Job-seekers inundate team with resumes

November 27, 2008|By Jill Zuckman | Jill Zuckman,Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - One member of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team measures meetings by the number of resumes arriving on his BlackBerry.

Another says job-seekers have offered him tickets to the Redskins, which he has turned down. And yet another has given his mother in Chicago "talking points" to deal with people trying to get to him by going through her.

"People are anxious to figure out every possible avenue in and want to get advice on how to do this," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who has gotten calls asking how to break into the new administration - even though he backed Sen. Hillary Clinton during the primaries.

For people directly on the receiving end, it's an unrelenting daily bombardment of resumes and requests to meet for coffee.

"I think it's wonderful that people want to serve. But for those of us who have to deal with the onslaught, it's a little overwhelming," said a senior official with the transition, who asked not to be identified for fear it would prompt a further deluge of applicants to his inbox.

So far, the transition team has received 290,000 applications for jobs in the Obama administration through its Web site,, and officials believe they could wind up with 1 million job-seekers by the time Obama is sworn into office Jan. 20.

By comparison, before President George W. Bush took office in 2001, he received 44,000 requests for political jobs. As former President Bill Clinton assumed the presidency in 1993, he had received 125,000 applications for jobs.

The problem is, only about 8,000 non-career service positions are available, according to the Plum Book, which lists those jobs.

Ron Klain, who is Vice President-elect Joe Biden's chief of staff, has been hearing from people he knows and from people Biden knows.

Klain also suddenly is making new friends at a rapid pace on his Facebook page, the social networking site. He's up to 1,000 friends, and his Facebook wall is filled with good wishes on his new assignment.

"It's really super-talented people who all want to be part of this," said Klain, who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore. "I'm amazed by the breadth and depth of people who want to serve."

Bill Daley, a former Commerce Secretary under Clinton, says he views the flood of requests as the result of Obama inspiring people to serve their country. He even has gotten requests from Republicans who want to be part of the new Democratic administration.

"It's mostly people you know, or somebody who says this person is a brilliant lawyer, a brilliant banker or a brilliant policy person and here's their resume," Daley said. "And I forward it on to the transition team."

But for those working out of a transition office in Washington, it's a constant barrage of requests and the knowledge that a lot of people will ultimately be disappointed.

"I just don't want anybody to be mad at me," said one transition staffer, describing the stress involved.

He jokes that his mother in Chicago is running her own field office because so many people have been approaching her. He's also been inundated by requests for jobs and inaugural tickets when attending church.

"I had somebody who I have not seen since the fourth grade call me and say, 'Hey, I'm really excited about the opportunity to work in the administration. Here's what I'd like to do, and can you get my resume to the right people?' " he added.

Others have responded to all the incoming messages by trying to lower their Internet profile, removing their Facebook pages from public access and trying to keep their names out of the newspaper.

One transition official said creative applicants have tried to reach him through alumni information provided by his college and law school. Others have used his multiple e-mail addresses from the campaign, Senate and transition. Still others have sent resumes to his home address.

"It's amazing - the people's persistence," he said. "People have e-mailed me now four or five times since Election Day. I'm trying to be polite, but there comes a time when you're actually annoying me now."

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