Veterans given right to interviews for civil service jobs

Experts call for scheme to be extended beyond the public sector and say employers that do not recognise ex-military talent are missing out

People who have served in the armed forces for at least one year will now automatically get an interview when applying for jobs in the civil service as part of a government scheme to improve the employment prospects of service leavers.

The policy – announced earlier this year – comes into effect this week and potentially opens up a talent pool of more than two million veterans, who will have a greater chance of securing jobs within the government.

It applies to all recruitment campaigns run by the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Office and the Home Office, including the UK Border Force.

The move has been welcomed by both employment groups and veterans’ charities, which have called for the scheme to be extended beyond the public sector. 

Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said veterans typically have many transferable skills – including strategic thinking, leadership and problem-solving – which are valuable to businesses.

“Veterans represent a significant talent pool and businesses that don’t recognise that are missing out,” she said.

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This was echoed by Lieutenant General Sir Andrew Gregory, chief executive of armed forces charity SSAFA. “Service in the armed forces gives men and women values and skills that makes them excellent potential employees when they transition into a subsequent civilian career,” he said.

The new initiative should be “adopted more broadly in the public sector and in business, opening additional doors for veterans to demonstrate their value to society”, Gregory added.

There are around 2.2 million veterans in the UK, and 15,000 people leave the armed forces each year, according to the government. Around 60 per cent of those leaving each year are under 35 – and most are looking to start a new career.

However, people who have served in the armed forces often have less experience of applying for jobs, said Alistair Halliday, chief executive of charity RFEA, and can find it difficult to translate their military experience to meet civilian job descriptions. This means many veterans struggle to be shortlisted for roles. 

“A guaranteed interview will mean that more veterans will succeed in entering civilian employment and that they will enter a more diverse range of roles,” said Halliday. “We welcome this scheme by the government and hope it will be adopted by more employers.”

Tom McBarnet, director of programmes at the Forces in Mind Trust, added: “Some service leavers experience disadvantage when they seek to enter civilian employment, and measures like this can help to address that disadvantage. We are encouraged that this step has been taken and hope others will follow suit.”

Nicola Inge, employment and skills director at Business in the Community, also welcomed the move. But, she said, making sure veterans are interviewed for jobs they apply for needs to be part of a bigger picture. 

“Veterans are just one group of many that are being pushed away from the job market; those at risk of homelessness or those who come from left-behind areas need support too. As the economy gets tougher, employers need to think bigger,” she said.

Under the scheme, veterans who apply for civil service jobs listed on the ‘Great Place to Work for Veterans’ scheme, and who meet the minimum criteria, will be guaranteed to move to the next stage of selection, such as an interview or online test. There will not be a time limit on when those leaving the armed forces can apply for jobs under the scheme.

Johnny Mercer, minister of defence people and veterans, said: “It’s fantastic that the civil service is leading the way in offering more opportunities to veterans.”

Army veteran Lee Bushby, head of people planning at the Office of Government Property’s places for growth programme, said: “Joining the civil service after nearly 25 years in the army, there can at times be some misunderstanding of the wealth and depth of talent that a veteran can bring to the table.

“When I reflect on my career I can see that resilience was a key skill that the army gave me.” This, along with his leadership and strategic planning experience, provided “the tools needed to succeed in my second career”.