Project Wonderful

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tips for Writing a Campaign Resume

A number of readers have written in asking how to put campaign experience down on a resume. When applying for campaign jobs (which are the only resumes I’ve reviewed and hired from) the rules are very similar to those we are taught in college, yet so often ignored that they’re worth going over again. In addition, I have included an excerpt from when I was a baby organizer, which has been edited by my mentors over the years, to give you and idea of how an organizer resume might look.

Keep it to one page-
If you are in a position where you are seeking my advice on what to put in your resume, there is no reason why you need a resume that is more than a page long (that said, it also should not be much shorter than a page). Use your cover letter to expound on what you learned and in your resume stick to what you did.

Use a professional email address- When I get an application from, I have an immediate bias against the applicant before I’ve even opened the attachment. It’s unprofessional to use anything other than your name or the name of your company (plus numbers or initials as necessary) in a business email and doing so shows you are out of touch with professional etiquette, even as such exists on a campaign. A school address or gmail is fine, but generally--and I know this may sound shallow-- aol, hotmail, and yahoo are looked down upon.

Tell the truth- We’re all taught to exaggerate on our resumes and by all means put your best foot forward, but remember that campaigns are a very small world. Your future boss will check up on your former employment so it better be legit. I once got a resume from a former paid canvasser on a campaign I had run, claiming that she had been an organizer on that campaign. Needless to say she did not get an interview.

Focus on your accomplishments- No one is going to hold you responsible for a loss (nor credit you for a win) if you were an organizer on a large race. Although of course it helps to be part of a race that has a reputation for a stellar field operation. But you can talk about your own personal accomplishments like building and training a volunteer base, running voter contact operations in your turf, or organizing a large event.

Use real numbers- Campaign people love real numbers! On a resume, they help cut through bullshit and highlight the value of the work you’ve done. “Organized event with Bill Clinton” is good “Organized 3,000 person event with Former President Clinton in under 3 days” is better.

Use Action words- Managed, Led, Created, Recruited, Designed, Built. Every bullet on your resume should start with an action word.

I’ve included an example from my own resume a couple of years ago. Because of blogspot limitations bullets run over and formatting looks incorrect, but on your resume most bullets should not go over one line and bullets should not be asterisks.

Lead Field Organizer, March 2007- January 2008, John Edwards for President, Iowa City, IA
*Built and supervised grassroots leadership teams and established campaign presence in four counties
*Coordinated voter contact program in most heavily Democratic county in Iowa
*Supervised five student interns and led student outreach program at Iowa’s largest university
*Organized and staffed 40+ community events and town hall forums with Senator Edwards and surrogates, including a 850+ person concert and rally
*Directed Get-Out-The-Caucus effort for 5 staging locations and 250+ volunteer shifts over 6 days

For more great tips check out this piece from FOCS, Evan Sutton at NOI.

Happy Hunting!

Nancy Leeds

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