What do MPs look for when interviewing for staff?

Very few of us enjoy job interviews, especially if you’ve had little experience with them and are just out of University.  

By getting an interview you’re already one of the lucky ones. You’ve possibly edged out over 300 other applicants to get that prized interview in Westminster. With between a 1 in 3 or 1 in 5 chance, the odds are much better than in most other games of life. 

Westminster Professionals has decades of experience in hiring political staff and has put together a few thoughts.

Highlight your previous political experience 

Overwhelmingly, MPs want someone who can hit the ground running, who knows what the job entails and how to start performing with minimum training and fuss. This is why interning or volunteering is so important – there just isn’t the time to fully train someone up like there is in most other jobs. If you don’t have this experience, we suggest volunteering if possible, even for a short while. And once you have the smallest amount of experience get in there and highlight your Westminster and/or political experience. As the saying goes, ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it!”   

Do your research 

Everyone loves to hear other people’s perspective on them, MPs are no different. Get across what the MP has been doing, their history and background, and align yourself to their goals and objectives. These roles are close and personal, MPs are looking for staff who can believe in their projects and drive them.  

Answer methodically 

Whilst most MPs and Office Managers do not have a background in Human Resources, answering their questions methodically can help you clarify your thoughts and help you to project experience and authority.  

To answer behavioural questions (e.g. tell us a time you had to work under pressure) many recruiters recommend using the STAR approach:  

  • Situation: Specifically, in detail, describe the situation you were in  
  • Task: Outline the goal you had 
  • Action: Describe what action YOU personally took to manage the situation and complete the task. Focus on yourself and not the team or other staff.  
  • Result: Promote what was achieved and how your actions contributed to it. (Remember: take the credit.) 

Prepare for likely questions 

Prepping for any interview should include answers to the following:  

  • Why do you want this job? 
  • What experience/ skills/ qualities make you the best candidate for the job? 
  • What have you done for the party?  
  • What policy issues are you interested in? 
  • Are you happy to do boring administrative work? (Yes, of course!) 
  • Why do you want to work in this office and not for another MP? 
  • What do you think are the key weaknesses in the Party’s current approach or key policies?  
  • What do you see are the biggest issues for my constituents? 
  • What experience do you have researching and writing? 
  • What do you think makes a good news story? 
  • How would you prepare me for an adjournment debate? 
  • How are you in difficult situations and dealing with difficult people? (Remember, use the STAR method) 
  • How do you prioritise a busy workload? 
  • What are your biggest strengths/ weaknesses? 

Westminster Professionals offers a specific training course, Working in Westminster, which helps you get a job in Westminster and prepares you for day 1 with all you need to know to work for an MP. View course information here or get in touch for the next available date.

Westminster Professionals is here to improve the experience and performance of MPs staff in Westminster. We are supported by staff from across the political spectrum. We offer training, networking, support and jobs.

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