6 Questions To Never Ask in a Congressional Job Interview

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Job interview

Ever consider a run for political office?  Here's some do's and don'ts for your preliminary interview with your state party chairman. With a grateful inspiration from Monster.com's Catherine Conlan:

Hiring managers and HR pros will often close out a job interview by asking an applicant if he or she has any questions themselves. Here are 5 questions that can make a bad impression on your interviewer, scuttling your chances for getting the job.

Job promotion

1. "When will I be promoted?:

Upon election. Prior to being sworn in, you'll be given your committee assignments. Consideration for promotion is two-fold. Tenure and the size of your re-election war chest. Don't be afraid to reveal the size of your donor base as it can impact your committee assignments. If you already have lobbying connections, your affiliation and influence with these numerous Washington influence peddlers  is most important.

Salary

2. "What's the salary for this position?"

Starting base pay is $174,000 per year, but don't let that fool you. There's plenty more where that came from. Democrats generally  keep to that amount except for ranking committee members. Republicans make slightly more as they are provided with re-election benefits depending on the importance of their district to the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove's GOP takeover strategy. Those bumps can range from $200,000 (the president's salary) to $3 million/election cycle depending on the state and who's in office at the moment. In extreme cases, like John McCain and former Governor Romney, the amount can reach hundreds of millions of dollars, a portion of which might be used for campaigning.

pay raise

3. "When can I expect a raise?"

Generally, every year, or every other year. That raise is in the 2-4% range but in lieu of raises, which come under public scrutiny, Congress has the right to raise their office budgets as much as 10% per year and there's no regulation as to how that money is spent. If you wish to just pocket it, you may. So in essence, you can count on an additional 12-14% per year, not including official perks like meals, travel and per diem. European vacations and visits to exotic locations for "meetings" or committee 'retreats' are generously provided and always well paid for.

flexible hours

4. "What sort of flextime options do you have?"

On average, you can make your own hours... Committees meet regularly but few meetings or votes, if any, are mandatory. Vacation time is amply provided. In general, in a calendar year, you'll work about five months a year, three days a week -- but spread out over the session. All holidays are observed, federal, state and local. The year is generally 65% recess time, 30% voting and filibustering, and the balance is spent any way you wish. Rules are quite lax. In 2012 both houses of Congress were in session 112 days. Most of those for a maximum of 4 hours.

man and woman

5. "Does it matter if I'm White or a minority? Male of female?"

Very good question. For Democrats, no. For Republicans, it's a bit more complicated. If you're white, you  maybe be male (preferably old and cranky or young metro-sexual and passing as straight). If you're female you  must look like you're male and certainly act like it. But not to the point of appearing as a diesel dyke. If you're Hispanic you must be light skinned and male. If you're Asian, no sense applying.

is he listening

6. Any question that shows you haven't been listening. 

The most common ones are do the staffers and interns put out,  can they be trusted and do they take bribes. First question: of course they put out. That's part of the interview process. You don't hire them unless they do. Last year three members of congress married workers on their staffs. One's a gay couple so they don't count those as they were Republicans and they believe DOMA is still the law of the land. If you're single, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. If you're  married, the answer to the second question is most valid. Of course they can be trusted. You don't hire anyone unless you already have "dirt" on them, assuring that they can keep their mouth's shut. Finally, the question of bribes. Yes, it's a generally accepted practice -- so much so that elected officials expect a 25% "tribute" by any senior staffer. This is generally paid in cash or as a re-election campaign donation.

Well, there you have it. The 6 questions to avoid when running for U.S. office.  Hope you'll keep them in mind when you make your decision to run. See you in Washington -- but don't make it Thursday through Sunday. We generally have those days off.

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