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Congressional Innovation Fellowship Selections Process

We do our best to live our values as an organization, and primary among those are transparency and inclusion. Accordingly, we want to provide a window into the stages of our fellowship selections process for the 2020 application cycle.  

TechCongress works to create pathways into Congress for people that may not ordinarily have a direct route in. For the Congressional Innovation Fellowship, we try to do everything we can to ensure we have an equitable selection process based on the latest research. We screen to make sure no one was left out due to coming from non-traditional backgrounds. We are always examining our processes for places we can do better and collecting feedback so we can continue to learn. 

Our process begins very deliberately with anonymous applications. We request people remove their names from their resumes and other materials to prevent ourselves and our selections board from having entry points for unconscious bias to seep in. In fact, if applicants do not follow this step, it results in a slightly lowered resume score. 

The overall selections criteria includes:

  • Potential for leadership in technology policy

  • Professional achievements and technical ability.

  • Commitment to building a diverse and cross-sector technology policy ecosystem.

  • Potential for future growth and career advancement.

  • Interpersonal, communication and “tech-translation” skills.

  • Individual plans for incorporating the fellowship experience into specific career goals.

The first round of selections is a review of the hundreds of applications received. Members of the TechCongress team, in addition to some outside reviewers on occasion, review all of the applicants, rating each short essay and resume individually and scoring the overall application as a whole. 

The applicants that have demonstrated strong potential on the criteria above advance to our second round, a review by an independent selections board comprised of technologists and Congressional experts. The selections board-- which also reviews applications anonymously-- scores each application and provides a rank-order of the top applicants. The TechCongress team reviews these rankings to make sure we have a group advancing to the next stage that is broadly representative. 

Our third round of selections is a round of video interviews, for which 30-40 applicants typically advance. The process is de-anonymized so that we can make contact with applicants to arrange interviews. We have a team of TechCongress staff and advisors interview these candidates. We ask a standardized set of questions in a 20-minute interview to assess the same core criteria listed above. Based on these interviews, we then narrow the field to 15-25 candidates whom we invite to in-person interviews. TechCongress covers the travel costs of the interview for these candidates. 

In-person interviews last from 45-55 minutes, and we ask the same series of questions of everyone. Interviewers are not allowed to discuss applicants until after they have submitted anonymous ratings of the interviews to prevent interviewers from biasing each other. It sometimes happens that clarifications from prior interviews are needed, and so there can be a small round of shorter follow-up interviews. 

At this point finalists are selected by the TechCongress team to build a robust cohort of Fellows. Finalists are notified that their references will be checked, and references are checked. It is typically an 8-10 week process from the time applications close until offers are made. Once an offer is made, we ask candidates to respond with a decision within a few days. We try to give fellows at least 6-10 weeks to prepare to begin the program in early January.