Emerging Issues in Security

Hiring and Keeping Successful Security Officers

Just like “it’s not the money you make, but the money you keep,” it’s not just the security officers you hire but the ones who stay and who you want to stay. Hiring costs, even for entry-level security jobs, are always going to be high because of the screening processes, interviews, and early orientation and training necessary to choose and equip the right guard for the right site.

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One experienced hiring manager talks about how to separate applicants early, by looking at every contact they have with your organization as a checkpoint. Were they professional during the first telephone contact? How have they responded to any e-mail correspondence? Does the application look like it was filled out by someone who wants the job or who really doesn’t care either way? Is the applicant on time for the interview? Does he or she make eye contact and have the required “people skills” to be able to engage with others out in the field? How did the applicant interact with your company staff once on-site? Is he or she prepared for the interview by knowing what your company does and for whom? Does the applicant make up for in enthusiasm what he or she lacks in experience? Can the applicant pass any required state licensing tests the first time? Would you feel comfortable sending this person out, in your uniform, to represent your company, alone? Does this person say or at least realize that he or she is your “brand ambassador” while on the client’s site?

For the best results and hiring fairness (to prevent later claims of favoritism, bias, or discrimination), it’s useful to create five or six “structured” interview questions, that are given to all applicants. You want to see how they think on their feet and answer questions that aren’t just the usual, “Tell me about your work experience.” Some examples:

  • “What did you do to prepare yourself to work for our company?”
  • “Tell me about the best boss you ever worked for, in any job you’ve ever had, and why that person was so good.” The follow-up question: “Tell me about the worst boss you’ve ever had, in any job, and why that person was so bad.” (These two questions can give you a sense of how the applicant likes to be supervised or what problems may have arisen from a previous supervisory style that could be similar or dissimilar to your approach to being a boss.)
  • “Give me an example of a time when you were commended for giving great customer service.”
  • “Give me an example where you had to deal with an angry client, guest, visitor, or customer.”
  • “How would you handle it if a client on a jobsite told you to do something that was illegal or against our policies?”
  • “What would you do if you saw a client’s employee at one of our sites stealing, using drugs, or threatening another employee?”

On the job, the checkpoints continue: Can the new hire follow written and verbal instructions? Can this person think and work independently, and make good decisions while still following the site’s posted orders, your company policies, and the client’s company policies?

Ultimately, can they pass the “Co-Pilot Test”: Like a pilot leaving the plane in the hands of a copilot if the pilot’s family was on board, would I feel comfortable leaving this person alone, to protect a facility where my family was visiting?

Hiring success is often limited or helped by the ratio of applicants to new hires in your city, the local labor pool available, the pay you offer, and the types of posts that need to be filled (armed, unarmed, roving patrol for multiple sites, etc). It’s best to be overly-selective than just take anyone who applies.