Tips for Hiring Quality Security Guards and Officers

The media can usually taint the public perception of security guards, particularly with the movie that will just never go away, Paul Blart: Mall Cop. In this article we delve into another issue brought upon by social stigmas: the recruitment of security professionals. And it’s not just the dumb and lazy stigmas that affect this recruitment process. It’s also the gun and violence ridden crime shows that make selling a security guard position incredibly difficult. Between those who believe a job in security is unprofessional or somehow unworthy and those who believe a job in security involves guns and car chases, job recruitment is an often laborious and troublesome venture.

In this article we walk through the hiring process in the security industry, handing out tips on how to find quality professionals with the stamina and passion to take the job seriously… but not too seriously.

Step 1: Get your job posted.

So you own a security business and you’re down on guards. Your first thought may be to get a job posted online or in the newspaper as quickly as possible. You’re focused on getting the most applicants through the door so you can hire and train someone fast, fill the gap, and keep business going steady.

If this is your mentality, you need to slow down. The first question you ask yourself should not be “How do I get this job opening to reach the most people?” but instead “Who do I want to see this job opening?”

By posting this job all over the internet and newspapers you’re actually creating more work for yourself. You’re attracting all different types of people, many of whom you would never consider hiring and whose application is a waste of your time.

Since most job postings are online these days, we’ll focus on places like LinkedIn, Craigslist, Monster, and Careerlink.

Let’s say the basic personal qualifications your new hire (besides being at least 21, a U.S. citizen, and holding a high school diploma) is that he or she is professional, values safety, and is emotionally intelligent.

Obviously, you can’t say “must have 2 years experience in emotional intelligence” on an application. That wouldn’t work, but you still wish for the majority of your applicants to fit these qualifications.

With this in mind, choose a primary website to post your job opening. Someone who is professional, values safety, and is emotionally intelligent may be looking for jobs on LinkedIn, assuming they put time and energy into selling themselves professionally. Start there. You can also ask your best employees where and how they found great job openings, including yours, and post to those sites, or try those methods, too. Applicants from your LinkedIn may routinely float to the top of your pile. If you choose to use another website for job postings, or less tried and true approaches, consider those applications last. You may save yourself a lot of work this way.

Or maybe LinkedIn isn’t the site for you. Maybe you want to appeal to s broader audience of people from different backgrounds. You might try CareerLink in that case. Whatever site you choose for your primary outlet, choose based on who you believe searches on that site.  

In the job post itself, the more information, the better. The more descriptive the post, the more likely you are to attract dedicated people and turn away those with unrealistic expectations for the security industry, or those that may be simply desperate – but perhaps unfit – for the job.

Step 2: When deciding on different job sites to post on, think about Millennials.

Yes, that generation of people with college degrees living in their parent’s basement, they may be the future of the security guard industry. They are a large pool of educated people that are largely without work. Attracting their attention takes some strategy, however. Millennials more than anyone else are the most likely to fall for those security guard stereotypes mentioned above.

Luckily, they are addicted to social media outlets. You can use this to your advantage with ads on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Sites like these use data tracking to send ads to people who are actually interested in the security industry. Although they cost money, they are a powerful tool for attracting young college graduates applying for jobs.

Joan Goodchild, editor-in-chief of CSO Online, compares Millennials to the baby boomers, the generation of their parents, in her article “How to Recruit and Retain the Best Young Security Employees”. Mostly, she says, they are similar when it comes to job expectations. The big difference is that Millennials expect to move up in the company. And they expect to move up fast.

Incentives and promotions should be clearly laid out to applicants. For instance, if there are opportunities at your security franchise for further education and training, like Shea Degan did for Signal 88 Security in Nebraska, make these goals tangible to young hires. Lay out clear expectations for pay raises and educational/career-advancement opportunities.

Goodchild writes again, “Millennials are at ease with technology and not only expect, but demand to be able to use it on the job. Companies that don’t have the tools will be seen as archaic to a twenty-something employee.”

Use of geo-tracking via smartphones, and time tracking or reporting through mobile applications is key to engaging Millennials. Technology is a way for employees to feel independent and in-control of their duties, while reinforcing accountability. If they have the privilege of using technology to report on their rounds they are less likely to feel micromanaged. It promotes independent learning in the workplace and introduces autonomy that doesn’t rely solely on the honor system.

In attempting to recruit these college educated, soon to be young-professionals, there are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Social media as a tool for recruitment.
  2. Clear incentives from the beginning.
  3. Technology as a part of daily duty.

However, as mentioned above, some of these young (or adult, as the case may be) applicants maybe be so over-saturated with how television portrays the security industry, or “cop culture,” they may have unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a security guard.

Step 3: Ask the right questions in an interview.

In the interview process, there are questions that you need to ask for technical, logistical, and physical reasons, such as “Do you own a car?”, “Do you own a smartphone?”, “Are you able to run a mile?” and so on, along with “Are you willing to use these things and skills on the job?”

And then there are the questions whose answers shed light on personality. These can be tricky, but are just as important. Personality in the security industry is hugely important, as some personalities aren’t cut out for private (or public) safety.

Here is a list of 3 questions and explanations why their answers are so essential in the hiring process:

What do you expect in your daily duties at this job?

If the answer is guns and car chases, or similar, kindly thank your applicant for their time  and consider moving on to the next candidate. Many security jobs are 98% attentiveness, 2% action, and the job of a security officer/guard is very often to observe, deter, and report… not to enforce the law. Except in special circumstances, enforcement is the job of law-enforcement, not private security. If his or her answer to this question tells you they expect more action, he or she may be lacking in attentiveness, or they simply have the wrong expectations for the job. Next.

How is your community important to you?

Security guards, in the public or private sector, work to protect people and their belongings. If the applicant is not already actively involved in their community, or unable to communicate the importance of safe communities, then the learning curve for a security position may be too high to consider for hire.

If someone else applying for this job is better than you, what makes them better? (from

The ability to learn new skills and have respect for other employees is the key to positivity in any workplace, especially when providing incentives to pay raises and education. The answer to this question indicates a person’s ability to be humble and listen to others. It demonstrates an understanding of what is required for the job, what they bring to it now, and how they can improve going forward. Not only is this important between guards and other peers, but also between guards and their clients. If the applicant is unable to tell you what a better applicant might look like, you may want to consider sending them on their way.

The last step of the interview process is to provide scenarios for ethical dilemmas.

What would you do if you saw someone drinking on the job? How would you handle seeing someone steal an object from an area that is your assignment to protect? What if someone you protect becomes physically belligerent?

The answer to these questions reflect leadership, flexibility, motivation, communication, organization, and trustworthiness. It may be helpful to have your current employees come up with these ethical dilemma questions based on situations they’ve encountered.

Step 4: The power of positive reinforcement.

Everything outlined above is wonderful in theory, but you may be wondering how practical it is when you’re in a pinch to hire someone fast. Will you have time for a thoughtful application process?

A proactive step to help you hire guards quickly is to create an environment of positivity for your existing personnel. Those incentives you promised in the interview process? Make sure you carry these out exactly how you promised. Giving out well-earned positive reinforcement helps your employees enjoy their jobs by increasing their self-esteem. It instills a sense of purpose and achievement and increases the overall morale of your team; all of which can lead to a company that people have a desire to be a part of. Demand for a position at your security company will lessen the pain of the recruitment process when you need to hire quickly.

Then, when it comes time to hire someone new, you don’t have to look much further than those you already employ, or your backlog of quality applicants. Current staff, or applicants you reconnect with both may be willing to help. If they’re not available to fill your current security needs, they may at least refer you to a friend who has similar styles of professionalism, or give you advice on how to attract someone like themselves. Pick your best employees to help you, and they will be your best shortcut. Finally, you may even think of pay or education incentives for those who refer quality candidates that convert to trusted employees.

Some careful preparation, small investments, and a little luck can go a long way when it comes to hiring.

There is a lot of psychology behind hiring someone for a security position. Ultimately, you need a person who is trustworthy and hard-working. Weeding out all of the others is the hard part.

If you have any questions on this article or the content covered in it, please contact or

8 thoughts on “Tips for Hiring Quality Security Guards and Officers

  • I like your advice to ask the right questions. It is so very important to get someone that will be able to fit your needs. After all, not a lot of people understand the kind of difference it makes to consider what your location needs in regards to security. Do you have any other tips about hiring a security guard?

  • Hiring a private security guard or service seems hard. I liked the question you talked about asking them. Knowing what they expect out of this job daily does sound good. I wouldn’t want to hire someone who things that they will just be sitting at a booth watching video feeds all day. That seems like it would lead to some complacency.

  • I like your idea to hire a millennial for a security guard. I think it’s always a good idea to have a diverse committee of workers at a company, because diversity will bring new ideas to the table. A millennial might notice certain hazardous behaviors that an older security guard might not.

  • You had some really good advice here about questions to ask during an interview with a potential security guard or security company. I can definitely see how it would be important to know what their physical capacity was (like their ability to run a mile), or what physical requirements they had for their contractors. I feel like especially where security is concerned it would be essential to check a companies reputation before hiring them.

  • I like the article’s suggestion to ask the right questions when interviewing for potential security. I especially think asking the question what do you expect in your daily duties can be beneficial to help you determine if you should hire from a specific private security company or not. It would also give you insight on what type of service the guard is familiar with and capable of providing.

  • I like that you mentioned posting in the right areas online. It is important that those who are seeking work know there is a job available. Social media is a great way to get the word out there that there is an opportunity.

  • Thanks for your advice to use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to be sure that your ads are getting to your target audience, and that that audience really is interested in your industry. I imagine that the security industry especially could be tricky to find people who are aiming to make a career out of it. It could be worth your time to hire an HR consultant to help you tailor your approach to make sure that you were really finding people that you thought would be good for your company.

  • It makes sense that you would want to be thorough when hiring a security guard. It’s a good idea to make sure that they appreciate the community! That way you know that they will do what they can to keep you and your property safe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *