Post 9/11 America is stacked with private security companies that specialize in everything from executive protection to corporate security to overseas contracts.Discovering which private security firm best fits a candidate’s skillset, ambition, and personality is no easy task.Smart candidates, however, ask the hard questions and conduct their own research to find the answers.In doing so, they start (or re-ignite) their security career towards an ascending career path that offers long-term opportunities for growth, promotion, and responsibility.
So what are the hard questions smart candidates ask?First ask yourself, “What do I want?”Do I want a career of overseas contracting, jumping from one eight-month security contract to the next?Do I want a part-time security job because I’m already a full-time police officer?Do I want to work for the federal government, such as the Department of Homeland Security?Or, finally, do I want a long-term private security career, providing executive protection for at-risk public figures, at a reputable security firm within the United States?
For this essay, I want to address candidates interested in a long-term stateside security career in protection.
Throughout my security career, I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates, a majority of whom are military veterans, recent college graduates, or eager professionals looking for a career change.My familiarity with recruiting, selecting, and training these candidates gives me a distinct advantage in knowing the right questions qualified candidates should ask when entering the diverse and muddled landscape that is the private security industry.
The following are questions to consider when researching stateside security careers in elite protection.
Your research begins on the Internet, and each security firm’s website will likely be your first impression of that company.Just like when you’re planning a vacation and researching hotels, websites matter because they offer pictures, videos, and, most of all, people.
· Do they appear to be a professional organization?
· Does their website introduce actual employees through pictures, video, and written testimonials?
· Do you professionally identify with the employees featured on the website?
· Do you deem these individuals to be professionals and people you’d like to work with?
· Is their promotion system merit-based?
· Before hiring a candidate, does the firm conduct a full background investigation?
· Do they appear to be growing and prospering?
· When was the firm founded; that is, do they have a strong foundation for future growth?
If you answered “yes” to all these questions, then you’re on the right track.Next, read every word and watch every video on the website to gain a deeper flavor of who they are as an organization.I also suggest you look for any books authored by the firm’s employees, then Google the firm’s name. (What are people saying about them outside the official website?) Finally, join LinkedIn’s numerous security “groups” (or any other online security professionals’ forum) and ask their members about the firm’s reputation.
So you’ve finished your online research, submitted your resume, and entered the selection process.Now it’s time to meet members of the firm either over the phone or face to face.Here’s what I recommend you ask them:
· Is there a mandatory physical fitness test at the beginning of the selection process?
· Are current employees required annually to pass the same physical fitness test?
· Regarding those who proctor the fitness test and conduct the interviews: Are they physically fit, well-spoken, and positive professionals?
· How long has each proctor you meet been with the firm? Are they career-oriented professionals?
· What percentage of applicants is hired?(In other words, how selective are they?How elite are they?)
· What are the professional backgrounds of the firm’s associates?How many current associates are military veterans, college graduates, or former law enforcement?
In all, you’re determining if this security firm is elite, stable, and growing.When you interact with the firm’s representatives – whether at a job fair, a fitness test, or an initial interview –you should be impressed and even excited about the prospect of beginning a security career (not a “job”) at the firm.Through the entire selection process, open your senses and take it all in.Are they organized, attentive, and passionate?In short, discover if who they are matches who you are.
When I entered the Marine Corps, I received a year of training before I joined my first operational unit.That sort of training investment is impossible in the private sector where costs matter.In other words, training costs for private security firms is all “overhead” and therefore a real investment in quality by that firm.So to test the firm’s commitment to quality, ask about their training programs.
· What does their initial training package entail?
· Are the instructors still practitioners of the skills they train towards? Do they still participate in actual protection details?
· Does the firm fund its associates’ training, or are associates required to pay for it out of pocket?
· What ongoing training is offered to further each associate’s proficiency, leadership, and career?
· Does the firm offer a monthly training allowance to each employee for ammunition, range fees, or fitness centers?
· Do they work with local law enforcement to provide associates with evasive driving training, and with local hospitals to provide EMT certification?
· Are bonuses offered to associates who increase their proficiency through lifeguard certifications, concealed carry permits, and various medical certifications?
· Will they finance foreign language training?Provide access to a library filled with books and articles on protection and threat assessment? Do they provide ongoing training in personal finance, verbal communication, and writing proficiency?
Through these training questions, you can soon discover if the firm’s cerebral and physical culture is elite.Finally, ask yourself this question: Is this a private security firm where exceptional protectors committed to self-improvement are both encouraged and rewarded?
Elite protectors are professionals who can be trusted; they’re pros who know to guard their protectees’ identity, movements, and secrets.To operate with confidentiality is to add another layer of protection around your protectee, because the less the enemy knows the better.Elite security firms guard confidentiality at all costs, so be sure to ask these questions regarding how they protect confidentiality:
· Does their website reveal the identities of their clients?
· Does your research indicate any breaches of confidentiality throughout the firm’s history?
· What sort of confidentiality training does the firm mandate for all its associates?
· What agreements do all associates sign regarding confidentiality?
If you owned a security firm with your name on it and you had tons of resources, what would it look like?What impression would your ideal firm make on other security professionals regarding your firm’s culture, employees, selection process, training program, and emphasis on confidentiality?
Remember that above all, the quality of the firm depends on the quality of its personnel — for birds of a feather will always flock together.Elite people choose to work at elite organizations.
Ed Hinman is the Director of Recruitment, Selection, and Training at Gavin de Becker & Associates, a threat assessment and executive protection firm that advises and protects the nation’s most at-risk public figures and organizations. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Mr. Hinman served eight years in the United States Marine Corps before beginning his private security career in Los Angeles, CA.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net