Cloakroom Introduces Messaging Feature

Cloakroom: Connect helps create informational interviews for staffers

(Screen grab from Cloakroom)
(Screen grab from Cloakroom)
Posted August 10, 2016 at 4:12pm

The app for congressional staffers, Cloakroom, has rolled out a new feature to let users connect with others by combining characteristics of Facebook messenger, LinkedIn and Tinder.

Recess is a great time to try out Cloakroom: Connect, the new tool launched Tuesday for “matchmaking for informational interviews.” Sixty-five people have already joined.

The feature can be found inside Capitol Hill’s familiar app, through a new button that reads “Connect.” 

Cloakroom polled more than 100 congressional staffers and found that 75 percent said they currently participate in informational interviews. So, they found a way to help out with that process.

“This is a way that you can get on here, get started, and start building your network on Capitol Hill without having to know anyone else,” Cloakroom founder Ted Henderson said.

“As a recent transplant from Louisiana, Cloakroom Connect is an invaluable resource to help people like me, who are looking for full time positions on the Hill, to connect with staffers who have positions available or know of offices with vacancies,” Erich Cathey said, a recent law school graduate searching for an aide position.

(Screen grab from Cloakroom)
(Screen grab from Cloakroom)

To join Connect, Cloakroom users have to create an alias and post a profile picture. About half of users so far have used an actual photograph of themselves and their real name while others use other names and stock photographs.

A user with the alias, Sam.Ward said of his experience so far, “I have offered career advice to folks through connect and cloakroom more generally.”

(Screen grab from Cloakroom)
(Screen grab from Cloakroom)

“Anyone can create an account, then the App goes through and verifies users who want to use their real identity,” Henderson said. “By letting anyone use their real identity and be verified, it also allows lobbyists to comply with their regulations. Anyone can be compliant if they want to be or if that’s an issue for them.”

Users set their political leanings. A drop-down menu with “centrist,” “conservative,” “—,” “liberal,” “libertarian,” and “progressive” appears and users have to choose one. Even though the neutral option “—” exists, the majority of users have chosen to identify their ideology.

Users can then share information about themselves in a description box.

Profiles range from saying where they’re from, where they went to school, what their job on Capitol Hill is or what job they are looking for. In no more than 150 characters, people also describe which policy areas they’re interested in or what their lobbying or consulting shop specializes in.

A search tool allows users to look through the active profiles by entering keywords like “defense” or “energy.”

A user under the alias “counsel57” said he has not connected with anyone yet but hopes it will be a valuable resource.

(Screen grab from Cloakroom)
(Screen grab from Cloakroom)

You can follow people and message them to start a conversation. That’s where the informational interviews start to take shape.

Cloakroom has existed as an outlet for Hill staffers since 2015. Created by Henderson, an aide to former Rep. Dale E. Kildee, the app allows congressional aides to communicate on anything from work gripes to policy debates.