Five Tips to Landing a US Government Job Overseas

The federal government has quite a footprint in overseas locations throughout the world.  Primarily these jobs are with the DoD, though many components and agencies within the Department are represented.  Civilian overseas positions are very attractive for several reasons–chief among them being the opportunity to live and work in interesting and frequently beautiful foreign locales.  If you’re reading this post you are likely already drawn to the prospect of an overseas job.  Here are five useful tips to ponder your strategy and land a US Government job overseas.

Tip #1: Develop a good idea of what’s in store

Working overseas as a civilian in the US Government offers the advantage of something new and usually expanded entitlements over similar positions in the continental US (CONUS).  There is the obvious novelty of working in a new country and the exposure to different cultures, people, and languages.  Many DoD positions also offer generous relocation/permanent change of station (PCS) packages; tax-exempt post allowances which help offset foreign currency disparities with the dollar; and possible Living Quarters Allowance (LQA) which covers the cost of housing.  Together such entitlements can make an already appealing proposition downright lucrative.  This only adds to the competition applicants to overseas positions face.
On the other hand, overseas positions come with some built-in disadvantages.  Even introverts and loners will likely experience a bout or two of acute homesickness.  And what the DoD giveth, it also taketh away: most all DoD overseas positions are subject to what is known as the 5-year rule.  Initial tours are usually 3 years, many are “renewed” or extended to 5 years, some lucky folks may get a couple years beyond that.  But civilian overseas postings are intended to be rotational in nature and finite in length.  At the conclusion of an overseas tour, you are to return to your previous position/agency or are placed in the Priority Placement Program (PPP) which finds and places you in a suitable CONUS position.  Two years’ service in CONUS is required before accepting a follow-on overseas position.


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Tip #2: The criticality of resume and interview

Because overseas jobs are always in high demand (see above: beauty, culture, entitlements), competition is intense and applicants are numerous.  Luckily however, job postings on USAJOBs for overseas positions are ever-present (see above: 5-year rotations).  In order to make HR referral lists, stand out from the crowds, and ultimately get hired, the importance of an effective and tailored resume cannot be overstated.  A carefully written, effective resume can mean the difference between a ticket to a well-compensated job in, say, Korea or Germany or the continued disappointment with USAJOBs ‘Not Hired’ notifications.  Competition is stiff – investing in the Resume Place’s career consultation and resume writing services can save time and frustrations and ultimately help you land a dream job overseas.


Tip #3: Be flexible…and highlight your flexibility

Previous overseas experience is usually viewed very favorably by hiring managers.  But if you are seeking your first position overseas, it helps to be personally flexible (career-wise and openness to outside-the-comfort-zone cultural experiences).  And it helps to communicate your flexibility to hiring managers through your resume and interview.  A willingness to tackle new tasks and work with diverse groups is a desirable skill for most government positions, but it is a must for those hoping to land overseas.  A flexible skillset and continual openness to change should be clearly displayed to hiring managers–they will be repeatedly put to the test in any position you land overseas.


Tip #4: Understand the risks

Moving overseas is a big step and comes with many changes.  You may land at a well-supported military base with a built-in sense of community and lots of familiarity (commissaries, community libraries, etc).  You may take well to your foreign community and its offerings outside the gates.  Or you may end up in a more “remote” site with fewer American provisions and support and have no choice but to be more reliant upon the local economy.  Bottom line: there are non-work factors to consider in an overseas move.  Take the time and do your research on potential locations and agencies.  International moves are neither easy nor quick.  If discovered too late, a poor employee-employer or resident-country fit can be very stressful to manage and potentially expensive to quickly reverse–most oversea transportation agreements require a minimum year of service to “payback” before return PCS costs can be covered.  Waivers to such policies are difficult to negotiate.  Again – understand the risks!


Tip #5: Know your value

For all the reasons above, you should approach the overseas federal job search with a deep understanding of your value.  You must leverage effective means (resume, interviewing skill) to communicate your value to hiring agencies.  But you should also view your “value” through the lens of the hiring agency.  Due to the time-consuming recruitment process, lengthy relocation timeframes, and the steep agency expense at every step of the way, every recruitment to an overseas position is very valuable.  You must do your best to match and sell your value to the agency to the value you represent as a US-recruited employee (PCS costs are high and continually rising).  Employing an effective, professional workforce in key overseas areas is immensely valuable to the US Government’s various missions and it is expensive to finance such operations.  Applying for overseas positions should follow research, deep consideration, and strategic preparation on your part.  And, due to the competition for these jobs, anything less than the best resume and application package will likely prove unsuccessful.  Know your value.  Show your value.


If you’re ready to take the steps and begin applying to US Government overseas positions, you may want to consider federal career consultation with Resume Place experts.  We can help you plan for and choose the best fields and positions, ensuring a match for your qualifications and limiting wasted time in your job search.  Want help and advice for writing your resume on your own?  The Resume Place offers an excellent series of books by Kathryn Troutman to guide your development and writing.  Want to maximize your chance at referrals, ‘Best Qualified’ ratings, and overseas job offers?  Check out our professional resume writing services and interview prep assistance.

About the Author

Jeremy Mott is an experienced technical writer with significant analytical and organizational expertise, ideally suited for federal resume writing.  Jeremy’s experience currently working for the government overseas in Germany and after relocating and finding a Program Analyst position from his DOD position in Louisville, KY (after a closure of a depot there), gives him the background to understand the movement of a career from US to overseas and vice versa. Jeremy changed his agency, occupational series, country and mission — with his USAJOBS federal resume and application! With 12 years in the federal government serving as a Management and Program Analyst, Contract Manager, and Electronics Engineer, his diverse experience is reflective of—and a great asset to—the broad range of Resume Place clients. Now as a Management Analyst within a Programs and Manpower division, he has benefited from much exposure to the inner workings of OPM occupational standards, the tailoring of interview questions, applicant selection, and the critical importance of quality recruitment.

Jeremy has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s of Public Administration, both from the University of Louisville. He also received a Graduate Certificate in Public Management from a NAVSEA-sponsored program with Indiana University. He lives in Germany with his wife, son, and daughter.

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