Russia-Ukraine War Broke Down Defense-Industry ‘Taboos’: Recruiter

  • Eva Brückner is a recruiter at Heinrich & Coll., a German HR consultancy.
  • She finds skilled workers to fill key roles within defense companies.
  • She told Insider how the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed recruitment in the industry.

This is an edited, translated version of an article that originally appeared on January 23, 2023. 

In her role as a recruiter at the German HR consultancy Heinrich & Coll., Eva Brückner looks for potential middle- and upper-level managers in the defense industry.  

She told Insider that the firm often only reveals companies’ names to candidates when they get through to the interview stage because of moral concerns about working for weapons manufacturers. 

If she were recruiting for a particularly specialized role, she would sometimes only tell the candidate the company’s name when they’re due to meet with the hiring company, she said. 

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed this, she said. “There has been a notable removal of taboos in the defense sector,” Brückner said.  

“Armaments are no longer seen as purely evil or as solely used for attack. Now people see they can be used for protection as well,” she said, adding that she had seen more interested applicants coming to her about open positions because they wanted to contribute to the defense effort. 

The German government also vowed to increase military spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the creation of a special 100 billion-euro fund to support and modernize the country’s armed forces. 

The manufacturers Brückner works with are primarily looking for engineers, business economists, and program managers, she told Insider. 

She gets applications from people already working in the security, defense, automotive, or mechanical-engineering industries, she continued. 

She added that certain manufacturers are also targeting female managers in their hiring drives, adding that, in her experience, “women very rarely apply for our normal job postings.”  

And that’s despite salaries in the industry being in the six-figure range, depending on the position. 

A business-development role in the industry in Germany would normally earn between 80,000 and 110,000 euros, or between around $87,000 and $120,000, Brückner continued.

As a department head, you could earn up to 250,000 euros, or about $272,000, a year, she added. 

Brückner said she was not seeing many women apply for the roles because, she thought, they were less likely than men to “believe they can learn those skills on the job.” 

To recruit more women to defense, Brückner said her company was “flipping the search” and starting by finding good candidates before seeking positions they could be suitable for, rather than only looking for candidates for existing open positions. 

For upper- and middle-management roles, Brückner said she primarily looked at women who had already taken their first steps in management and were working in fields like engineering, sales, strategy, and business-development. 

“They don’t have to have worked in the defense industry for a long time. But they should be stable, able to stand up to challenges, and show leadership and empathy,” Brückner said. 

Female candidates should understand before they apply that men still dominate many defense companies at the executive level, Brückner added. 

Whatever peoples’ prevailing attitudes toward defense are, Brückner said, all candidates should still consider the moral implications of the work and whether they would feel comfortable sharing what they do. 

“We prepare our candidates for these challenges in the defense industry,” Brückner said, adding that she asks potential applicants, “How do you deal with it when you have to explain to other parents from kindergarten or your children where you work?”

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