Military Spouses Preference 101:
I want to give a quick run down of the Military Spouses’ Preference (MSP) before we get all the way into it. The MSP is an entitlement provided to the military spouse to even the playing field when applying to jobs at a new duty location. Believe it or not military spouses are frequently discriminated against because employers know that you will be leaving in a 1-3 year period, and they consider that to be a drawback in employing a MS. This has always irritated me because hiring anyone else doesn’t ensure that they will stay any longer than a year either, so this is definitely unfair!
The MSP benefit was enacted in the 1980’s as a part of the “DoD Authorization Act of 1986,” Section 806, “Employment Opportunities for Military Spouses.” In more recent year both President Obama and President Trump have written Executive Orders (EO and 13473 EO 13832) to encourage the services and agencies to increase the positions made available to MS.
When you use your MSP overseas (OCONUS) you are put into a “non-competitive” status. You will only compete against other MS for the position. If the hiring official does not want to hire you for the position, the agency has to go back to the Civilian Personnel (CPAC) office and request to see the rest of the applicants, non-MSP. To get the other applicants they have to justify not hiring you first. This can be more paperwork than it is worth. Further, you shouldn’t even make it to the hiring manager if you are not qualified because CPAC should have already reviewed your application package before ever sending it to the hiring manager.
The MSP is an extremely powerful tool and needs to be used responsibly. Not only do you need to ensure that you are honest on your application and only apply for things that you qualify for… you also don’t want to use it on jobs that you are over qualified for. You only get to use the MSP once per PCS, don’t waste it. Additionally, if you decline or accept an offer, you will lose your preference.
According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website you are able to start applying to positions using your MSP one month before your spouse’s report date. Getting a federal job from application to start date can take between two- four months… so it kind of sucks that you can only start using your MSP one month before.
1: Start your job search on USAjobs.gov
USAjobs is one stop shopping for federal jobs world wide. They are all there and it is the only place that they are listed in most cases. If you have never had a federal job or never been on this site before you have to select Military Spouses Preference as a part of your search to be able to see all the jobs that are available to you. If you can also select Open to the Public, this identifier is more exclusive than the Military Spouse. Many jobs that are listed on USAjobs are only open to current federal applications, with your MSP you qualify as a part of the Federal group as if you were a veteran, as it applies to the job search function only. Vets and Spouses are different in the actual application process.
When searching for jobs in Korea, you should search the area “South Korea.” Being more specific about the location may limit your results in an unintended way. For instance, with Camp Humphreys, if you search Camp Humphreys, you could exclude search results for Pyeongtaek also spelled as Peyong Taek. Long story-short, you want to keep the search broad and then use your discretion once you see where it says the job is listed.
On September 4th the Military Times Magazine posted an article about military spouses not being held to an old rule about having to be within the commuting area of the service member’s orders. For example, here in USAG Humphreys, we are only a 30 min commute to Osan Air Base. If your husband’s pin point orders are for Camp Humphreys, you were not able to use your MSP at Osan… this is being changed! Good news for us! I would certainly drive 30 mins to work. I did it in Virginia, and no one had anything to say about it! I am glad that they are revising this!
2: Write a Federal Resume
Writing a Federal Resume is a time consuming task. The best thing to do is have a base resume that you will update for each job that you apply to.
There are a ton of different resources for you to ensure that your resume fulfills all of the federal requirements. Below is a video from USAjobs that outlines all the elements that you need to have in your resume. You can also learn more directly from USAjobs Here.
Writing a federal resume could be its own blog, so I am not going to spend a bunch of time breaking this down for you guys here. If you go to the family support center or the Army Community Support Center they should have an Employment Readiness person who is there to help family members get jobs. Additionally, spouses qualify to use the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program services. Their services include federal resume writing and review. Use your resources and ensure that your resume properly represents you in the correct format to ensure that you are able to secure the position. If your resume is missing elements, the CPAC can decide not to even review it and you will not get referred to the hiring manager. An example of how specific this can be is, if you do not put how many hours you worked at each position, they will consider your resume incomplete. So watch the video and use the services. They have enough people applying for the jobs that not having to review these resumes is a relief, don’t give them any reason to toss you out.
3: Attach all applicable documents:
This may seem obvious, but you need to ensure that you read the announcement thoroughly from beginning to end. Even though many of the announcements seem the same, they might be asking for different back up documents. When I lived in Germany I only needed to submit a copy of my husband’s orders to prove that I am an active duty spouse. In Korea I was not being referred as a spouse because I was not submitting a copy of my marriage license in addition to my orders. While I think this is ridiculous, I know that I need to play the game by the rules if I am going to win. Once I added my marriage license I got a job.
4: The Waiting Game
Closing: There are a few phases of this process that take patience. First, you have to wait for the job to close. Most of the position announcements are open for two-three weeks. Some are open for a really long time while they collect resumes. I personally don’t even apply to those since we move around so much, I have a finite amount of time to get a job so I don’t have that kind of time to wait.
Status Updates: Next you will see your application go through a few status updates. First they will go into a reviewed status, which means that the CPAC has reviewed the resume. Sometimes your application will get stuck at this status. After a certain amount of time it will be safe to assume that the hiring manager has already selected someone else for the position, or that they are not very motivated to hire. Sadly, it is common that the status’ are not properly updated. This is a known frustration for all people who are applying for federal positions.
If all goes well and you truly qualify for the position your status will be updated to “Referred.” This means that the CPAC has forwarded your resume to the hiring official. Notice that I did not say your application package. Usually, the hiring official will only get your resume. The CPAC are going to be the ones that determine if you qualify for MSP, that you have your degree, and check your certifications… or whatever applies to you.
The Interview: The hiring official does not have to conduct interviews. This is entirely up to the internal policies if they want to do interviews or not. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are checking your email for updates on your status. It could be weeks or even a month from the time you get referred to when you hear anything about an interview. Sometimes the status will get stuck at this point as well. Again, it could mean that they selected someone else and didn’t update the status, or that they are just not motivated to get the position filled for whatever reason. Now, if you DO get referred as an MSP, you should only be competing against other spouses. So if you are not interviewed or selected for the position that should only be because another spouse got it, or because they didn’t hire anyone at all. This is important. If you get referred to a job and you are not selected and someone who is not a spouse IS selected, that means the hiring official had to write a justification as to why they needed to review the other applicants because they did not believe that you were qualified for the job. If that happens to you, you can do what is called a FIOA. Which is a request for them to review your application to ensure that the proper procedures where upheld. While that may not get you the job, it will get the person in trouble if it was not proper. The CPAC are the ones that need to be upholding the standards.
In the applications you will see that there is contact information that is generic. It is not common that you will have an actual HR Point of Contact listed. However, when you send an email to this address it goes to a queing system where they record how long it takes them to respond and what reason you are requesting information. This can be a good way to get the CPAC to do their part of the job. If your application is stagnant because someone did not update the status, your email will be the reason they go back into it, or contact the hiring official to find out what the heck they are waiting on. I highly advise being proactive and following up on all open applications you have.
5: Accepting a position:
Yay! You have a tentative offer. If you did not do an interview you would be notified about your tentative officer by receiving an email. In the email there will be a link where you will indicate whether you accept the offer or not. So you have to stay active in your email because you usually only have 24 hours to respond. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity because you missed the email. If the hiring official gives you some indication that you have been selected at the interview, it can take over a week from that point to when the CPAC actually send you that offer. IF YOU DECLINE AN OFFER WITH MSP, YOU LOSE YOUR ABILITY TO USE MSP. Do not apply to jobs using your MSP if you do not actually want the job! After you have accepted the tentative offer the CPAC will do a more thorough review of your background and eligibility for the position and will subsequently send you a final offer. This could also take over a week! By this point it can be two-three months since you applied! In Korea the accompanied tour is only 24 months, wasting 4 months waiting for this process really robs us. There is no reason to wait until you get your house hold goods or get settled before beginning this process… just get started, before you move.
6: The On-Boarding Process:
Congratulations! You have accepted your final offer. You will do most of your onboarding process online. You will fill out digital documents that are assigned to you through the onboarding website. Your start date will be at the beginning of a pay period… so it can be upto two weeks after you accepted the final offer. Your initial report date will be to go to the CPAC office and get a inbrief where they tell you about the benefits of working for the federal governement, how to sign up for insurance, and your 401k (Thrift Savings Plan), etc. Then you will have to raise your right hand before the American flag to get sworn in as an official civil servant!
This is a complicated process. I will write about the benefits of working for the feds in another blog. What I will say here is that all of this work is totally worth it! If you have questions or need help, feel free to contact me! I believe that high tides rise all ships. I want to help you be all that YOU can be while you are supporting the readiness of your soldier so that he or she can be their best at serving our country!