about YOUR political values per se (we don’t even know if you voted for your own candidate, and I wouldn’t ask!) — it’s about how your choice to take that job and work for that candidate reflects on your values, and seemingly unrelated/apolitical industries can nonetheless contain departments where an essential job function clashes with those values. If you’re worried about that, address it as best you can in your cover letter, or apply directly to organizations you know will be sympathetic to your candidate’s cause.

    1. Cimorene*

      Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was thinking, too.

      I don’t understand why people seem to believe that we can bracket politics from the rest of our lives, when we can’t. A HUGE part of the current political divide is about cultural/personal issues. The easiest example might be something like gay marriage–if I were hiring someone, even for a job in finance, and I saw that they worked for someone who actively fought marriage equality, I would be disinclined to hire them not because I hate Republicans, but because I wouldn’t want to feel uncomfortable at the company Christmas party when I bring my Big Gay Wife as my date. Even if the work itself is not relevant to my life or gay rights, as a Big Queer Person, I am not inclined to think well of someone who actively campaigned to limit my fundamental rights as a citizen. And it’s not like “gay rights” aren’t relevant to my job or to me as a worker, since I’m an actual human being whose rights are gay rights.

      Politics is personal, and so is hiring. I don’t get along with most conservatives because I’m very liberal, and politics are important to me–because things like being a Big Queer Person is important to me, since it’s a fundamental part of my identity. It’s not that I don’t like people who are different from me, so much as I don’t like people who want to limit my rights. I mean, that can’t possibly be difficult to understand, right? Some aspects of politics are actually not compartmentalizable, especially if you’re one of those people whose rights are getting trampled by certain parties. I can see that it would be irksome that one’s political affiliations are prejudicing some employers, but at the same time I am prejudiced against people who want to deny me full rights as a citizen. I’m also prejudiced against, like, biology teachers who refuse to teach evolution, people who kick puppies for fun, and people who think cake is superior to pie (weirdos).

      That said, my advice to the OP would be to stress that you want to get out of politics for a reason. Whether that has anything to do with your actual positions is irrelevant.

      1. bluefish*

        Yes! I was actually surprised reading these comments that I seemed to be in the minority opinion here. I can totally understand why these recruiters would have such a reaction to someone working for the political machine. I’m an independent (voted green), and ascribe to some liberal and some conservative views, but I find it abhorrent that someone can support a candidate that is against gay marriage (ie equal rights for all), and thinks that the government should have a say in women’s personal health decisions (contraception, abortion). The whole political scene in this country seems so irrational and ridiculous these days. If I saw someone worked so closely on a campaign that seeks to limits rights and take away some of our personal sovereignty, I wouldn’t want to hire them either.

  51. Litmus Test*

    Sorry, wayyyy late to the game, and hope OP has already found a job.

    But gay marriage is the issue. Quite frankly, OP, people will ascribe your candidate’s stated positions on issues to you and will assume you oppose gay marriage or, even worse, will have difficulty working with gay people or clients. (Or still worse — that you keep binders full of women!) And companies with policies explicitly designed to create a welcoming environment will be reluctant to hire anyone they think jeopardizes that environment or may be viewed as a liability.

    If you don’t actively oppose gay marriage and it would not be disingenuous to do so, I’d pay up some dues to AFER or HRC or equality orgs and put it on my resume as a signaling device so you don’t have to carry that stigma.

    Potentially polarizing work experience (gay marriage, abortion-related groups) is a liability sometimes. (I say this as a former political consultant with all kinds of partisan politics on my resume.) People are people and come with opinions and biases of their own and you won’t be in a position to shoot down stereotypes without getting an interview. And you’re applying in NorCal, a gay friendly metro area and a huge center of the gay rights movement. You can indeed probably increase your job offer rate if you extend your geography to red states.

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