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Hiring Ex-Defence Professionals

Why Hire an Ex-Defence Person / Why Not?

Assume that you are an ex-defence professional, well settled in your 2ndlife, and in a position to hire for your company– either as an Owner / Director / CEO / HR Head / Department Head or whatever…

Assume also, that the job can be performed equally well by a veteran and a person with no defence background.

The Question is:

  • Would you hire an ex-Defence person for the job? If so, Why?
  • And if not, why not?

The aim of this article is

  • To understand what a hirer seeks in ex-Servicemen candidates. And to understand this specifically from the perspective of ex-Defence hirers. They have been on both sides of the fence, and they know exactly what to look for;
  • To help ex-Defence people prepare accordingly and therefore create win-wins for both hirers and ex-Defence candidates.

After speaking to many ex-defence hirers, and having recruited many ex-defence people myself, I have shortlisted certain common factors, because of which we seek ex-defence candidates – or let them go. Here are the 5 most important factors, from the practitioners themselves:

1. Common Traits and Skills of Ex-Defence Personnel

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  • Honesty, integrity, discipline, dependability, decisiveness, a good bearing, man-management, process-orientation, administrative ability, project-management, crisis management, and the ability to multi-task” says Col Rajeev Sahni, Director, Ybrant People Manpower & Consulting Private Limited,. “Ex-Defence people are filtered and then trained for many years in these – so most of them possess these.”
  • Such traits and skills are highly valued in any employee. Therefore, I have successfully placed ex-Defence professionals in my own company and in many others.”

2. Spoken Reputation in the Defence Forces

Col Samrendra Mohan Kumar, Co-Founder and MD, MitKat Advisory Services Pvt Ltd(a risk and advisory company), says, “I always look for the spoken reputation of the person in the Army, Navy or Air Force. Rank does not matter, nor whether the person was approved for promotion. But what do their colleagues in Defence say about them, as persons and as professionals? The person must carry a good spoken reputation

  • I second this. In my own companies*, the first thing I search for is the spoken reputation of the person where they come from. It is an excellent indicator of how that person will perform in the future.
  • This is why most placements of ex-Defence people are through referrals. A reference ensures that the spoken reputation of the candidate is verified.

3. Abilities versus Skills required for the Job

  • What I also look for” says Brigadier M Karthikeyan, Welspun Group, “is a fit between abilities and job requirements. Ultimately people have to perform in the jobs for which they are hired.
  • For ex-defence people, no past record of performance usually exists for functions like business development, sales, corporate operations, HR, health and safety, etc. But do they have those traits or demonstrated abilities? And have they performed similar functions in their first careers?
  • For a job which involves sales, for example, is the person a good presenter, outgoing, an evangelist, and persuasive, someone who does not take no for an answer? Similarly, for HR, is the person patient, a listener, meticulous and empathetic? The basic traits must fit the job requirements.
  • This is also apparent from the CVs of ex-Defence people. A highlighting of the correct skills and traits shows that they understand what is required of them in the job position!”

4. Willingness and Actions Taken to learn and unlearn

  • Lt Col Sushil Choudhary (Retd), Nagarjuna Construction Company, has this to say, “Is the person adaptable? Are they willing to learn how to adapt core values and principles learnt in the Armed Forces to corporate?”
  • Principles and values do not change, but the context does. And we are not talking about just ethics here. Successful, long-term businesses usually run ethically and follow rules. What matters is, can ex-Defence people adjust to the new context – a self-managed environment, little formality, young supervisors, flexible timings, dress, etc. And extreme answerability for performance, which, in business, is easily quantified and measured!”
  • Are they prepared to learn new skills, like sales, marketing, IT skills, negotiation, etc.? Or do they just keep harking back to the ‘good old days’ in uniform, while criticising everything in the corporate world?
  • A willingness to learn also indicates a lack of rigidity. Ex-defence people are sometimes perceived as being rigid. As ex-defence people ourselves, we understand that this is mostly not a trait, but a falling-back to the comfort of past learning. An openness to learn indicates the absence of such rigidity.
  • This willingness to look towards the future and to learn is also apparent from the level of preparation at job interviews. Have they researched the company and the job position? Have they prepared themselves for the job – courses, qualifications, some exposure, internship, etc.? For example, for an industrial HR vacancy, have they made efforts to understand Industrial Relations, and issues in handling blue collar workers?
  • In short, are they really interested and prepared for the job position, or are they just looking for a job?”

5. Needs of Ex-Defence people versus Job Requirements

  • Honorary Capt Liladhar Bachkheti, Brisk Olive Business Solutions, has helped in placing many ex-Defence officers and jawans. He has this practical advice to share, “Ex-Defence people have gone through one career. In their 2nd career, they usually seek greater stability, plus the opportunity to do what they really want – what gives them true satisfaction! They might not realize this is the initial urgency to secure their first job, but this is nevertheless true.
  • So if you are seeking long term employees, look for what really interests and suits them. Where are their families settled? Can they move to the job location? Will they be happy doing the job? Or is it just a stop-gap? If these factors are checked, then the person will be a long-term, happy, and productive employee!
  • The good part, however, is that most ex-Defence people are multi-functional and fit equally well into multiple profiles. So the options suitable and available to them are many.”

6. Apart from these factors, there is also the factor of the salary offered to an Ex-Defence person. Ex-Defence people have many past years of service. They fit into middle or senior levels. Jawans fit in minimum supervisory levels. Therefore the their salaries are also higher in comparison to beginners.

  • But contrary to notions, companies usually do not hire ex-defence people at salaries lower than their civil counterparts. The difference, if any, is usually due to the lack of ‘relevant’ experience in case of ex-defence candidates.
  • At the same time, companies are hesitant to hire people at lower than their expectations, as per age and service. This means that the position must be weighty enough. This reduces the number of suitable positions.
  • In short, the person and the salary must deserve one another, so that the person’s colleagues are compelled to say, “We wish we had more people like them!”

In summary, ex-Defence people are in demand for their inherent traits and qualities. By working on the other areas – like correctly assessing their own needs versus requirements of the job, working on the required skills in advance, and being open to learn more as they go – great win-wins can be created. There such examples already exist in the corporate!

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