The political appointments process is opaque -- for those stuck on the outside, it can often feel needlessly, cruelly opaque. Even terrific, well-liked, well-connected, highly accomplished people are often left hanging for months or even years. "Dealing with White House PPO is like dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles," commented a former official. "Communication [with PPO] is a one-way street: you to them. Acknowledgement of emails is rare, attempts to check on your status more fruitless than productive....Patience. Unless you are a cabinet nominee or someone who can mobilize the kind of high-level influence that requires them to respond within a few days, keep your powder dry. For days. For weeks. For months. For many many many months..."
A former top White House official agreed: "Don't try too hard. The easiest way to ruin your chances is to descend on White House personnel with every influential person you know. It can be counterproductive -- especially if you're not even sure if you've got a chance at a particular job."
The PPO staff is inundated with requests from all quarters. They can't possibly make everyone happy. As a result, says a former State Department official, much of the time "they are in the business of saying no. You are just another file to them [and] the paper work is endless." Don't make their lives harder by badgering them.
Also, keep in mind that the hiring environment changes over the course of each presidential administration. "Getting an appointment today is very different from getting an appointment a year ago, and vastly different from four years ago," explains a former PPO staffer. In January 2009, there were thousands of campaign staffers, donors, and assorted subject-matter experts looking for jobs -- but at least there were also thousands of open positions. The process was chaotic: Internal administration power structures hadn't solidified, and senior officials could take their pick of highly qualified candidates eager to be part of the Obama administration.
By late 2011, that had changed. The A Team -- the people brought in early -- were exhausted; many had left or were leaving, and PPO was under pressure to quickly fill the positions left vacant by departures. Sometimes, that meant replacing substantive experts with people the White House "owed" but hadn't previously been able to place; other times, it meant a frantic search through resume databases to find someone able to hit the ground running on Nagorno Karabakh.
Today, many jobs are opening up again: Senate-confirmed officials are mostly turning over, and their personal staffs are also leaving (which means, among other things, that plenty of "special assistant" jobs are opening up). But now, as in 2009, there's a whole campaign staff looking for their just rewards -- and not nearly as many open positions as in 2009. Nevertheless, give it another couple of years, and this will change yet again: PPO will once more be desperately trying to fill positions vacated by burned-out appointees.