Military Spouse Hiring Preference – How the Priority Placement Program Works

Have you heard of the military spouse hiring preference? This program could help you land your next job, but many military spouses don’t know much about it or how it could apply to them. The hiring preference doesn’t come into play every time a military spouse applies for a job. In fact, you can use…
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Military Spouse Hiring Preference

Have you heard of the military spouse hiring preference? This program could help you land your next job, but many military spouses don’t know much about it or how it could apply to them.

The hiring preference doesn’t come into play every time a military spouse applies for a job. In fact, you can use it only in very specific situations.

I’ve been a military spouse for 10 years and have worked a variety of jobs at four different duty stations, but I have never been eligible for the hiring preference.

The good news is that if you are eligible, the military spouse hiring preference can play an important role in getting you your next job.

What is this preference, and how can it work for you? We have all the answers below.

What Is the Military Spouse Hiring Preference?

President Obama signed Executive Order 13473 in September 2008. It gives military spouses preference when applying for federal job positions. The Military Spouse Preference (MSP) and non-competitive hiring process enable government agencies to hire military spouses in certain General Schedule (GS) temporary and permanent positions.

This doesn’t mean that federal agencies will automatically hire eligible military spouses for open positions. In fact, the order doesn’t actually grant hiring preference or selection priority.

The Priority Placement Program (PPP) simply provides non-competitive entry to military spouses qualified for certain federal positions. You must still go through the federal hiring process with a resume that clearly demonstrates your skillset and aptitude for a position.

What Jobs Give a Military Spouse Preference?

The military spouse preference can be used only for federal job positions. They can be short-term, temporary, or long-term federal positions. Federal agencies must publicly announce these jobs and list them on federal job sites.

If you’re looking for a job in the private sector, there’s no official military spouse hiring preference program to help you there. However, there are still some private-sector employers happy to give opportunities to military spouses.

How Can Military Spouses Find Federal Job Listings?

You can find federal job listings on the USAjobs website. Spouses can apply for them by filing with their local Civilian Personnel Office (CPO). The Priority Placement Program (PPP) lets you claim spouse preference for certain CONUS job listings (meaning, in the continental U.S.).

Spouses may have additional success with spouse preference positions if they contact their base Family Readiness Office or Family Support Office. They can also contact the DoD Transition Assistance Program (TAP) office. These offices sometimes have relationships with the agencies listing federal jobs.

Military spouses will have the most success with the PPP if they take the time to learn the federal application process. Your resume, cover letter, and application must contain keywords that demonstrate your qualifications for a job.

Be prepared to upload college transcripts to demonstrate that you earned a particular degree. It’s wise to take a free resume class at the base family center. Here, professionals will walk you through the federal job application process. They’ll also show you how to put the proper search terms into your application. (There are many other free classes offered on base that might be helpful in your job search, too.)

Who Qualifies for the Military Spouse Hiring Preference?

In order to qualify for the military spouse hiring preference, you must have moved because of PCS orders. If you, the military spouse, has moved because you’re newly married or if you’ve chosen to stay behind and be geographically separated from your service member, spouse preference does not apply. You also can’t use the preference for TDY, training, or any other military orders besides PCS.

A military spouse can also use the preference if their service member is killed while on active duty or becomes 100% disabled as a result of active duty service.

To demonstrate eligibility, the service member’s PCD orders must list the military spouse. You must also have a valid marriage license.

How Long After a Move Can I Apply for a Job?

The preference window is open for two years after the date the PCS orders are issued. It doesn’t matter when the military spouse actually moves to the new location. Whether you receive orders a few months or a full year before you move, the military spouse preference can be used only until two years after the date on the orders.

How Often Can a Military Spouse Use the Priority Placement Program?

You can use the program to gain one position per PCS orders — yes, only one.

However, spouses who have used the PPP in the past may transfer their PPP registration when they receive PCS orders for a new duty station. This way, one individual could use it multiple times if their service member had new PCS orders each time.

Even if you have never used the military spouse hiring preference before, it could be useful after your next move, especially if you’re looking for a federal job. Good luck with your next job application!

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About Lizann Lightfoot

Lizann Lightfoot is a military spouse who has been following her Marine around the world for 15 years. A mom of 4 young children, she loves military resources, and anything free. Lizann is a published author, and the voice behind The Seasoned Spouse blog.

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  1. Ann Seton says

    This information is completely wrong! It was updated in October 2019 after the rules changed and still has the wrong info. PPP went away, most of the limitations went away, and almost every spouse qualifies now, with or without PCS orders.

    • Lizann Lightfoot says

      You’re right. I wrote this article in 2015 or 2016, before the rules changed. It looks like the site recycled and reposted my article without updating the info.

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