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Interviewing on the Sly

Try These Discreet Spots Where You Won’t Run Into Your Boss

The career door is ever-revolving, especially on Capitol Hill.

Staffers come and go, whether they switch from office to office or from the public sector to the private sector. When the job announcements come, the process seems easy: “So-and-so is leaving this office to become a legislative aide at this other office.”

But there’s that tricky interview process in between for employed job seekers whose bosses don’t know they are on the hunt. It’s a conundrum for roaming employees everywhere, but one that holds special significance in the insular Beltway community, where it can sometimes seem as if everyone knows one another.

So where can an applicant and prospective employer meet discreetly? 

Roll Call conducted an informal reader survey this summer to see where people go for job interviews. Most suggest getting off the Hill altogether. One former Hill staffer advised: “Don’t do it at Capitol Lounge. It’s too obvious.” But if staying close is the only option, Roll Call picked five safe spaces for bragging about your résumé and describing your dream job.

Care for a Cup of Coffee? 

The Starbucks at 237 Pennsylvania Ave. SE is full of Capitol Hill staffers and Members of Congress, but they usually come just to pop in, place an order and head right on out. Rarely frequented is the upstairs seating area, where the atmosphere is quiet and relaxed. It’s also far enough from the barista station that you won’t have to worry about running into your boss. 

“Most people don’t even realize there’s an upstairs to that Starbucks,” one current Hill staffer said. “It’s a good place to know about.” 

Another place for an interview over cappuccinos is Ebenezers Coffeehouse (201 F St. NE). The shop is appreciated for its range of coffee choices and eclectic music performances, and its location near Union Station makes it unlikely that a job seeker would run into colleagues from the House. 

But be aware that it’s just blocks from the Senate office buildings. 

Let’s Grab a Meal

For the sit-down interview over food, avoid the spots along Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast or at Union Station. Instead, hit up Jimmy T’s Place (501 East Capitol St. SE). 

The interior of the breakfast-and-lunch destination is as nondescript as its website, which only features its name, its address and a map of its location. But the staff at Jimmy T’s is quirky, and the seats are usually full of people who live on the Hill, as opposed to those who work on it. The only thing you might have to worry about is getting grease on your interview clothes.

If it’s variety you’re after, Barracks Row is just a short walk away.

“Eighth Street is great for interviews because you have so many places to choose from,” one staffer said.

Trattoria Alberto (506 Eighth St. SE) and its Italian menu are a mainstay of the area. But because the restaurant has been open for 25 years, it’s a less trendy destination than some of the other restaurants on the popular stretch. That means the chances of someone you know walking in are slim.

Can’t Stray Far From the Office?

For the short and brief interview that won’t pull you away from your desk for more than 30 minutes, the Longworth House Office Building’s cafeteria overflow room is the place for you. It’s an easy place to meet when a free moment suddenly presents itself.

“You can sit down with someone, and it won’t look suspicious,” said Jared Small, a former staffer for ex-Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.).

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