We’ve all heard the rumors. Somehow being a military spouse can help you get a federal job. But how many of us actually know someone who used that preference? Or have used it successfully ourselves? Here is the REAL story behind military spouse preference and federal jobs.
- You have to be qualified for the job. Yes, I know this is common sense, but so often veterans and spouses assume that if you meet one of the “preference” categories you are given a job. Not so. You have to meet the basic qualifications and PROVE them to the computer that scans the applications. Pay attention to keywords and phrases that the job announcement uses, as well as clearly outlining your work history. You must include salary, hours per week you worked and references. Follow the Resume Builder on usajobs.gov to make sure you get all the required parts
- You have a two year window to use this program at each duty station from the date the orders were issued. This is tricky because you could get orders within weeks of your report date or months in advance. Our current orders were dated in September of 2012. So I have two years from that date. We didn’t move to Arizona until November of 2012. *Note: these must be permanent change of station orders, not TDY or for training.
- You have to register with your local Civilian Personnel Office (CPO). The Priority Placement Program (PPP) allows you to claim military spouse preference for CONUS federal jobs. You will need to provide a copy of the orders bringing you and your spouse to that installation as well as your marriage certificate. At that point, you can chose the preference when you apply for federal jobs.
- You can also be noncompetitively appointed (read: given the job without the regular process) if you are qualified for the position and are within your two year window. You should note in your cover letter and/or application that you wish to be considered under Executive Order 13473, Military Spouse Preference.
- You can register in advance or transfer your PPP registration when you get orders. But I should have contacted the CPO when we first got orders to register. Or if I was in the PPP at Fort Meade, I could have transferred my registration to Arizona. (They don’t tell you this freely, you have to dig for this information. So share with everyone!) Since federal jobs can take a while to secure, make sure you start as soon as you have orders. Even though they may change.
- You can only use it once at each duty station. Yup, just once. But that should be fine. Most preferences, including veteran’s preferences, don’t apply to reinstatements, reassignments, transfers or promotions. So one position per duty station should be just about right for you
- You must be qualified for the job. Yes, I know I’m repeating myself, but it is SO important. And it is so important that the computer recognizes you are eligible and qualified. Spend adequate time working through the resume/cover letter/application process. When the announcement talks about a degree, you must prove it. Upload your transcript to prove it. Use websites like www.tagcrowd.com to help you identify keywords and use them in your resume. Writing a powerful resume and cover letter will help you immensely.
Remember, just like in every other job search, you are going to hear no more often than yes. Keep on persevering. Keep trying, keep using your military spouse preference, keep checking usajobs.gov, keep on keepin’ on.