For Senate Confirmed Positions

Presidential appointments requiring Senate confirmation are among the most senior leadership positions in the federal government. Starting early by pulling together information and filling out the required forms will avoid delays. This section provides detailed information on the process.

Top Tips The Confirmation Process Senate Questionnaires Preparing for your Hearing Testifying Confirmation

Top Tips

Before the White House has made its announcement, do not discuss your candidacy with others outside of the appointments process
The more people that know about your potential appointment, including friends and family, the more you may reveal.

Do not make presumptions
Do not make any statements suggesting your confirmation is a given. Even after the announcement is made public, use phrases like, “If I am confirmed,” or “If I’m lucky enough to serve” when you speak about the appointment.

Demonstrate respect for the process
Even if you are confident about your prospects for confirmation, show that you take the process seriously by completing the Senate questionnaires quickly, accurately and thoroughly.

Avoid the spotlight 
Forego appearances in the media or at important events so that the vetting process can proceed without distractions.

Make connections with senators and their staff on both sides of the aisle
It is important that you have allies willing to advocate for your appointment, including Senate staff members. A poor appraisal from a key staff member may have an oversized impact on a senator’s view of you.

Anticipate and rehearse answers to particularly tough questions
If you know that there may be topics or issues that interest senators, have appropriate responses at the ready. Seek the guidance of your congressional Sherpa.

Nani Coloretti holds the presidential commission appointing her as deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
General Les Lyles at a White House gathering with President Donald Trump.

The Confirmation Process 

After an election, the president or president-elect begins making decisions on critical Senate-confirmed appointments. In the case of a newly elected president, the presidential transition team’s staff will examine the information collected in the pre-election phase and conduct additional background reviews of those selected for consideration. Re-elected presidents often have a number of important vacancies to fill early in their second term due to departures

The Senate’s role in the process officially begins when it receives an official written nomination from the president regarding your prospective appointment. The nomination is then sent to the appropriate committee. Once reported from the committee, your nomination may be called up for consideration and vote by the full Senate.

Generally, nominees can expect serious scrutiny from the Senate, but most nominees are eventually confirmed. You should prepare by familiarizing your confirmation flow chart as well as the National Academy of Public Administration’s publication, A Survivor’s Guide for Presidential Nominees.

Senate Questionnaires 

In addition to background investigation and financial disclosure forms, nominees for Senate-confirmed appointments must complete Senate committee questionnaires. Each committee has its own questionnaire, and they differ in their subject matter and length. The questions typically cover biographical and financial information, and some committees also ask nominees to respond to policy questionnaires.

You should complete the required paperwork as quickly as possible. Committees usually do not move forward with a nominee’s hearing unless all paperwork is complete. Completing and returning your Senate questionnaires promptly also will indicate to the committee that you are committed, cooperative and professional. Coordinate with the administration’s or the transition team’s legislative affairs staff for information to help you.

Preparing for Your Hearing 

Your focus during the Senate confirmation process should be preparing for the confirmation hearing. In most cases, you will be assigned a “Sherpa,” a member of the agency or White House legislative affairs staff, or an experienced volunteer who advises and accompanies you when meeting with senators.

Your Sherpa should help you to arrange meetings with senators and the committee staff to form relationships, secure support and learn about the nuances of the committee process. These individuals can also help prepare you by conducting mock hearings, known informally as “murder boards.” For a full description of the roles and responsibilities of the Sherpas in this process, read through the Center for Presidential Transition’s Sherpa Checklist. 

Testifying  

You want to appear open and prepared during your confirmation hearing. The hearing may be intimidating, but serving as a presidential appointee is an incredible honor and you should reflect that fact in your demeanor and approach to the senators. To prepare for your hearing, review this list of Things Nominees Should Know.

Confirmation

Under Senate procedures, a nominee requires a simple majority support of senators present and voting to proceed to the nomination. After the Senate has voted, the clerk of the Senate notifies the White House to prepare your presidential commission. The commission is signed by the president and sent to the State Department where the secretary of state signs and the Great Seal of the United States is affixed. Once the commission process is completed, you are referred to officials at your agency for official onboarding.