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Congressional Science & Engineering Fellowships: Tips for Securing a Fellow

The placement process for the Congressional Science & Engineering Fellows is managed by the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). The process is designed to help Congressional offices/committees and Fellows make the best match for a successful year.

It is important to keep in mind that just as Congressional Fellows are competing for placements, offices are competing for Fellows. Below are tips to assist in promoting your office/committee as a highly desirable fellowship placement, and advice for an effective interview and offer.

Attracting Fellows

Thoroughly complete the “Fellowship Position Description” form. Information on your office/committee will be distributed to the incoming Fellows prior to the placement process. Demonstrating advance thought about issues and projects that Fellows might work on communicates sincere interest and a well-prepared office.

Attend, or designate a member of your staff to attend, the Congressional Fellowships reception (always held the evening before the placement process officially launches). Showing interest in meeting Fellows from the start leaves a positive impression. Many offices use the reception as a pre-screening opportunity to decide who to interview. Also, many offices follow-up immediately to arrange interviews and get a head start.

Prior to the start of interviews, offices can review the Fellows’ background and policy interests on a web page to identify potential matches to meet at the reception or interview.

Successful Interviewing

Ensure understanding of the Congressional Fellowships and their purpose, and keep this in mind when planning the role of a Fellow in your office.

Be prepared. Review the Fellow’s resume and bio and any notes from the reception before the meeting.

Tailor questions to the Fellow’s background and experience and how it might contribute to the issues your office is working on and state/district your office represents.

Be ready to discuss issues/projects/initiatives that the Fellow might engage in. The Congressional Fellowships are professional development experiences and assignments should incorporate a variety of tasks and learning opportunities. They also should be interesting, progressively responsible, and appropriate for a doctoral-level scientist or engineer. Once a Fellow has been trained and gains experience in the legislative process, s/he typically functions in the capacity of a legislative assistant. Fellows appreciate opportunities for interaction and collaboration with colleagues and other Congressional offices.

If possible, involve several staff members in the interview process. Fellows receive tips from former Fellows, who encourage speaking with enough staff to get a broad sense of the office and the team they might work with. It leaves a powerful impression when more than one staffer makes the time and takes an interest in connecting with the Fellow either in the initial or a follow-up meeting.

Interview as many candidates as you have time for (within reason). The more interviews, the greater the odds of making a good match.

Keep in mind that a Fellow’s resume may include only a partial list of their experience and policy interests. And, that many degrees have broad applicability. For example, veterinarians are not only clinical practitioners focusing on domestic pets. They may address the connections between animal and human health (e.g. emerging infectious diseases such as avian influenza), agriculture, or security issues involving the safety of the food supply. Conversations often reveal additional skills, expertise and policy areas that Fellows are qualified in and would benefit your office.

Remain open to interviewing candidates you did not meet at the reception or initially target to interview. An interested Fellow, even one who does not initially appear to be a clear match for the office or prospective portfolio, may be the most keen on issues your office is focusing on.

Making an Offer

Allow a reasonable timeframe for response upon extending an offer for a fellowship placement (AAAS recommends at least three days). Just as AAAS encourages offices to interview a range of candidates, we encourage Fellows to interview broadly to find the best fit.

Your past Congressional Fellows are among your best advocates; they can play a key role in helping you recruit new Fellows. Ask them to reach out to the Fellow(s) you would like to work in your office and give a reference. If you have never hosted an AAAS Fellow, but have had fellows from other programs, they also can conduct outreach and promote your office as a positive placement opportunity.