Security Operative recruitment and selection

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‘Staff wanted- Must have PSA licence and a heartbeat’.

Seems like a pretty standard job advertisement for the security industry. How many times have you seen this or words similar to this advertised on social media? It’s one thing filling a position and another thing entirely to fill it with the correct person. In this article I want to talk about recruitment and selection. The article won’t be for everybody but it may help supervisors , managers and people aspiring to be both. In turn it helps those on the front-line. Those whose biggest issue is working with below par staff and dealing with constant turnover.


Recruitment is one of the real critical areas for any security function. Get it right and it can lead to a long and productive employment relationship. Get it wrong and you end up with training issues, complaints, rostering issues and disciplinary issues in the long term. I’ve often wondered if anybody has ever researched the hidden cost of poor recruitment within a security company over time. I can guarantee it costs more than good recruitment. The most essential parts of a good recruitment policy are a needs assessment and a job specification. The job spec will be based on the needs assessment. However you can build an overall job spec and tweak it for each contract or job as the needs assessment dictates. Designing a good job spec isn’t that difficult. I have a sample one here if anybody wants to use it. Tailor it to your own needs.

Firstly the needs assessment. Based on your company, your clients and your budget what are your needs. Do you need full time, part time, weekends? Is it nights, days or shift work? How much can you afford to pay? Are there any specialist skills or qualifications required?What can you offer that makes you stand out from other security employers. The answers to all of these questions will form the basis of your job specification so it’s important to put some thought into it.

Job specification

Also known as the job spec this is the single most important recruitment tool of all. This is when you detail what your ideal security candidate looks like and what you can offer them. Sounds simple but so often they are gotten wrong or just don’t exist. The job spec should have a number of sections:

1. The job

2. The Skills and qualities required

3. The experience and qualifications required

4. The offering

The Job

No secrets and no myths. Be open and honest about what the job is. Is it full time, part time, evenings or weekends. Is it a corporate client, retail, doors or a mixture. There’s no point in sorting through CV’s and interviews for a job that isn’t what the person thought they applied for. It wastes time for everybody.

Skills and qualities required

What type of person do you want? This could be personal qualities or professional qualities. Think of the ideal person you would like in the role and describe them. What are your non negotiable? Is it professionalism, punctuality, appearance. Bear in mind that later on you have to figure out a way for your candidates to show that they meet this criteria.

Experience and Qualifications

This is where expectation meets reality and you have to consider your needs against your budget and be realistic. If you want a person with both licences, 10 years experience, first aid, fire training, safe pass and is also a qualified fire juggler then you need to be willing to pay for it. Writing a job spec like that with a budget wage of €11.05 won’t get any interest and will ware everybody’s time. In addition to the above think about things like mobility (driving licence), specialist skills etc that you need to have.

The offering

What can you offer to the right candidates. Yes the rate of pay attracts people but what else can you offer to attract the right people to you. First the rate of pay. Some will disagree with me on this but I’m a believer in being upfront and honest when advertising what the rate of pay is so you need to know what you can pay. What additional payments can you offer? Shift pay, allowances, travel expenses, staff discount schemes, anything at all to mark your team out from the competition and attract the best talent to you.


Now that we have a good job spec we can make a good advert for the role. As usual a little bit of thought goes a long way here. There’s no point wasting time, money and effort throwing money at classifieds, paid social media posts, posters in the local takeaway. Consider where your ideal candidates go, what they read and where they post and advertise there. Is it in gyms, colleges, sports clubs or local jobs clubs. You decide and then you target that audience.


If you get the job spec and advertise right then hopefully it should reduce the amount of unsuitable applications which come in. You will still need to filter through them though. Hiring is a legal and HR minefield if you don’t know what you are doing. For security companies there are issues around equality legislation, privacy and of course PSA standards to be considered. For these reasons I believe a selection criteria and checklist is an invaluable tool. It enables the hiring manager to check off all of the criteria from the job spec for each candidate between the CV and the interview stage. Each criteria is assigned a weight based on how important it is to the company ( I usually use a 1-3 scale: 3 is critical, 2 important, 1 nice to have) Each candidate is then being scored fairly against the same set of criteria. I’ve done an example based on the job spec here that you can use as a template. There will be some criteria you can score directly from the CV such as experience or qualifications and there will be some that will have to be left until interview time to assess (security interviews are a whole different article). Bear in mind that for each criteria area there has to be a way of checking and scoring it. I also suggest leaving a section at the end for overall professional opinion and for the company culture. This is just a part that can be subjective to personal opinion but it’s important. New recruits have to work well within the existing culture (or the one you are trying to create). This document has a number of uses:

1. Each candidate is judged against the same set of criteria ( equality)

2. Each score is reflective of a skill/quality that you require for the job and that all candidates are being judged on (equality and privacy)

3. It provides an accurate record of interview without taking overly detailed notes which have to be retained (Privacy and PSA standards)

The scoring section from the CV stage can help decide who to call for interview. If a person isn’t scoring high at CV screening time then there may not be much reason to interview them. This document can then be held with the CV (whether hired or not) to show proof of a fair interview process and if they are hired it forms part of the staff file (record only interview) for PSA standards and the weak points of the candidates scoring can form part of their first appraisal.


This may all seem like extra work. In particular for the small employer who doesn’t have a HR person or admin team to support them but it’s worth it in the long run. An hour extra spent getting recruitment right can lead to many hours saved in additional supervision, training, complaints and disciplinary in the long run. It also helps to ensure that people who are interviewed are hired fairly and in lie with the type of person the company wants. If you a well run company with a good reputation there is no reason to be hiring for the sake of it. Take the time to recruit and select the type of person who can make your organisation better.


I have included MS word templates of both the job specification and the selection checklist here.

Selection Checklist

Job Specification

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