3 Ways Defence Companies Are Losing Out on Great Talent

By Sophie Richards on 27 June 2019

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The defence industry is a tough market for talent. Ask anyone involved in hiring at the moment and they’ll tell you the same thing: quality candidates are thin on the ground.

With massive projects like nuclear powered submarines, Hunter frigates, REDSPICE and LAND 400 (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 coming years.

As specialist recruiters for the defence industry, we’ve seen companies lose out on excellent candidates in many different ways. In this blog we share the most common ways companies lose out on excellent talent; 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 in a position to be able to proceed with an offer. By that time the candidate had already accepted a role with a competitor. In this current market, the organisation that is quickest to schedule interviews and make hiring decisions, is the organisation that has the most success with hiring good candidates.

Slow processes and poor communication is not the only thing that’ll damage your changes; giving a bad first impression can leave the candidate feeling disrespected and unlikely to consider your company for a different role in the future.

Examples of this include turning up late to interviews or keeping your candidates waiting around. Avoid booking back-to-back meetings if you have an interview scheduled, and if you 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 – showing mutual respect and common courtesy could be the defining factor that pushes you ahead of other companies.

Making a good first impression is so important to your company brand, especially in defence industry. In this tight-knit community, 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 eliminating interview bias for more information.


Salaries are increasing across all skill sets in every state in Australia. New players have come into the market and driven salaries up which has led some organisations to accept that, in order to attract the best talent, they need to offer the best salaries.

But where does this leave you if you can’t offer more money?

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you’re aware of what others are offering. It’s imperative to be across where you sit in the market, so you know how to tailor your offer for prospective hires.

If you can’t meet market rate on salary, you need to have a compelling employee value proposition (EVP) in place. This EVP might need to be tailored o different candidates, as Gen Z is going to want different things from their employer, compared to a Millennial or Gen X.

If you are proactive, not reactive, when it comes to salary and benefits, and you’ll find that candidates are receptive to what you can offer them.

For more information take a look at our blog on how to position yourself as an employer of choice.


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 able to offer a compelling salary and/or benefits package?

  • 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.​

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

** This blog has been updated in 2022 to reflect more recent defence industry trends.

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