How to Hire Campaign Staff 101

Your campaign is ready to make the leap and to hire paid campaign staff. Whether you are making your first hire or staffing up your campaign, here are some resources to help you.

Assess Your Campaign’s Needs

The first step is deciding what help your campaign currently needs or will need down the road. Ideally, you should be looking to fill a core campaign need(s) with the person you hire. What are the duties that you as a candidate are struggling with? Is it formulating campaign strategy? Is it staying on track for fundraising? Whatever it is that you need help with, make a list to include in the job description.

Check out this example of a job description for a campaign manager.

Be aware that prior campaign experience is helpful, but not always necessary. Finding someone who is enthusiastic, self-motivated, and eager to take on new tasks is just as important, if not more so.

Spread the Word

Start by talking to your personal network and to people you know who have run for office before. They may know someone who is looking for a job.

You should also post the job description to groups whose members are looking for jobs.

  • Inclusv is working to get more people of color hired by campaigns, advocacy groups, and lawmakers. They share job postings through a weekly email with job seekers. Employers can share job offerings for free.
  • Jobs that are Left is a listserve of 25,000 Democrats. Paid campaign jobs or internships can be posted for free by any member of the group.
  • Wellstone Jobs is another listserve for progressive jobs.
  • Jefferson’s List has a job board for campaign jobs.

Interviewing and Hiring Campaign Staff

There’s an art to interviewing job applicants. Developing the skills to quickly assess someone’s qualifications, personality, and skills takes time, but here are a few quick tips.

  • Help the job applicants feel at ease by starting off with questions about their hobbies and interests.
  • Ask the same questions to all job applicants. You can’t compare apples to apples unless you conduct each interview the same way.
  • Be an active listener during the interview.
  • Don’t ask illegal questions, for instance about a job applicant’s age, marital status, disability, race, religion, or pregnancy status.
  • The interview is about them, not you. Try to limit your talking to about 20% of the total time.

Once you have selected a finalist(s), call their references and ask if they would hire this person again.

Comply with Labor Laws

A common mistake made by many campaigns is not classifying their campaign staff as employees. Instead, campaigns call their staff “independent contractors” in order to avoid paying payroll taxes and required benefits, like sick leave or unemployment insurance. But you could be breaking the law if you misclassify your campaign workers.

“The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work, not what will be done and how it will be done,” according to the IRS.

Some signs that your worker may be an employee and not a contractor:

They get paid by the hour, week, or month
Their work hours are dictated by the campaign
They work at an employer’s premises (i.e. in a campaign office)
The campaign gives detailed instructions about the work
The work performed is a key aspect of regular campaign activities

Need more guidance? See this resource from the IRS.

It is possible for your campaign worker to truly be a contractor. For instance, they may have their own consulting business, through which they act as a campaign manager for multiple candidates at the same time. In that capacity, they are providing overall strategy and identifying subcontractors to handle tasks like digital media and printing.

You should also be aware that salaried employees who earn less than $913 a week may be subject to overtime for working more than 40 hours a week. Salaried employees whose pay is higher than this threshold are not subject to the overtime rule. There are some options that campaigns can take to limit the financial hit.

If your campaign workers are employees, you can make things a lot simpler by using an online payroll service, like Gusto. This service makes paying your employees and your required taxes simple. It’s also very affordable. Full disclosure: We use Gusto for our payroll. If you follow this link you will receive a bonus $100 Amazon gift card for signing up and using Gusto.

A Note for Smaller Campaigns

Of course, not every campaign needs or can afford paid staff. Many local and even state legislative races are small enough to be run by the candidate with a team of dedicated volunteers. This may mean delegating the duties of a single job across multiple volunteers. For instance, instead of having a fundraiser, you might ask several members of your kitchen cabinet to each raise $500.

You can also use technology to handle parts of your campaign. Victory Guide is a digital campaign manager that keeps candidates focused on the most important things each day and organizes voter outreach.