how to get a job as a parliamentary researcher.

how to get a job as a parliamentary researcher

I’ve been working as a Parliamentary Researcher for two years now. One of the things that stands my job now apart from my last job is the sheer amount of people that come into my office, week in, week out to do work experience, shadowing days and internships. It’s a revolving door of young people desperate to get a little taste of what it’s like to be a parliamentary researcher. But it’s not a very easy job to get at all.

For each intern position we advertise for in my office, we have over 100 applications. For a fully paid job, it’s rare to have less than 200 applications, I’ve known it go to over 300 on a few occasions. With the election coming up, there will be new MPs and a lot of swapping and changing in Parliament, meaning a lot of jobs up for grabs.

I thought I’d write a little guide on how to get a job as a parliamentary researcher. They’re my own thoughts on how it’s generally done. It’s not the be all and end all. I don’t know everything. For example, I barely did any of these myself and got my job on networking alone.

how to get a job as a parliamentary researcher

Get some experience.

It’s not easy to get work experience in parliament, but it’s also not impossible. My office offers a one day experience in Westminster – our office is physically too small to have someone for a week. We take pretty much anyone who e-mails and asks for it, as long as they have some connection to the constituency – whether that’s by living there or going to school there. We ignore party lines when it comes to work experience, which is something we wouldn’t usually do for anything else. Some MPs just won’t do work experience placements. Some will only be in the constituency and not in Westminster. It’s still worth emailing your MP to ask.

Do an internship.

I find this a difficult bit of advice to give because it’s something I didn’t do and couldn’t have afforded to have done either. But it’s also hard to avoid it. The average team size in Parliament must be around two for each MP – when they hire someone they want them to be able to come in and start work straight away and doing an internship is a great way for someone to have the Parliamentary experience they need. Some internships are now paid, some only require you for one day a week meaning you can fit it around University, some Universities (like Leeds for example) offer an internship as part of their courses and you can take part in the Speakers interning programme too.

Volunteer.

If you can’t do an internship, then you should probably get involved in politics in some way. Recently, there have been two general elections and the EU referendum. Even local elections provide a chance for you to get involved. Join your local party, deliver some leaflets and show willing. I asked everyone I interviewed when I was last looking in September about what they did during the EU referendum. If it was nothing then they were downgraded pretty quickly.

how to get a job as a parliamentary researcher

Do your research on MPs.

When you work in such small teams, it really is vital that you pick the right MP for you. It’s not hard to do research into what they believe. Check their voting record (but don’t take it as gospel), read up on their websites and even look for gossip about them on sites like Guido. You can often find books about them. I work for an MP that is pro-gay marriage, anti-fox hunting and is pro-choice, all things which are really important to me. There are horror stories around about some MPs. If you see the same MPs looking for staff then you know they’ll have a high turnover rate and they might not be worth it. Some MPs will expect you to work long hours, some are more flexible. You’ll work closely with them so you might want to be able to make friends with them.

Stay close to W4MP.

This is the website where most of the jobs in Parliament are advertised. If you see a job you want to apply for then you should apply for it that same day. Leave it any longer and you risk not having your application even read because it’s been hidden below thousands of others. 

Expect to fail at least once.

Most of my previous interns have found a job in Parliament after doing an internship with our office, but most of them had interviews for jobs they didn’t get first. It can be a gruelling and cruel process. It’ something you have to stick to and just keep going. You will get there eventually.

Personalise your cover letter/CV.

I know that when people are applying for jobs in Parliament they will have applied for many others. But it’s so easy to tell when someone is applying using the same cover letter. Each MP’s constituency is different. They face different issues and different problems, they have wide-ranging demographics and each MP will have different interests. Your CV/cover letter should reflect that. Even if it’s just a small sentence or paragraph.

Know something about your MP and their constituency. 

The first thing I always ask when I’m interviewing anyone is “what are three things you know about this constituency?” and/or “tell me three facts about this MP”. It’s maddening how many people just can’t answer it, or come up with something completely random. I’m never looking for an in-depth knowledge, it’s nothing you can’t find out on Wikipedia or on the MP’s own website.And once you get there, I highly recommend reading How to Be a Parliamentary Researcher by Robert Dale.

1 Comment

  1. Stacey
    July 2, 2017 / 11:15 pm

    Hey (not-your-real-name)Annie!

    Thanks very much for your post, it’s very helpful.

    I’ve been trying to get a job in Westminster for some months now and I was wondering if you could help me out. I’ve had me near miss interview in February – the nerves got the better of me – and I’ve promised myself I’m going to make sure I succeed in the next one! But I’ve struggled to get another interview (not helped by parliament being dissolved which cancelled a few applications) despite being told that my written application with which I got my only interview was excellent. I’ve followed the same formula for all subsequent applications – I research everything about the MP and trawl through their social media profiles for hours to find out everything about their constituency activities, parliamentary interests and successful campaigns, the APPGs they participate in, select committees, so on and so forth – and include all the elements you’ve mentioned above in my cover letter.

    Essentially I think my cover letters are strong and considering all the applications I’ve put in since Feb I feel like at least one of them would’ve been good enough to get me another interview so I think that maybe they aren’t even getting read i.e. recruiters/MPs aren’t liking my CV (even though I did get an interview with my CV). I’ve not been able to take an unpaid internship in Westminster for a variety of reasons but I have worked as a parliamentary assistant in one of the devolved administrations for 1 and a half years while studying at university (left in June 2013 to study abroad – I’m not too sure if this is being seen as too long ago?) and I largely rely on and use my experience from that to get me past the CV stage to the cover letter.

    As much as I’d like to send you my CV to get your opinion of it from the recruiter’s perspective I don’t feel that’s fair so I was just wondering if you could answer a few general questions. 1. Is squeezing everything onto one page (keeping 11pt font size but with very small margins at to and bottom of page) better than having the CV extend over two pages? 2. Is a professional summary section at the start of the CV necessary? 3. (not actually CV-related) I normally submit my application on the last day (in the last hour) so it doesn’t get lost in the hundreds of other emails. Is it really unlikely to get unread because I didn’t submit it at the beginning like you’ve mentioned above? 4. (cover-letter related) Should cover letters be an entire page long? My cover letters are normally around 500 words in length but it does take up the entire page because once I format it as an official letter with contact details, the date, address details of MP, my signature etc., I hit a page long. I’m just not too sure if it is off-putting for those looking at the application to see a cover letter an entire page long.

    Sorry for all the questions. I’m just starting to run out of hope a bit to be honest with submitting lots of applications but getting nothing back from them – not helped by the fact I’m not completely sure what the ideal CV and cover letter format/template is for getting a job in parliament. I graduated (from my masters) in December there – have been volunteering with a charity in the meantime – and I can’t keep going with not getting anywhere with them because of money and family issues and I’d hate to be disenfranchised from working in Westminster because I can’t afford to take an unpaid internship.

    Sorry again, and thanks ever so much for your help,

    Stace

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