I have been working at Council on Foreign Relations full-time (Less than a year)
The access, influence, and reputation of the Council allow it to attract some of the brightest and most original thinkers to its staff, creating an almost university-like milieu of highly intellectual pursuit. For junior staff -- i.e. non-fellows -- this provides plenty of opportunities to "get one's hands dirty" and collaborate with high-level people on important issues. In short, your work can actually matter.
The Council is not a place to build a career if you're a junior staffer, and that's made clear to you from almost day one. Research associates are expected to move along to graduate school or another job after roughly two years, though there is no hard-and-fast limit or contract that enforces this. Instead, the Council encourages turnover by treating its junior staffers as more or less disposable: they are paid very meagerly, given little public recognition in the form of bylines or credits, and offered few-to-no opportunities for advancement within the organization, all while still being expected to perform at a consistently high level. For this reason, research associates often leave the Council with a "burned out," disillusioned attitude, even as they acknowledge the uniqueness and value of the experience.
Advice to Management
Reduce the bureaucracy, which is disproportionately large for the size of organization. Don't be afraid to fire unproductive people, pay your research associates more (they are, after all, the real engines of the think tank) and more generally forge a stronger connection between junior staff performance and salary/compensation.
I applied online. The process took 6 weeks. I interviewed at Council on Foreign Relations (New York, NY) in September 2015.
I applied remotely, so they were very accommodating in using Skype interviews for the first rounds. Initial phone interview with HR to gauge interest and determine availability next round, then Skype interview with HR and two co-workers/higher-ups, skills test based on job requirements, Skype interview with head bosses of program, in-person final interview at their office in NYC.
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