Why Hiring “Unqualified” ex-Military is Key to UK Business Success

Why Hiring “Unqualified” ex-Military is Key to UK Business Success

Meredyth Grant

With more military leavers succeeding in civilian business, it’s hard to deny that veterans offer employers a wealth of unique qualities unattainable via degrees and traditional experience.

These attributes, while not formal qualifications, are irreplicable and vital to the UK’s IT workforce. As the military becomes increasingly digitised, soldiers will likely leave with diverse IT skills that can be repurposed in business.

Some employers don’t understand that military experience can offer organisational diversity and resilience beyond solely hiring traditionally-qualified individuals. But others reported workplace improvements through initiatives like Barclays’ Military Talent Scheme: inaugural military intern Will Dixon eventually became Barclays Head of Business Management.

Notion’s recent ‘Unicorn Trajectory’ study compared how diverse experience and educational backgrounds contributed to the success of Unicorn companies (private startups achieving $1bn+ valuations) versus comparable sub-$1bn businesses. Its findings parallel how military talent benefits UK employers.

The Unicorn Trajectory

The study compared senior team members from 50 B2B North American and European software Unicorns with a Control group of 50 B2B North American and European software businesses valued up to $100m. Criteria included role, qualifications, prior experience and employment history.

Notion concluded that Unicorns hire 26 diverse leaders overall, with 6 to 29 years’ experience across junior and senior positions, and a 3.7-year average tenure. Ex-Military – particularly those from long, diverse service tenures – would, after assimilating with a company, suit and evolve leadership positions.

Talent and passion fuel Unicorns’ effectiveness, so early hiring decisions can spell the difference between a $20m and a $1bn+ valuation. Programmes like, the Forces Employment Charity’s TechVets initiative show that service leavers’ innate resilience and tenacity equip them well for diverse commercial roles.

Unicorns and the link to ex-Military

Unicorn leaders displayed 3.4x more years’ prior experience and more diverse overall experience to Control companies. Leaders at the top 20 global Unicorns worked at TechVets’ partner companies Oracle, Google and Cisco.

Read more: How Oracle training took me from infanteer to tech consultant

This strongly implies that hiring low-experience, high-potential candidates alongside strong, experienced leaders creates a more dynamic organisation.

While the study couldn’t conclusively determine how specific individuals drove Unicorn successes, their employment tenures and past experience were influential. Similarly, the diversity of roles and successes of TechVets members undeniably shows how “unqualified” ex-Military are vital to the job economy.


Notion’s study revealed that Unicorn employees demonstrated more diverse educational backgrounds than Control companies. While many Unicorns leaders hold prestigious university degrees, many didn’t study at all.

Employers may overlook ex-Military without tertiary qualifications, but 90% of Unicorns employ “unqualified” leaders and respectively hire 10% and 20% more unqualified people for Operations and Technical roles than Controls.

Employing staff with diverse experience and training can enhance business performance – again demonstrated by TechVets’ members whose unique qualities have benefitted their employers.

While individual experience contributes to a business, great leadership and diverse experience drive long-term success. Providing opportunities to disciplined individuals possessing a sense of purpose, service and diverse practical skills will strengthen leadership and team diversity, paying significant dividends for UK employers and society.

Source: Notion: The Unicorn Trajectory