When it comes to looking for a job or starting a career, there are many theories on the best way to approach a new company. For some, highlighting your military spouse status is frowned upon, but for others, it’s the best way to get your resume before a potential employer. Hiring managers, too, have differing ideas on this topic along with varying levels of familiarity with military spouses. In every situation, there are pros and cons to divulging your military spouse status during the job hunt.
Some seek military spouses
Some companies seek out this demographic, and advocates of military spouse employment urge all spouses to start with companies who have a reputation of being military friendly.
Martin Aragona, Jr, and his wife, Lori, own several businesses in Jacksonville, North Carolina, an area heavily populated by military spouses and veterans because of its proximity to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and surrounding bases. The Aragonas own Marlo Construction, Inc. and Biagio’s, a restaurant and coffee shop in the downtown area.
Aragona has learned to identify military spouse job seekers by their resumes because of the frequent moves and out-of-state addresses listed. Knowing they are often hesitant to reveal their status, Aragona encourages it.
“We feel like military members and their spouses are assets to our community and to our businesses. So, for us, it would be a benefit to disclose their status as a military family,” he said.
He also acknowledges that while he is open to hiring military spouses, not everyone feels that way.
“Some businesses may give pause, in hiring military spouses, out of fear of a quick move out of town,” Aragona said. And that’s a legitimate concern.
But the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that Americans held an average of 7.8 jobs by the time they turned 30. If military spouses move and change jobs every three years — and the average age of a military spouse is 31.5, according to the 2015 Department of Defense Demographics — then they would change jobs less than the average American.
Overall, it comes down to communication, Aragona says.
“However, if both the business and the spouse are open and upfront, usually, a mutually-beneficial arrangement can be found,” he explained.
Not everyone knows what military spouses have to offer
On the flip side of the discussion are hiring managers who don’t have any military background or experience. They see resumes with multiple career fields, frequent moves and gaps, but do not understand the value a military spouse can bring to the table. And while they cannot legally discriminate against a marital status, military spouses all over the world have experienced this.
As a veteran and federal employee, Brandon Stackpole thinks that military spouses should reveal their “status” on their resume. He believes this because it helps to explain the constant moving around, which would otherwise be a red flag on a resume. Stackpole is a supervisory IT specialist who works on Fort Gordon, Georgia, and frequently sits on hiring panels.
When asked about the hesitation hiring managers may have regarding military spouses, Stackpole answered honestly, “Yes, hiring managers often do, even if “unofficially.” And whether agreed with or not, their hesitation is not completely unfounded. Employers think about money and longevity, and military spouses cannot always offer long-term solutions. That doesn’t mean they should be discounted as a great asset for a few years, but there is still quite a way to go to educate and explain this to all employers.
It’s important to note that military spouses are not a federally-protected class. There is nothing that makes not hiring a military spouse illegal and discriminating against someone because of their marital status is not a requirement in every state.
Military spouses are sought after
“I have absolutely hired people because they are a military spouse and bring a different perspective and amazing worldliness to a company,” Jennifer Blackwood, former director of early learning centers in both Maryland and Virginia, explained. “Most military spouses that I have met have a unique ability to make friends anywhere they go, have an incredible work ethic, are versatile and adaptable, and have a desire to support and nurture the people around them. Who wouldn’t want to hire a person with all of these underlying qualities?”
Blackwood, a former military spouse, has also seen a bias toward military spouses.
“There are definitely hiring managers who hesitate when hiring military spouses. Depending on the job, consistency and longevity are very important and being aware that one will have to hire a replacement in two years can be very unsettling,” she said.
Military spouses know and accept these facts, but they want a chance to prove themselves.
“Depending on the company and type of job, it might take four months to complete the interview process from start to finish and then another two months training someone. Investing in someone who is not going to be around long term can be a difficult thing to overlook,” she added.
Overall, employers want to be able to trust their employees. They want to receive resumes that are a true representation of the applicant and they want to hire quality employees. If you are a military spouse, you don’t have to tattoo it on your forehead, but you also should never feel forced to lie about it. Some of the recommended solutions are to use your cover letter as an opportunity to explain any breaks in employment on your resume and research companies actively recruiting for military spouses. The Military Spouse Employment Partnership is a great starting point as it lists more than 390 companies that fit that description.