3 Ways Defence Companies Are Losing Out on Great Talent

By Shane Curtis on 27 June 2019

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The Defence Industry is a tough market for talent. Ask any recruitment consultant and they’ll tell you the same thing: quality candidates are thin on the ground.

With massive projects like nuclear powered submarines, SEA5000, LAND400, and JSF – just to name a few – all going on at the same time, the Australian Defence Industry is growing fast. While this is exciting, the fact is we have more open jobs to fill than skilled candidates to fill them with. To put it mildly, it’s a candidate-short market; and it’s only going to get tighter over the next 5 years.

As recruiters for the Defence Industry, we’ve seen companies lose out on excellent candidates in many different ways. I’m going to share with you the top three, and hopefully it won’t happen to you.


A candidate of ours made it through the first stage interview for a new role with one of our clients. We were all told that a second interview would happen in the following week. The week passed, and we heard nothing. Over the next few weeks, we kept trying to call the hiring manager who promised they’d get back to us – but they never did.

This went on for far too long. The candidate would call us to find out if we’d heard anything from the company; we’d chase the company, only to be told that they were still in discussions but would come back to us soon with a decision.

Finally – over two months later – the company told us that they were no longer going to hire someone for the role, as they had lost the project. By that time the candidate had already accepted a role with a competitor, but they were understandably annoyed at how bad the communication had been. They told us that the whole process had felt like a complete waste of their time, and that they would never apply for a role with that company in the future.

Poor communication – or a complete lack of it – is disrespectful to the candidate, but it can also be really damaging to your company. Defence is a tight-knit community, and word gets around fast. Companies with a bad reputation will find that candidates aren’t interested in working with them. What’s more, it can take a really long time to change people’s perceptions.


If you were in a candidate’s position, how would you feel if the person interviewing you started asking you personal questions? This could be anything from your ethnic background to your religion, your relationship status or sexual preference. You’d feel uncomfortable, right?

And a hot tip if you’re interviewing a woman: don’t ask her if she has kids or is planning on having a family. It may be meant as a harmless question, but it could be seen as an underhand attempt to find out personal information which could skew the way you feel about offering her the role. The candidate might worry that she won’t get the job because the company doesn’t want to offer flexible working hours or pay for her maternity leave.

Never ask a candidate a question that could be linked in any way to discrimination or bias. There’s nothing wrong with being friendly, but always keep it professional. Remember, there can be serious legal consequences for discriminatory behaviour! Read our blog on illegal interview questions for more information.


This one should be easy to get right, but we see it all the time: hiring managers and HR personnel turning up late to the interviews they’re supposed to be running.

One of our candidates told us that they turned up to an interview with a company about ten minutes early (good form on their part). They were asked to wait in the foyer, and told that the hiring manager would be with them soon. The ten minutes passed, and the hiring manager still hadn’t shown up. Another ten minutes went by, and the candidate was sitting there stressed, constantly checking their watch. They even wondered if the interview had been cancelled.

Half an hour after the candidate had arrived, the hiring manager finally appeared, rushing into the room and muttering something about a meeting that had gone overtime. Obviously, this didn’t give the candidate the greatest of first impressions. Even though the interview went well, they left the room feeling like this wasn’t a company they wanted to work for. If they couldn’t respect their time for an interview, imagine what they’d be like to actually work for!

Another tip: avoid booking back to back meetings if you know you’ve got an interview scheduled. If you do find yourself in a meeting that’s running late, quietly excuse yourself so you can make it to the interview on time. The candidate has gone out of their way to come out to your office and meet you – the worst thing you can do is make them feel like you’re doing them a favour.

Showing mutual respect and common courtesy could be the defining factor that pushes you ahead of other companies.

So to make sure you’re not missing out on excellent candidates, try to always ask yourself:

  • Are you doing anything that might leave a bad impression?

  • Are you respecting their time?

  • Are you giving candidates a positive experience?

It’s about more than just filling the roles you need to. If you can paint your company in the best light possible, you’ll always be seen as an employer of choice.

To read more about how you can give the best candidate experience, have a read of our blog.

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

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