Jockeying for ‘Plum’ Federal Appointments May Begin Earlier in 2016

“Based on our conversations with the Office of Personnel Management, there’s a chance the next Plum Book may come out before the election, maybe in October.”

— David Eagles, Director of Presidential Transition
Partnership for Public Service

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The federal Plum Book of appointed policy positions may come out earlier than usual in 2016. For candidates for these prestigious jobs in public service, advance preparation will be more important than ever.

Competition is always fierce for the thousands of policy positions that come open when a new chief executive moves into the Oval Office. And in 2016, the race may begin earlier than usual. So it will pay for aspiring presidential appointees to start qualifying themselves now, including preparing a resume and cover letter customized to the exacting and elaborate selection process.

“A lot of the candidate team’s work is getting pushed earlier and earlier, into the April-May time frame,” says David Eagles, director of presidential transition at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service in Washington, in an exclusive interview with The Resume Place.

For those who aspire to serve the 45th president, here are seven steps to optimize the chances of landing one of these plum jobs.

  1. Target Jobs from the 2012 Plum Book

    Study United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions, commonly called the Plum Book, and target relevant cabinet departments, agencies or other federal government units as well as functional roles and subject-matter areas. Do networking and research to determine whether those positions are likely to reappear in the Plum Book’s 2016 edition. Just as in the private sector, government reorganizations can move positions or eliminate them. Expect about 4,000 political appointees in the next presidential administration, Eagles says.

  2. Choose a Presidential Candidate and Work Hard for His or Her Campaign

    Aspiring appointees should pick one candidate and dedicate 100 percent of their efforts to that campaign. “Research the campaign and reach out – there’s no excuse for not doing this,” says Eagles, who has been appointed to serve under both Republican and Democratic presidents, an unusual distinction. Going all out for one candidate – even in a wide-open primary season – is a virtual requirement to establish loyalty. In the process, would-be appointees can keep an eye out for a sponsor to support their eventual applications for jobs in the next White House administration.

  3. Update Online Profile to Reflect Candidate Loyalty

    It’s important to update one’s online presence with both professional accomplishments and political activities, from working the phones at a campaign office to volunteering for a higher level role in the candidate’s organization.

  4. Prepare a Resume and Cover Letter Customized for a Presidential Appointment

    Successful candidates for presidential appointments will prepare key application materials well in advance of the general election. “Draft a two- or three-page resume that speaks to your expertise, leadership, loyalty to your candidate and political savvy,” says Kathryn Troutman, president of The Resume Place, which provides services to people applying for federal jobs. “Your cover letter should address the presidential recruitment committee and build a bridge between your professional experience and the specific appointment you seek.”

  5. If and When the Candidate Wins the Party Nomination, Double Down

    Keep working for the candidate, starting the day after his or her formal nomination by the party. Learn about the structure of the post-nomination campaign organization and connect with new players relevant to the presidential appointment process.

  6. Fine-Tune the Presidential Appointment Resume and Cover Letter

    As soon as the 2016 Plum Book is published, revise the draft resume and cover letter to precisely target the desired position. “Based on our conversations with Office of Personnel Management, there’s a chance the new edition may come out before the election, maybe in October,” says Eagles.

    “You’ll probably submit the job application through your congressman or senator,” says Troutman, co-author with Diane Hudson Burns of The New SES Application: Writing the Traditional ECQs and the New Five-Page Senior Executive Service Federal Resume.

  1. If the Chosen Candidate Becomes President-Elect, Blitz for the Target Position

    Campaign hard for the presidential appointment beginning the day after the election. Continue to volunteer, now for the presidential transition effort. “Set aside time to the meet the requirements of the arduous screening process, and follow all application instructions to the letter,” Troutman says.

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