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The untapped potential of the veteran workforce: A case for hiring beyond the CV

By Ian Handley | |5 minute read
The Untapped Potential Of The Veteran Workforce A Case For Hiring Beyond The Cv

Implementing a veteran hiring program is more than just the socially responsible thing to do. Rather, it is a strategic decision that has far-reaching benefits for any organisation willing to recognise that a person’s potential is much more important than their work experience.

The problem is too few organisations are willing to take this approach. According to Deloitte, while 71 per cent of organisations say they would consider employing veterans, only 39 per cent say they would employ someone with no industry experience.

However, to overlook veteran talent is one of the biggest recruitment mistakes an organisation can make. Veterans bring a valuable set of unique skills and qualities to the civilian workforce. Highly motivated, conscientious, adaptable, and often natural leaders, veterans offer a level of discipline and focus that any organisation – regardless of sector or industry – would benefit from.


But beyond their military training, veterans also demonstrate a high propensity for developing sought-after skills. Research from WithYouWithMe found veterans score higher than average in both digit symbol coding and numerical reasoning – attributes that correlate with the ability to interpret and draw conclusions from data, understand and recognise coding patterns, and use logical reasoning to solve problems. Data also reveals more than half of veterans score highly in recognition memory – the ability to identify previously encountered events, objects, or people. This ability plays a critical role in the process of learning new concepts and applying transferable skills.

Based on aptitude and personality testing, veterans are most commonly matched to careers in project management, operations, and cyber security response – likely owing to their existing capabilities when it comes to managing complex situations and problem solving under pressure.

In addition to their unique skill sets, veterans are also the largest source of security cleared talent in Australia – an increasingly important consideration due to current restrictions on the industry’s ability to sponsor net new clearances, and a significant advantage for organisations working in the defence sector, or any sector where employees are required to handle sensitive information.

Despite the clear benefits veterans bring to the workforce, many organisations have yet to fully realise the valuable contribution they can make. As a result, they remain one of the most underemployed groups in society, and these challenges are felt across the globe.

In the UK, for example, while there are around 700,000 veterans in employment, over half of them are employed in low-paid or routine occupations that don’t make full use of their specialised skill sets.

A study in Canada involving more than 2,000 veterans and soon-to-be veterans indicated that finding a meaningful job is their top concern when transitioning to civilian employment, while in the US, veterans are 15.6 per cent more likely to be underemployed than non-veterans.

Here in Australia, the problem is gendered, too, with female veterans taking almost twice as long to find a new role post-service than males.

These challenges highlight the need for organisations to bridge the gap between veteran talent and the opportunities available to them. By tapping into this significant yet overlooked talent pool – with its blend of valuable skills and specialty training – organisations can fill critical skills gaps with highly capable talent while benefiting from the unique experiences and perspectives veterans have to offer.

Ian Handley is the VP of Oceania at WithYouWithMe.



The practice of actively seeking, locating, and employing people for a certain position or career in a corporation is known as recruitment.


The term "workforce" or "labour force" refers to the group of people who are either employed or unemployed.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.