3 Keys to Hiring Great Ex-Defence Professionals
After taking premature retirement from the Army, I took the plunge into entrepreneurship by starting a couple of companies:
- Navyug Infosolutions Pvt. Ltd. - a Software Services development company
- Arnima Ventures Ltd. – manufacturer of LED lights and turn-key project management in LED and Solar.
In both companies, where possible, we have hired ex-Defence people, and we continue hiring more. There are 3 primary things that I look for when selecting an ex-Defence person:
1. Spoken Reputation in the Defence Forces:
If only one factor were to matter, this would be that factor. The rank of an ex-defence person does not matter, nor does it matter whether the person was approved for promotions or did a particular course. What matters is - what do his / her colleagues in Defence say about him/ her as a person, as a professional and on his/her suitability for the functional vacancy at hand. Anyone coming from the defence forces carries a past reputation of many long years. The great thing is that, for anyone to have survived in the tough services environment, he/she must have had some great qualities. Look for those qualities and see whether they match the requirements of your job vacancy. Ask an ex-Defence colleague or friend what the spoken reputation of the person was in the Armed Forces. Ask whether his/her experiences would have given him the skills required to fill your job vacancy.
The past is the best predictor of the future. I have rarely, if ever, gone wrong, whenever a check of an ex-Defence person’s past was carried out diligently.
2. Willingness to Learn and Unlearn:
Again, this is an important factor that we look at whenever hiring a person from the Army / Navy / Air Force. Is he/she prepared to relearn to adapt to civil, the basic values/principles learned in the Armed Forces and to pick up skills that were not common there? Principles and values do not change - how they are applied certainly does. And if the person is prepared and comfortable to flex, it is a win-win.
We make it a point when hiring an ex-Defence person, to specify – if required, in writing – the ground rules of the new job and the areas where he is expected to learn new skills. This has mostly always worked. Once the person is explained the ground rules, he/she either makes sure to come up to standards on them or else, he/she declines the role as not a correct fit.
3. Suitability of the Job to the Person’s Circumstances:
We also make it a point to check whether the ‘circumstances’ of the candidate fit the job at hand. For instance, if the person is 60 plus, we would consider him/her for a strategic role, not for a stressful continent-hopping one. If the person has responsibilities like children studying in senior grades in the city, we would never ask him to relocate to another place – the arrangement is sure to be short-lived.
Ex-Servicemen have already gone through one profession. They would like not to compromise upon certain things in their second one. It is best to ask them what their long term plans are. Wherever there is a misalignment between those plans and the current job requirements, there could be a concern. Once again, this is a guideline, not a straitjacketed rule. Because people from the Armed Forces are from such a diverse set of circumstances, that exception would always exist. Short Service Commissioned officers, women, early retirees might be much more ready to adapt to any and all kinds of challenges that the new job raises.
Ex-Servicemen are unique resources with unique skills. If you look at the correct places or ask the right people, there is a vast amount of information available on their past experience, skills, and performance. Moreover, most 2nd life professionals would be happy to share their constraints and compulsions, if any, what drives them and where they would best fit. Like you, they too are not interested in having to readjust in new jobs ever so often. If asked, they would be happy to help you in making the right man-job fit.
We have currently over 10 ex-servicemen working for us in our two companies (the numbers are lower because one of the companies is a software services company, mostly with young computer science professionals). We have had an excellent experience of hiring ex-Defence people and would advise others to take them on too.