Policies and Training

Crafting Security Officer Interview Questions

Selecting officers for security roles demands careful interview questions based on scenarios those officers are likely to encounter at their posts. It’s not enough just to look for enthusiasm about the job and a willingness to work in different environments. Security officer candidates must be exposed to realistic and likely situations that test their decision-making abilities, especially under stress.

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New security officers need to be told and taught that their work may involve more than the usual “observe and report,” depending on the nature of their post and the demands of the position. Scenarios and role-play interview questions help the interviewer discover if the candidate can think on his or her feet and also puts the applicant on notice that the job may require more physical interactions than first thought. As an example, what would the officer do if an ex-employee tried to get past the officer and the receptionist in an office lobby? This person has no legitimate reason to be there and, in fact, has been barred from the property because he was fired for behavior problems. Based on this situation, does the officer have the right to physically stop the trespassing ex-employee, or should he or she just call a supervisor to report the employee has entered the actual worksite and it heading for a back office?

Does the applicant know that he or she has the right to make a citizen’s arrest for trespass if the ex-employee has already been warned by the police not to be on company grounds? Does the applicant know the level of physical force he or she may use to prevent the ex-employee from pushing past him or her to get inside? Or would the applicant just let the ex-employee go inside without stopping him?

Suppose the client requests that an unarmed officer use a handheld metal detector on all people who pass through the hospital lobby before they are allowed into the rest of the building. What would the officer do if the person refuses to comply with the metal detector scan? What would the officer do if the person tried to push past? What would he or she do if a knife or firearm was discovered on the person being screened?

Or, let’s say the officer is assigned to a mall and confronts someone he or she has just witnessed stealing merchandise from a store. The thief refuses to comply with the officer’s request to return the merchandise and starts to leave the store with it. Store or mall policy says all shoplifters are detained for the arrival of the police. Does the officer know how to make a citizen’s arrest for shoplifting, and can he or she use the appropriate level of force to affect that arrest safely and legally?

Certain security posts demand more than just passive observation by an officer. Sometimes the job requires officers to go “hands on” to protect themselves and others. The use of scenarios and role-plays in the interview process can help the interviewer quickly discover whether the applicant has the job knowledge, intuition, decision-making skills, service focus, enthusiasm, life experience, and understanding that security work often goes beyond more than just observing and reporting. These types of competency-based interviewing scenarios can help the interviewer make effective hiring choices.