Author Topic: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job  (Read 1538 times)

Michael in ABQ

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Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« on: February 09, 2018, 10:39:39 AM »
I believe I will be getting a tentative offer for a GS-11 federal job shortly. I've read about negotiations for federal jobs but I'm hoping to get some insight from anyone here who has had success (or failure) at negotiating something higher than Step 1 for a federal job.

I haven't received or accepted the tentative offer yet but it sounds like once I accept that tentative offer all negotiations are off the table. I would like to get at least a few steps higher and I think I can make the argument that because I have 7 years of relevant job experience I should start at Step 6 which would take 7 years to get to under normal circumstances. Another factors are that my health insurance costs will rise a fair amount because I'll no longer be eligible for Tricare Reserve Select through the National Guard which is cheaper and better than the federal healthcare options. A third factor is that this job is for a term not to exceed four years so I think an argument can be made that the pay should be higher to compensate for the fact that I am unlikely to be able to get a pension. On the last point I recognize that once in the system it would probably be a lot easier to find a new job but I'm not really looking to be a federal employee for the next 20+ years; at least not right now.

In addition to trying to negotiate a higher salary because of my work experience and military experience (15 years in the NG come April) I am going to ask to start accruing leave at 6 or 8 hours per pay period instead of 4. I read about a civil service rule covering this so I think there's a decent chance to get that.

Finally, there are recruiting incentives that can be offered up to 25% of base salary. The job is local so there wouldn't be any relocation (and it's not authorized per the original posting). Anyone had any luck getting what is essentially a hiring bonus?
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rockstache

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2018, 12:38:14 PM »
Following. I would love to hear more about the process, and how long your resume was if you don't  mind sharing. The data points seem to be all over the map.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2018, 01:38:35 PM »
Following. I would love to hear more about the process, and how long your resume was if you don't  mind sharing. The data points seem to be all over the map.

My resume was two full pages. I ended up revising it several times before finally posting it as each time I looked over the requirements I noticed something new. For instance with each position I had to list number of hours worked and the name of my supervisor. So I put:

Job Title - Company Name - Albuquerque, NM - May 2015 – Oct. 2017 – Full-Time 40-50 Hours/Week – Supervisor: John Doe


I basically had my current job with 7 bullet points of 1-2 lines each followed by my job title, company, period of employment, hours/week, and supervisor name for my last three positions (all with my current company) going back about 9 years. I had a separate section for my military experience as this is a civilian job with the Air Force. In that case I included bullets (4-5) for each of my last two positions. I don't remember who my supervisor was when I start going back 8-10 years so I just left that part blank figuring that my supervisor for a part-time position 10 years ago was not really that important.

Finally I had an education section and skills and additional information where I had four more bullets listing my proficiency with the Microsoft Office Suite, Eagle Scout, and a recent volunteer role.


The process started with a posting on USAJOBS.gov I uploaded my resume and some backup documents (DD214 to prove military service/veterans preferences, college transcript, etc.) then I was taken to another website to verify that information. I then had to answer about 15-20 questions asking about my experience/knowledge of various areas relevant to the job I was applying for. I then rated myself as anywhere from "I have no idea" to "I'm an expert" (those aren't the way the ratings are really worded). I believe the choices were 1-5 and most of mine were 3s with just a couple of 2s and 4s and maybe one 5. I would say you don't want to BS this much as they may reject your application if what you're claiming isn't backed up by your resume or other sources.

A couple of weeks later I got a call to setup a phone interview (early November). Since some of the candidates were out of the area they did all phone interviews to make it fair. My interview was with the person who would be my boss, and their boss. It lasted a bit over an hour and had some standard questions as well as a fair amount of time explaining the job. They warned me that it was something of a new position and much of the job would be creating the processes and systems needed for it as there wasn't really anything in place for me to fall in on. I was told at the end of the interview they had one more interview after me and they would have their decision in the next week or so. After two weeks I called the person I had interviewed with who apologized they hadn't made a decision yet but I was in the top two and to please send me references. I did so immediately and had no response whatsoever from just before Thanksgiving until today (about 10 weeks). I tried calling and emailing again in early December but no response. USAJOBS sent me an automated message in early January indicating I had not been chosen so I assumed they had picked the other position and just didn't want to tell me I hadn't got it. Maybe they did and that person decided not to accept it in the end or ran into a problem with their background check. Maybe I'll find out if/when I take the job.
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rockstache

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2018, 02:02:43 PM »
Wow, thanks for the detail. My husband has applied for several, and only been referred for 1 or 2, and never gotten an interview. I've applied a few times myself, but only got my resume moved along once, and I ended up not being available to go any further with it. We've heard that you need a 9 page resume, heard that you should have a 1 pager, watched lots of videos about how to apply, and in the end....it seems like there's a lot of luck involved. The vet preference doesn't hurt either (we both have it).

Congrats! I hope it's a solid offer. I wasn't aware you could negotiate the steps, but that is great info to have. You should get a decent vacation benefit too, with your time in service already, eh (that might be the civil service rule you referred to)? 

Catbert

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2018, 02:18:36 PM »
I'm  a long retired Federal HR Manager so some of my knowledge may be out of date.  The answer to all your questions is a resounding "it depends".  The last few years I worked the Navy (at least the activities I worked with) would:

Often negotiate steps but only if the person was otherwise taking a pay cut and they really wanted the person.  You're right, the ability to negotiate would stop if the person accepted the tentative job offer w/o saying anything.   

Wanting more money b/c of the job being term would likely only matter if they are having a difficult time filling the job because of the 4 year limitation.  Generally, 4 years is long enough that it's not a problem finding candidates.

We NEVER gave anyone 6 or 8 hours of vacation to start.

As I said, my knowledge is way out of date.  Different agencies and activities had different norms, and even different norms for different positions.  For example, we hiring college freshouts for HR jobs and NEVER hired about step 1 or negotiated anything.  IT organizations hiring computer engineers routinely gave higher steps for college freshouts.

If I were in your HR and had flexibility to give you additional steps, two things I would look at are 1/how many other good candidates are there and 2/what are you getting paid now?  (if unemployed why give you more)   

Michael in ABQ

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2018, 03:31:54 PM »
I'm  a long retired Federal HR Manager so some of my knowledge may be out of date.  The answer to all your questions is a resounding "it depends".  The last few years I worked the Navy (at least the activities I worked with) would:

Often negotiate steps but only if the person was otherwise taking a pay cut and they really wanted the person.  You're right, the ability to negotiate would stop if the person accepted the tentative job offer w/o saying anything.   

Wanting more money b/c of the job being term would likely only matter if they are having a difficult time filling the job because of the 4 year limitation.  Generally, 4 years is long enough that it's not a problem finding candidates.

We NEVER gave anyone 6 or 8 hours of vacation to start.

As I said, my knowledge is way out of date.  Different agencies and activities had different norms, and even different norms for different positions.  For example, we hiring college freshouts for HR jobs and NEVER hired about step 1 or negotiated anything.  IT organizations hiring computer engineers routinely gave higher steps for college freshouts.

If I were in your HR and had flexibility to give you additional steps, two things I would look at are 1/how many other good candidates are there and 2/what are you getting paid now?  (if unemployed why give you more)

Well I just got off the phone with the person I'll be working for. She explained that she had to write a lot of justifications for the position because they had basically left it empty for the last five years and she's pretty much had to do two jobs for the couple of years she's been there. I discussed starting at a higher step and she said that in her experience no one has received that because they didn't have relevant DOD experience. Basically the way the job posting was written you would pretty much have to already be in the job to meet some of the qualifications as they were pretty specific to working for the DOD.

She is very eager to get me onboard as she'll no longer have to work two jobs so she said she'll submit justifications for a higher step to start with but I need to make my case based on my experience. Unfortunately my current salary is about the same or a bit less as I'm on commission so I can't really use that as a justification. It sounds like starting with 6 or 8 hours of leave accrual per pay period might be possible but she's never heard of that before. I didn't get to discussing any sort of recurring incentive in lieu of a higher step as she had a meeting and told me she would call me back later.

My first conversation with her when I setup the interview back in November she said I had a very impressive resume so I think that there's not a lot of other possible candidates. She also indicated that hopefully I can take over her GS-12 position in a few years as she signed a 4-year agreement that they would cover relocation expenses. So she is probably looking to move in a few years.
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Kierun

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2018, 03:42:45 PM »
Starting off with the 6 or 8 hours of leave will be based on how much federal time you'll be credited with.  It'll depend on how much time of your time in the NG was on active duty and such.  The HR will base your service computation date (SCD) on your time in the military and that would be used to determine how many hours of annual leave (AL) you will start to accrue. 

I picked up a fed job after the reserves and accrued 6 hours from the start due to 3 years active duty time (2 deployments "yay").  So, take a look at your DD-214 and see how much AD time you were credited with and make sure HR adjusts your SCD accordingly.

Catbert

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2018, 03:43:14 PM »
What you may find is that the immediate supervisor wants to give you everything but upper management who pays the bills doesn't.  And then there's HR who wants consistency in decisions.
Good luck

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2018, 08:48:00 PM »
Starting off with the 6 or 8 hours of leave will be based on how much federal time you'll be credited with.  It'll depend on how much time of your time in the NG was on active duty and such.  The HR will base your service computation date (SCD) on your time in the military and that would be used to determine how many hours of annual leave (AL) you will start to accrue. 

I picked up a fed job after the reserves and accrued 6 hours from the start due to 3 years active duty time (2 deployments "yay").  So, take a look at your DD-214 and see how much AD time you were credited with and make sure HR adjusts your SCD accordingly.

^this.  I don't know how much credit your NG service will give but if that was 15 years of active duty you'd be eligible for 8 hours/pay period.  I will also note that you mentioned not wanting to stick around for a pension; you have the option to pay a fee that is based on your military total pay and you'd be able to use your service years to help qualify for a pension.  If you aren't retiring from the military it's a great way to get some credit for those years. 
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Slow2FIRE

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2018, 09:33:29 PM »
AFAIK National Guard time does NOT count towards Federal Service credits other than when you are on active duty within the National Guard.  As suggested above, check your DD214.

http://retirement.federaltimes.com/2016/04/20/creditable-military-service-2016/

You won't get 6hrs or 8hrs of vacation time per biweek without having creditable service that brings you up to 3 years or 15 years of service respectively.  I don't think this is something a person on the GS scale can negotiate (just like you can't negotiate a larger TSP match or better health coverage than what is offered).

Catbert

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2018, 09:22:00 AM »
I think the OP was asking about a rarely used provision in the law which does allow a new hire to negotiate annual leave accural above what they would get based on SCD.  The only time I saw it used was a retired 0-7 going into an SES position.  Won't happen for OP.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2018, 05:07:10 PM »
What you may find is that the immediate supervisor wants to give you everything but upper management who pays the bills doesn't.  And then there's HR who wants consistency in decisions.
Good luck

Yes, that seems to be the case thus far. She said that the justification will have to be approved by a Colonel (O-6) and that so far she hasn't seen any similar requests get approved. It's definitely worth a few hours of my time trying to craft a good argument if it ends up meaning a raise of $2,000 or more. She indicated that she was a realtor before but this job deals with real property and that's basically what I've been working on for the last 7 years.


AFAIK National Guard time does NOT count towards Federal Service credits other than when you are on active duty within the National Guard.  As suggested above, check your DD214.

http://retirement.federaltimes.com/2016/04/20/creditable-military-service-2016/

You won't get 6hrs or 8hrs of vacation time per biweek without having creditable service that brings you up to 3 years or 15 years of service respectively.  I don't think this is something a person on the GS scale can negotiate (just like you can't negotiate a larger TSP match or better health coverage than what is offered).


Well my retirement points add up to the equivalent of over 4 years of active duty, but actual active duty for training and a deployment is maybe 2 years at most. Still, even if I get that counted it means 12-18 months from now I could start accruing 6 hours instead of 4.
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Kierun

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2018, 12:42:53 AM »
I don’t think retirement points or training time is counted, just your deployment and any other time you received a dd-214 (maybe for basic and mos school). Whatever your last dd-214 has.

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2018, 07:15:17 AM »
My advice is third-hand, as people in my industry often get hired into the regulatory agencies which struggle to pay competitively.

I think the grades are fixed, but how high you end up in the step-up is negotiable and the most important part of figuring this out.
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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2018, 08:21:24 AM »
Negotiating with the government is difficult.  It isn't that those negotiating won't see your points or be sympathetic, but rather that their hands are tied.  Government has a lot of hard rules in place to protect itself from itself.  Most of these rules require firm documentation, which is what you're seeing and hearing.  So, they will look at your military service and, based on the calculations, will give you credit for that time.  They will look at your salary and put you in the next step over your past salary.  My experience is that they will not listen to arguments about why your previous pay shouldn't be dispositive. 

Good luck with all of this.  As you said, now is your lone opportunity to really negotiate, so you should do what you can.
 With that said, it probably isn't worth fighting so hard you alienate those around you.  Regardless, congrats on getting a job in the government.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2018, 08:06:29 PM »
Negotiating with the government is difficult.  It isn't that those negotiating won't see your points or be sympathetic, but rather that their hands are tied.  Government has a lot of hard rules in place to protect itself from itself.  Most of these rules require firm documentation, which is what you're seeing and hearing.  So, they will look at your military service and, based on the calculations, will give you credit for that time.  They will look at your salary and put you in the next step over your past salary.  My experience is that they will not listen to arguments about why your previous pay shouldn't be dispositive. 

Good luck with all of this.  As you said, now is your lone opportunity to really negotiate, so you should do what you can.
 With that said, it probably isn't worth fighting so hard you alienate those around you.  Regardless, congrats on getting a job in the government.

This is what I'm worried about. My W-2 and final pay stub for 2017 was about $57k but I was also gone for 6 weeks for National Guard training. During those 6 weeks I made about $10-11k more including allowances bringing my total pay to about $68k. The base pay at step 1 for this position is about $61k but the hiring manager told me that they calculate that as equivalent to about $80k with all of the benefits. My benefits from my previous job were pretty comparable in some ways but did not include a pension or any PTO since I was 100% commission. So they may just look at it as this effectively being a raise (which it is) and hold firm at step 1. I'll still take it but obviously I want to try and push for something higher.

I think my best hope is getting another job offer which I can use as a bargaining chip. I've got an interview tomorrow and another job that I have a pretty good chance of landing, though I don't think the pay will be much above $60k so that probably wouldn't help.
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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2018, 01:46:02 AM »
If the Fed job is something you can do without debilitating levels of stress or working excessive hours then that has value too, I think, over and above the simple numbers.  I hope the job will be that for you.
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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2018, 06:15:57 AM »
If the Fed job is something you can do without debilitating levels of stress or working excessive hours then that has value too, I think, over and above the simple numbers.  I hope the job will be that for you.

This is precisely why I recently switched from a private industry job to a municipal job.

The municipal job was initially offered to me at Step 1 which I assumed was standard/required for a new hire. I turned the job down since it was too large of a pay cut. They immediately came back to me and basically said "what will it take to get you here?". I accepted the job at Step 4.

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2018, 07:46:20 AM »
You can negotiate, but as others have mentioned it requires the hiring manager really wanting you. Be warned though, it can push hire date back weeks even months.

Also, to get to step 7 requires 9 years, not 7.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2018, 09:37:44 AM »
So I received the tentative offer email from someone in HR today. My understanding is that I respond to this email stating that I accept the tentative offer on the condition that I can negotiate for a higher salary/step and greater leave accrual.


This is what I'm planning to respond with:

"I accept the tentative offer contingent on negotiations for a higher starting step based on my superior qualifications as well as a higher leave accrual (6 hours per pay period instead of the standard 4 hours per pay period) based on my military and civilian experience."
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Brother Esau

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2018, 03:22:21 PM »
So I received the tentative offer email from someone in HR today. My understanding is that I respond to this email stating that I accept the tentative offer on the condition that I can negotiate for a higher salary/step and greater leave accrual.


This is what I'm planning to respond with:

"I accept the tentative offer contingent on negotiations for a higher starting step based on my superior qualifications as well as a higher leave accrual (6 hours per pay period instead of the standard 4 hours per pay period) based on my military and civilian experience."

Great, good luck!

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #21 on: February 17, 2018, 12:42:40 AM »
So I received the tentative offer email from someone in HR today. My understanding is that I respond to this email stating that I accept the tentative offer on the condition that I can negotiate for a higher salary/step and greater leave accrual.


This is what I'm planning to respond with:

"I accept the tentative offer contingent on negotiations for a higher starting step based on my superior qualifications as well as a higher leave accrual (6 hours per pay period instead of the standard 4 hours per pay period) based on my military and civilian experience."

If they haven't already responded with a yes to the 6 hours, and they try to say no, just make the argument that you've already got more than X years of federal service based on your military time ("as you can see based on my DD-214"). It seems more mechanical and lacking discretion that way even if some of the time technically doesn't count - they'll have to come back with the actual rule for why it doesn't count. Whereas for the civilian experience they will have no trouble just saying "no, we don't it that way."

They'll credit you with something for the military time anyway, so like you said you may end up only having to wait 12-18 months instead of 3 full years.


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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #22 on: February 17, 2018, 11:41:45 AM »
Everyone I've seen getting hired starts out with 4 hours LA.  After getting hired, if they have military time, they can "buy back" the time to increase their LA hours (unless retired military), or at least get them closer to a time increase.  I don't know of anyone who had that set up before they were hired (they may have been told, based on their military years, where it would put them, but the conversion didn't happen until they were hired and bought the time back).  Leave is not something they are flexible on, since it all goes by the service date and time in qualifying positions. 

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #23 on: February 17, 2018, 03:45:06 PM »
So I received the tentative offer email from someone in HR today. My understanding is that I respond to this email stating that I accept the tentative offer on the condition that I can negotiate for a higher salary/step and greater leave accrual.


This is what I'm planning to respond with:

"I accept the tentative offer contingent on negotiations for a higher starting step based on my superior qualifications as well as a higher leave accrual (6 hours per pay period instead of the standard 4 hours per pay period) based on my military and civilian experience."

If they haven't already responded with a yes to the 6 hours, and they try to say no, just make the argument that you've already got more than X years of federal service based on your military time ("as you can see based on my DD-214"). It seems more mechanical and lacking discretion that way even if some of the time technically doesn't count - they'll have to come back with the actual rule for why it doesn't count. Whereas for the civilian experience they will have no trouble just saying "no, we don't it that way."

They'll credit you with something for the military time anyway, so like you said you may end up only having to wait 12-18 months instead of 3 full years.

If OP is entitled to SCD credit for all or some of his military time, then he'll get what he's entitled to. Creditable military time isn't something that can be negotiated.  It's unlikely that the HR person can or would do it at the offer stage.  Generally it wouldn't be computed until after he's on-board. 


Michael in ABQ

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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #24 on: February 19, 2018, 09:45:32 AM »
So I received the tentative offer email from someone in HR today. My understanding is that I respond to this email stating that I accept the tentative offer on the condition that I can negotiate for a higher salary/step and greater leave accrual.


This is what I'm planning to respond with:

"I accept the tentative offer contingent on negotiations for a higher starting step based on my superior qualifications as well as a higher leave accrual (6 hours per pay period instead of the standard 4 hours per pay period) based on my military and civilian experience."

If they haven't already responded with a yes to the 6 hours, and they try to say no, just make the argument that you've already got more than X years of federal service based on your military time ("as you can see based on my DD-214"). It seems more mechanical and lacking discretion that way even if some of the time technically doesn't count - they'll have to come back with the actual rule for why it doesn't count. Whereas for the civilian experience they will have no trouble just saying "no, we don't it that way."

They'll credit you with something for the military time anyway, so like you said you may end up only having to wait 12-18 months instead of 3 full years.

If OP is entitled to SCD credit for all or some of his military time, then he'll get what he's entitled to. Creditable military time isn't something that can be negotiated.  It's unlikely that the HR person can or would do it at the offer stage.  Generally it wouldn't be computed until after he's on-board.

I received a response from the HR person who sent out the email that they acknowledged my desire to negotiate on the salary but offering greater leave accrual was not something they would offer and he provided a link to an OPM rule. It looks like I'll only get credit for my time on active duty which adds up to 17 months assuming they count basic training, my deployment, and another several months on active duty for my basic officer training. I uploaded my DD-214s that show that and it does sound like that will be handled during the onboarding and I may or may not need to buy it back for it to count. I'll have to calculate how much that would cost and if it's worth it since I'm not intending to put in 25 years or however long it takes to earn a pension. Of course that might change and if it's a relatively small amount to buy it back I understand it's a lot cheaper to do it now than a few years down the road.


I sent a three page document to the hiring manager basically outlining why I had superior qualifications based on the 6 KSAs in the job posting as well as some other general information. I included the senior rater comments from my last three officer evaluation reports that were all very positive. Since it sounds like it will be an Air Force colonel who is ultimately making this decision, I figure including those comments from a couple of lieutenant colonels will carry some weight that talking about my specific professional experience may not.
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Re: Negotiating Salary/Benefits for a Federal Job
« Reply #25 on: February 19, 2018, 10:32:08 PM »
The buying back of time is not related to your SCD or LA accrual, the buying back of military time is retirement system related. HR should automatically use your dd214 to calculate your SCD but it sounds like you won’t have the three years to start with 6 hours.