Hire A Security Guard Using These Industry Best-Practices
In May of 2017, a security officer at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix was commended for reacting “quickly and calmly to save a person’s life after they were found unresponsive in a vehicle.” In the same month, a security guard at a Houston fast food restaurant shot and killed a man who had opened fire in the parking lot and then turned the gun to the guard. Had it not been for those security guards, these stories could have had much more tragic outcomes.
For companies that need security guards, it’s important to take the right steps to hire an honest, dedicated and competent one, which requires more consideration than most jobs. After all, in the security industry, one wrong move could end lives.
Guardian Booth’s main focus is to protect those who protect you. We provide a secure station for security guards so they can do their jobs — protect you and your employees — well. In working with so many security companies over the years, we also learned what makes a good security officer and the best practices for hiring the right person for the job.
“Our booths offer a full 360-degree view, tinted windows and a comfortable and weatherproof place for guards to take their position.”
From initial interviews to saying “you’re hired,” this guide covers what you need to know in finding a qualified guard.
The Background Check
The primary reason you want to conduct a background check is to ensure the applicant has a clean criminal background record. While background checks can be expensive, it’s a step in the process that should not be skipped when hiring a guard. Hiring a security officer with a criminal past could potentially make you liable if that guard commits a crime while on duty with your company.
Along the same lines, unethical behavior is also an important consideration for a security guard. One way to measure ethical behavior is by running a credit check, especially if the guard will be responsible for handling cash. This way you can ensure your candidate isn’t in financial distress.
Technological Aptitude Matters
Like every other industry, technology has transformed the way people handle and think about security. The qualifications to be a security guard requires a new skill set that makes use of computers, recording video, smartphone technology, closed-circuit television cameras and security guard reporting software.
You need a security guard who can hit the ground running with minimal instruction on these tools. The best way to test for technological aptitude is by using an aptitude test tool that aligns with the software you use.
Interpersonal Skills and Ethical Behavior
The right person will not only pass a background check and technological aptitude test, but they will exhibit problem-solving skills, be alert, have good judgement and know how to respond in emergency situations. A mixture of open-ended, case-like questions can help to see what the applicant will do in certain situations. For example, ask the applicant to walk through the standard procedure for authorizing access at their previous job. The answer will help show how well they know and follow company guidelines. A large part of a security officer’s job is documentation and observation, so effective guards have strong interpersonal and writing skills. A brief writing test can ensure that certain attributes are addressed. For example, you may want to ask the candidate to:
- Write about their favorite security software in 200 words or less
- Outline how they would respond to a given situation in 200 words or less
- Describe how they interact with customers in 200 words or less
Take notes on how the applicant interacts with you and your staff on the day of the interview to test for incongruities. For instance, if a potential hire says they always let the company’s customers or visitors speak first, but they’re dominating the conversation during the interview with you, it may be a red flag. Rude or unprofessional behavior should never be tolerated.
Using an Agency vs Hiring Directly
The two most common ways to hire a security guard are through an agency or as a direct hire. Each one has pros and cons for both you and the applicant. The more you understand about the pros and cons of contract security vs in-house, the better you will be at optimizing the benefits of both options.
A significant benefit of using a security guard agency is that they conduct background checks on the applicants. This saves you both time and money. A character investigation may also be conducted by the agency. The purpose of a character investigation is to investigate the applicant’s integrity, loyalty and honesty. In addition to character investigations, agencies tend to have strict medical requirements. Applicants may be asked to pass a physical agility test, complete a semi-annual weapons qualifications test, submit to a random urinalysis exam or wear personal protective equipment, e.g., bullet proof vests.
From a cost perspective, security guards working through agencies tend to accept a lower rate of pay due to the availability of work and the possibility of a full-time or direct-hire position in the future. This can also be a concern in some ways. While the security guard from an agency costs less, they may not be as loyal or experienced as a direct hire.
Examples of agencies and their descriptions include:
Off Duty Officers: Offers armed off-duty police officers and unarmed security officers, either in uniform or plainclothes, drive patrol and investigations to serve clientele throughout the nation who require optimal capabilities to protect their material/human assets and resources.
Walden Security: Provides contract security services to hundreds of commercial properties and facilities, including the world’s most respected commercial real estate firms, Fortune 1000 and other internationally recognized organizations, trusted healthcare and research institutions, exclusive residential communities, mixed-use developments and more.
United American Security: Provides professionally trained security guards and guard services for long and short-term security needs for the warehousing, distribution, transportation, manufacturing, petrochemical, corporate and distilling industries in 18 states.
Whelan Security: Offers professional security services for corporate headquarters, commercial real estate properties, financial institutions, educational campuses, healthcare facilities, manufacturing and industrial facilities, retail shopping centers, residential communities and sensitive government facilities throughout the U.S.
The long-term benefit to hiring a security guard as a direct hire is that they have greater loyalty to your organization. There’s also more autonomy and privacy in the vetting process, which gives you the ability to tailor the background test to suit the needs of your organization. The good news is that even though direct hires may cost more in terms of background testing and benefits, you don’t have to pay a finder’s fee to the agency. Depending on what type of guard you’re looking for, armed or unarmed, and how much experience you require, you’re likely to pay around $15 to $25 per hour directly to the officer without any additional agency fees.
A disadvantage to hiring direct is that it takes longer. This is because the process isn’t as streamlined as it is at an agency, and there aren’t as many applicants. In order to find a security guard without using an agency, you’ll want to post the position on your company’s website, and share that post with job search websites. Perhaps the greatest disadvantage to hiring directly is that you are fully exposed and completely responsible for taking care of all regulatory and compliance-related paperwork. It also means that you take full liability in case there’s an issue that could have been prevented with a more professional vetting process.
Nevertheless, if your company has multiple properties or a large facility with the need for several security officers, you might want to consider your own security department. Such a department should be headed by someone with executive experience at a private security agency or experience as a Director of Security at a company with a sizable security department. The experience of such a person will allow you to have the proper vetting process and continues training while enjoying the benefits of hiring directly.
There are pros and cons to any selection process, the magnitude of which depends largely on the needs of the organization. Regardless of the methodology used to hire a security guard, the priorities are the same — find a security guard with a clean background check and strong technological skills, writing, interpersonal skills and ethics. Use this guide as a roadmap to help develop the right approach to hiring the best security guard for the needs of your organization.
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