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Common Misconceptions About Hiring Military Spouses

Last week, I called a rehab center to arrange occupational therapy services for my son. The lady who answered the phone told me that it would be months before my son would be seen and that they were the only facility in our area that provided occupational therapy for children with autism. I couldn’t believe it, especially when this base was approved as an appropriate provider for military families with special needs.

In an attempt to find a solution for the lack of services, I suggested that the rehab center try to hire more people so that they can meet the demand. The lady then told me that they had problems recruiting people to move to the area. I didn’t doubt for one minute that she was telling the truth. I wasn’t overjoyed about moving here either. But then I had an idea…

“You should look into hiring a military spouse. I bet there are many qualified spouses out here that could do the job,” I said.

“But they don’t stay,” said the woman.

I was caught off guard by her response. She then proceeded to blame the current backlog of patients on a military spouse that previously left the job. Maintaining my composure, I informed her that I too was a military spouse. I gave her a nice, but firm response as to why military spouses are valuable employees.

Surprisingly, military spouses are not federally protected against hiring discrimination. Situations like the one mentioned above explains why a majority of military spouses are either underemployed or unemployed. Currently, the unemployment rate for military spouses is 26%, almost triple the national unemployment rate!

Let’s examine some common misconceptions about hiring military spouses:


Misconception #1: It’s better to hire someone that is native to the area.

The Truth: Hiring a military spouse will give you an employee with a very diverse background. Their worldview will be a lot broader than someone who has lived in the same place all of their life. Many military spouses have had the unique opportunity to live in different parts of the world, working for all types of organizations. Employers often value work/study abroad experiences and the military experience should apply as well.

Misconception #2: Military spouses are too preoccupied and will miss a lot of work.

The Truth: Military spouses are experts at multi-tasking, a skill that is highly desired in today’s workforce. We juggle many tasks while our spouses are deployed or TDY. We know how to respond whenever inevitable change knocks at our door. We are efficient, practical, resilient, and able to make sweet lemonade out of the most sour lemons. Sounds like the perfect employee to me!

Misconception #3: I support the troops. I offer a 10% discount to military members with an ID.

The Truth: It’s great that you offer a military discount for the troops. Thank you! But please understand that military spouses sacrifice for this country too. The hard truth is that if you won’t hire a military spouse, then you don’t support our troops. A working spouse can take some of the financial pressure off our troops so that they can focus on the mission of protecting our freedom. Show your appreciation for the sacrifices made by hiring military spouses when qualified ones are available.

Misconception #4: Military spouses don’t stay on the job long enough.

The Truth: All military spouse situations aren’t the same. Some active duty military spouses move every 2-3 years. On the flipside, there are military spouses that have been at their current duty station for more than 4 years. National Guard and Reserve spouses rarely move. Some military spouses choose not to move around in order to advance their career. Please keep in mind that it’s not a guarantee that civilian employees will stay on the job long term either. If a military spouse is hired and has to move, employers have the choice to offer a telecommute option. In the right circumstances, telecommuting could be a win-win for both the employer and employee.

If you would like more information about how to support military families, check out the public awareness campaign started by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden called Joining Forces. Also, if you are a military spouse looking for a job, or an employer looking to hire military spouses, visit the Military Spouse Employment Program website.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Shara December 15, 2011, 8:21 AM

    My husband is out of the military now, but I am experiencing that as well. Most people want their applications submitted online now, so I don’t even get the opportunity to preface it with “I was a military spouse, but he is out now and we plan on staying here”. I went back to school to become a nurse now since we are staying put, but I cannot get in to a hospital to take advantage of their tuition reimbursement programs. After 20 applications for jobs that I have had experience in, I get the same old letter “While your background is impressive, we have found someone else who is more qualified”. It is frustrating. My only hope is that I can get recognized as a hard and competent worker from clinicals and student nursing, and maybe get my foot in the door then.

    • Tonya December 15, 2011, 1:29 PM

      Hi Shara – I hope everything works out for you in your nursing career. You are right. It is very frustrating to be completely qualified and know that your military affiliation is causing hesitancy in potential employers. Network as much as you can during your clinicals and student nursing and prayerfully, the right door will open for you! Have a great day and thanks for stopping by my blog!

  • Christina November 5, 2011, 1:44 PM

    I would think hiring a military spouse who is going to move possibly in 3 years is better then not having enough employees to service the needs of the community. I was in HI for 9 years and so were some of my friends.

  • Cecelia Lester (Quiet Spirit) October 27, 2011, 8:58 PM

    I worked for the DOD at an Army post. They seemed to hire military spouses just as often as they hired civillians.
    I believe the lady you spoke with wasn’t very professional when she made the comment about their staffing situation was caused by a military spouse who left.

    • Tonya October 27, 2011, 9:31 PM

      Hi Cecelia,
      I agree, she wasn’t very professional. It seems that the DoD is more willing to hire military spouses than the civilian sector. But I’ve also heard about people not getting promoted because their spouse was active duty and potentially getting orders. It’s harder to keep those kind of things undercover when you work on the same base.

  • Brooke October 26, 2011, 10:37 PM

    I experienced the misconceptions first hand when trying for my first job in Williamsburg, VA. Each time I had an interview, the second they found out I was a military spouse, they didn’t want to hear any more. Two of them even told me that. No fun!

    • Tonya October 26, 2011, 10:55 PM

      Hi Brooke! I try not to disclose a military affiliation when I’m applying for jobs in the civilian sector. At the same time, it’s hard to explain so many relocations in such a short period of time. This is definitely an issue that should be addressed on a larger scale. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

      • Brooke October 26, 2011, 11:10 PM

        Those jobs asked straight out if my husband was military. I’ve learned to skirt the issue. Besides, now I work on my own doing E-designs on Etsy. Much better this way 🙂

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