No, the Trump White House Isn’t Having a Job Fair

A POLITICO story pushes a plausible narrative with an example that's almost certainly not evidence of it.

A POLITICO story headlined “Trump White House advertises at a Hill job fair amid staff exodus” feeds into a plausible narrative:

The White House – which has been having trouble filling positions as it bleeds staffers – is now trying to find recruits at a conservative job fair on the Hill.

“Interested in a job at the White House?” is the subject line of an email that was blasted out widely to Republicans on the Hill late Wednesday advertising the upcoming event.

It promises that “representatives from across the Trump administration will be there to meet job seekers of every experience level.” A person familiar with the planning said that Johnny DeStefano, who oversees the White House personnel department, and Sean Doocey, a deputy assistant to the president for presidential personnel, are expected to be on hand, among other officials from the West Wing.

The flyer lists positions open in the White House as well as a handful of government agencies including Defense, Interior, Commerce, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, NASA, Energy, and Treasury.

The “Executive Branch Job Fair” is scheduled for Friday afternoon in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, according to a flyer attached to the email.

“There are positions currently open and we are looking for the most competent conservatives to recommend,” the flyer, shared with POLITICO, reads.

It’s well-documented that the Trump administration has had an unusually difficult time filling high-level slots. The #NeverTrump movement, which is especially concentrated among Republican foreign policy and national security professionals, has left slim pickings for Defense, State, and Intelligence Community posts in particular. Further, the sheer chaos and turnover has left some who might otherwise be willing to work for this President fearful of reputational hits and job insecurity.

So, it’s plausible indeed that the White House is resorting to advertising. But that’s not what’s happening here.

The fair is being hosted by the Conservative Partnership Institute, an organization founded by former Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint last year.

The goal of the upcoming Trump job fair, according to a person familiar with the planning, is to specifically target serious conservatives to fill slots, from junior positions all the way up to assistant secretary-level positions.

“CPI’s mission is to support conservatives in Washington and we are excited about giving hundreds of qualified, experienced conservatives an opportunity to meet with Trump administration officials and learn about career opportunities,” Rachel Bovard, senior policy director at Conservative Partnership said in an email.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A job fair is seen as an unusual step for a White House to take. Typically jobs in the executive branch are coveted career-making opportunities.

While I suppose it’s possible that the White House reached out to CPI to host this fair, that’s almost certainly not what’s happening here. Much more likely, a brand new conservative policy shop is trying to assemble a roster of talent and pitch it to the White House and senior Republican appointees in the administration (and, I’d guess, Republican Representatives and Senators) in order to make a name for itself. Indeed, that’s what the flyer itself says!

“CPI seeks to get the best, most qualified conservatives in front of the administration” is very different than “The White House has tasked CPI with finding qualified candidates.” Ditto, “There are positions currently open and we are looking for the most competent conservatives to recommend” is very different from “We’re hiring people to place in the White House.”

A former Obama administration official said it would have been unheard of in the previous administration, and that West Wing jobs were rarely even listed on UsaJobs.Gov, the official job search site for the federal government. But the executive branch of the Obama administration did sometimes host events on campuses of historically black colleges and universities to meet potential candidates from underrepresented groups, the former official added.

The Trump White House, however, has had difficulty bringing new people in as staffers have resigned amid ongoing chaos and a crackdown on security clearances – or, more recently, been fired as part of a purge of people accused of leaking information to reporters.

The departures have hollowed out the ranks of lower-level staffers, with dozens departing from various policy offices as well as the press and communications shops.

Perhaps most prominently, the position of communications director has sat vacant since Hope Hicks departed last March – but that post is not expected to be filled at the Friday job fair.

Again, there’s zero evidence that the Trump White House is advertising jobs. And I’ll bet my house and the contents of my bank account that Hicks’ replacement will not be found at this job fair.

There are a lot of things about this administration that depart from Washington norms. Ideological organizations trying to ingratiate themselves with those in power by creating a roster of young talent for hire, however, is not one of them. That’s the way the town has worked for decades.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    It promises that “representatives from across the Trump administration will be there to meet job seekers of every experience level.”

    That’s really the key quote here, isn’t it? If administration officials are there in force, then this is in effect a White House jobs fair. If, on the other hand, there is a lone third level HR person then it is more in line with what you are suggesting.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Again, there’s zero evidence that the Trump White House is advertising jobs. And I’ll bet my house and the contents of my bank account that Hicks’ replacement will not be found at this job fair.

    There are a lot of things about this administration that depart from Washington norms. Ideological organizations trying to ingratiate themselves with those in power by creating a roster of young talent for hire, however, is not one of them. That’s the way the town has worked for decades.

    Better not make that bet James. You have daughters to think of. Given the trump admins demonstrated penchant for lying and under the table deals, their complete failure at hiring and vetting competent people, and obvious sloth at anything beyond leaking and posing for the cameras, outsourcing the job search sounds just like what they would do.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    I’m curious as to what the reaction would have been had a liberal organization, say Center for American Progress, done something similar during the Obama administration. “CAP seeks to get the best, most qualified liberals in front of the administration.” And, “… we are looking for the most competent liberals to recommend.” A) there would be outrage, but B) it wouldn’t happen.

    Just suggesting this as a data point in how conservatism as an ideology differs from liberalism. Liberalism is much less self conscious and less “churchey”. “Liberals”, for the most part, are content to fill government jobs with competent people without an ideological test.

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  4. MBunge says:

    Out of all the incorrect/untrue media stories that have come out about the Trump Administration, this is the one you take issue with? Oh well. Baby steps are better than nothing.

    Mike

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  5. CSK says:

    @MBunge:

    Mike, I’d be very interested in reading your explication/rationalization for the love and admiration that Trump is currently lavishing on Kim.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’m curious as to what the reaction would have been had a liberal organization, say Center for American Progress, done something similar during the Obama administration. “CAP seeks to get the best, most qualified liberals in front of the administration.” And, “… we are looking for the most competent liberals to recommend.” A) there would be outrage, but B) it wouldn’t happen.

    But this was standard practice during the Obama administration! Lots of top jobs went to CAP officials. CNAS, an upstart, practically staffed the Obama State and Defense Departments.

    I don’t know if it went on to the same extent in the George W. Bush administration, but there were certainly plenty of Heritage and AEI types.

    “Liberals”, for the most part, are content to fill government jobs with competent people without an ideological test.

    Liberals tend to be more wonky but they have their own shibboleths. It’s not like Obama was hiring a lot of people from conservative think tanks.

  7. Val says:

    Ummm you can’t work for Trump without a loyalty pledge… and what is the job security situation? Say one thing that isn’t kiss ass and your ostracized and fired by Twitter.. what if you dont have a twitter account? I doubt they’ll find ANY takers, let alone Hope’s replacement! Oh oh oh – Scott Pruitt’s wife is looking for a job, quick get someone from the EPA down to the Capital to pick up a packet for her… WAIT… their stuck in the swamp and can’t get out.
    Oh well! Good luck Donald!

  8. An Interested Party says:

    Job fair!? What idiot would want to work for this administration…

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  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    The Trump WH should skip the job fairs and go right to impressment gangs.

  10. Daniel Stiverson says:

    @CSK:
    You mean that is not obvious? Read the book. Kims insecure ego is up for grabs and is the rudder of his ship. Like a 12 year old, Kim must be trained to make right decisions. He is not very good at it. Trump is filling the role of mentor to train the boy to be a great leader. He needs the training and Trump is the right man to do it very well and quickly. Also obvious is the fact that trump is a mentor/teacher who is well accomplished and has written many books to teach others to be successful in many avenues of venture. Read the books and be teachable. It is very likely Trump knows more about both Koreas than Kim does.

    @CSK:

  11. Daniel Stiverson says:

    @An Interested Party:
    This one!

  12. Daniel Stiverson says:

    Personally, I am disappointed. I was looking for the address to make a midnight run to DC for a good job. I havent had a good job since Bush started screwing with the job stage. Obama made any job impossible to get for a non special interest group man. Equal opportunity? NOT since EOA began. It is “give up your career so some one else can take over your life” act. Learn to live on the streets act. So much for high hopes and “white supremacy”. It is all a farce.

  13. Kathy says:

    No problem. Mexico is having a presidential election in two weeks, and most likely His Majesty Manuel Andres Lopez Obrador will win. This means that come December, a lot of staffers for the current president will be out of a job. Then the White House can hire them. They’re experienced,especially in a corrupt government. They’d be invaluable for El Cheeto.

    Of course, they may laugh a lot for the first few months.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Daniel Stiverson: Yep. The party of “personal responsibility.”

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Say what you will, but roaming around wharf-side saloons and conking random people over the head would be as likely to yield a competent staff as whatever they’re doing now would be.

  16. HarvardLaw92 says:

    A few observations:

    1) this was squarely aimed at GOP congressional staffers. They’re attempting to poach from within because they’ve essentially managed to shut down hiring from without. The external pool they’d want to hire from – what talent exists in the GOP pool (and there are some quite talented folks there, to be fair) – is comprised largely of Bush, McCain, and Romney loyalists. Trump has managed to piss all of them off by attacking those to whom they’re still loyal.

    2) aside from the aggrieved loyalties issue, the general perception amongst the folks in that pool who I know (and that’s several people) is “why would I risk potentially being indicted or going bankrupt paying attorneys by working for this administration?” It’s a very real and legitimate concern.

    3) Add to the above that nobody I’ve spoken to wants a position with this admin on their resume. It has come to be perceived as lethal with respect to the subsequent corporate employment opportunities that customarily are a significant portion of the motivation for accepting a position that amounts to a pay cut for these people. Case in point – we had an attorney who earned right at $400,000 plus bonus leave to accept a position in the Obama admin where he earned less than $200,000 with no bonus. Was part of that a desire to serve? Could be, but a significant part of eschewing hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings in the short term was also the subsequent marketability he obtained in return for earning far less. He’s the corporate counsel for a Fortune 500 now, earning a great deal more than he did with us, and that position cane about as a direct result of serving under Obama. These people are civic minded, to be sure, but they also aren’t stupid. They aren’t going to accept torpedoing their long-term employability, and be relatively underpaid in the bargain, just to serve their country. I can’t blame them for that.

    Trying to contrast this situation with the Obama admin (or, to be frank, the Bush admin either) is disingenuous. Neither of those had any difficulty attracting talent. Indeed, their problem was the sheer volume of people jockeying to find a way in. They both had the luxury of choosing who they wanted from a deluge of potential candidates. Trump doesn’t. With respect to the actual talent, this admin has become toxic – indeed radioactive – from an employment standpoint. One of the unspoken factors with regard to jobs like Communications Director going unfilled is that essentially nobody who’s really capable of filling them is interested. When it comes to hiring actual talent, this admin has rhetorically hung garlic on its doors.