Getting a Job or Internship with an MP
Part 1 – Applications: Creating a Winning CV & Cover Letter
Updated: 22 November 2008
Added: 26 February 2008
Compiling your CV
your Cover Letter
on Coming from the Constituency
So, the horror stories of long hours and low pay haven’t put you
off and you’re desperate to take your first steps down the path to Westminster
Village or into an MP’s constituency office. Whether you’re looking for an
internship or a full time permanent job, the difficult truth is that your
application will be competing with tens - or possibly hundreds - of others. This
W4MP Guide is to help you make your application stand out and to convince your
prospective employer to invite you for interview.
The MP or, more likely, his/her staffer will probably only give
your CV a very quick glance. A busy MP or Staffer with 50-100 CVs to look at
will make a very rapid decision whether they wish to take your application
Don’t be put off by the competitive nature of the application
process – focus on your USPs – Unique Selling Points! Even if you’re not as
experienced as some of the other applicants, the ability to demonstrate
commitment, enthusiasm, judgement, communications skills and a good work ethic
can be just as important.
Compiling your CV
CV to 2 sides – an MP doesn’t have time to read more than this and will probably
just get the impression you’re unable to be concise.
your CV in the most accessible way possible - many CVs are formatted in an order
which can be very frustrating for recruiting MPs. The most important thing to
remember is that the MP should not have to scrutinise your CV closely to be able
to see your most relevant experience. Too many CVs list educational experience
before work experience, and some even do this in chronological order, so that
the first thing the MP sees is your GCSE results! This is almost totally
irrelevant – what the MP wants to know is that you know what a researcher or
caseworker does and that you can demonstrate you can do it.
following format is quite standard:
– name, address, phone number and email address. You are not obliged to
include your date of birth.
a personal statement
– the intention of this is to provide an overview of who you are, what you
have been doing and what you want to achieve. A good, powerful personal
statement can create a positive first impression and get you in the ‘yes’ or
‘maybe’ pile without the employer having to go through your CV and pick out
the best bits.
Parliamentary intern with experience in speechwriting, constituency
casework and generating proactive portfolio-related press stories using a wide
range of parliamentary methods. A longstanding Conservative party member with
ambition and vision…
An experienced constituency caseworker with sound
political judgement and experience of grassroots local campaigning. An academic
background and interest in parliamentary procedure, looking for an opportunity
to experience working with the Parliamentary Labour Party…
most of your most relevant employment experience
– if you’ve already done an internship, flesh out what your duties were on
your CV. Many CVs use the same space talking about their lifeguarding duties
during the summer of 1999 as they do their recent 3 month internship in
Westminster. If you did a well rounded internship, why not split this
experience into sections, e.g. ‘Parliamentary Research’, ‘Constituency
Correspondence’ and ‘Media’ – show what you did under each heading and
support with examples.
bullet points to state what you did in the job (e.g. speechwriting) and
give an example to back it up (e.g. for Adjournment Debate on rural
transport 11/12/07) ***
Highlight any experience you’ve had with the Party
there’s place for this on your cover letter but when applying for jobs with
MPs, try and include it on your CV as well. Whether it was student politics,
helping out in local party fundraising or some grass-roots door knocking,
this experience demonstrates you have the commitment your future boss will
expect from you.
your education and qualifications
reverse chronological order.
an ‘interests’ section
but use it wisely. This can be a great opportunity to prove you’re a
well-rounded individual and not someone who lives for politics. Be specific
and try to be a bit different – everyone, by the way, enjoys swimming! If
you took a gap year, note down where you travelled to, especially if it was
to the developing world. There’s a big difference to employers between
‘independent travel in India, Pakistan and Tibet’ and lazing around on a
beach in Australia with your friends. Be careful though, not to give the
impression you’ve been struck down by the travel bug and are likely to jet
off round the world two months into the job!
you’ve done volunteering/campaigning for the party or for an NGO – for
example at university or abroad - include this. MPs love this sort of
references are ideal
can be listed as ‘available on request’ to save space or if you want to
ensure that they’re not approached before interview.
3. Writing your Cover Letter
*** Try and keep your cover letter to one side of A4. ***
Remember that the letter should augment your CV as it will be your CV that
the MP/Staffer looks at first. If they like the look of your CV, only then
will they flick through your letter.
The most important thing to remember when writing your cover letter is to
tailor it to the MP to whom you’re applying. If you’re doing lots of
applications at the same time this will make the whole process more
time-consuming but it will be worth it. Cover letters which aren’t tailored
to the job advertised will go straight in the bin. Work closely with the job
specification and description set out in the advert.
There are three basic areas you need to address in your cover letter:
Why you want to work for that particular political party
You might talk about the party’s philosophy, policy or practical way it
conducts itself. If you’re a member – say so. You might mention how you
got involved, what policies attracted you, what you think the party can
offer the country.
Why you want to work as a Parliamentary Researcher
Other possible jobs might be as a caseworker or organiser in the
constituency. Why do you want to do this job and not another political
job? This is where you demonstrate you know what the job involves. You
might mention the opportunity to conduct in-depth research, work on
legislation, generate pro-active media stories, run an All-Party
Group….the list is almost endless! It’s essential to use the job
description given in the advert to know what to address.
Why you want to work for that particular MP
What is it about the constituency that interests you? Do your research
and find out what local issues are important. You can do this by looking
on the MP’s website and accessing the area’s local papers via the
internet. If you’ve been to or lived in the constituency, say so. If you
can draw parallels between the constituency and another one you have
experience of, do so.
What it is about the MP’s portfolio that interests you? Again, research
what the portfolio involves. Why would you enjoy working on these
issues? What ideas you would like to pursue? What policies in this area
do you admire and why? Do you think the party’s policies on this
portfolio have any weaknesses?
If the MP you’re applying to doesn’t have a portfolio, then tailor your
cover letter to his/her interests. You can find these out simply by Googling
the MP or consulting
debates they have initiated or taken part in
Parliamentary Questions/Early Day Motions they have tabled
Party Groups they’re members of.
The MP’s own website should also give you a clue about their parliamentary
4. A Note on Coming
from the Constituency
the cost of living in London while working unpaid, many people are unable to
undertake a Westminster internship. While it’s still true that this is generally
the best route to a paid Parliamentary job (due to contacts as well as
experience) there can be productive ways around it. Applying for internships in
constituency offices can be very fruitful, or working as a caseworker or
organiser can be a stepping stone to Parliament for those who fancy relocating
to London. If you have constituency experience, play this to your best advantage
when applying for Westminster jobs. Although you don’t have Parliamentary
experience, you do have experience of grassroots politics and possibly
campaigning, and a hands-on understanding of how decisions in Parliament affect
to be able to demonstrate that you will make up for the lack of Parliamentary
knowledge by learning it, on the job and even before you start. Parliamentary
Questions, Early Day Motions and legislative procedure.
some places to start:
the Place Works:
Working on Public Bills:
Early Day Motions:
Robert Rogers and Rhodri Walters – ‘How Parliament Works’ – a real
Michael Rush – ‘Parliament Today’
Susan Child – ‘Politico’s Guide to Parliament’
if you need any help with jargon busting:
5. And finally….some buzzwords!
industry has recognised personal qualities it looks for in its employees and
politics is no different. If you can, try and demonstrate in your CV and cover
letter that you are:
Hardworking; Sound in political judgement; Committed;
Attentive to detail; Flexible; Trustworthy;
Reliable; Quick thinking; Understanding; A
good listener; An excellent communicator;
Able to show initiative; Able to work as part of a team;
Able to work independently and with minimal supervision;
Able to prioritise; Able to work to deadlines; Able to
work under stress/pressure, both long and short term.
Throughout your CV and cover letter, the key is in demonstrating that you know
what the job entails, that you have the right qualities and that you can apply
them with accuracy and enthusiasm. Each time you mention your personal
qualities, try and include an example to demonstrate. If you can credibly
support the argument you’re making, you’re a natural when it comes to politics!
Want a list of jobsearch websites? Click here.
Click here to
see Part 2 of this guide,
which deals with preparing for interviews.
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