Let’s be honest, finding reliable and qualified guards is one of the biggest challenges facing the security industry. And it’s only going to get harder as demand for guarding services increases.
In fact, a 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report predicts the employment of security guards and surveillance officers will grow 15 percent from 2020 to 2030, with an average of 165,000 openings for security officers projected each year over the decade.1
That’s a lot of uniforms to fill and a lot of opportunities to build your business, but also increased competition among firms to hire the best candidates.
With the manned security guard industry notorious for its high turnover rate, you want to make sure you’re hiring the right people to minimize attrition and that you’re implementing policies to maximize employee retention. Otherwise, you’ll just be treading water as you scramble to plug holes in your workforce to maintain current staffing levels.
You could poach licensed guards away from competing security firms, or hire guards that left a previous security job, but you may be inheriting someone else’s problem if the guard is set in their ways, poorly trained, or unreliable. You have to wonder why they are moving on or were let go. (If you choose this route be sure to get references from previous employers).
Or you could organically recruit aspiring security officers and mold them to your standards and policies. Here are five hiring tips to find the next generation of security officers:
5 Tips to Find New Hires
- Find Candidates in Person
- Find Candidates Online
- Hone Your Message to the Audience
- Leverage Your Workforce
- Think Outside the Hiring Box
Find Candidates in Person
Staffing a booth at local job fairs and participating in high school employment events for graduating seniors are great ways to meet candidates face-to-face. While more time-consuming than other methods, they allow hiring managers to instantly evaluate character, qualifications, fitness, and level of interest.
In truth, college isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. There are alternative job paths for the right moment in time in anyone’s life. Being a security guard can be a springboard to other opportunities, and job fairs are where you can find younger, stronger candidates that may be a better match for the physical requirements of the job.
Build community relationships
Are there security guard recruitment agencies in your area? A Chamber of Commerce or business networking group holding monthly meetings?
Create partnerships to funnel candidates to your firm. Perhaps there is a large employer in your local market suffering layoffs, or even one of your accounts. Reach out to the HR team for employment opportunities for downsized workers or those seeking a change.
Find Candidates Online
Flooding online channels with employment advertisements will result in a haystack of candidates from all walks of life and make finding the needles more difficult for HR personnel. Fine tune your approach to the target audience. As Generation Z becomes a larger percentage of the workforce, digital marketing takes on greater importance, as that’s where younger job seekers “live”.
- Advertise on social media: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok.
- Post openings on job boards: Glassdoor, Indeed, Monster, and ZipRecruiter.
- Leverage your company website: with an obvious “We’re Hiring” message and an easy link directing visitors to a “Now Accepting Applicants” page.
All of these tactics are relatively easy, repeatable, and affordable. To attract the best candidates be sure to post complete job descriptions including daily responsibilities, compensation, the potential for long hours/overtime, any physical requirements, and possible exposure to danger to discourage unqualified applicants. The downside is the response mechanism.
Vetting applicants by cover letter and resume is not the most effective means for what is a very physical and interpersonal job. When you identify a viable applicant through these sources, schedule a video conference call as your first step.
Hone Your Message to the Audience
As the business owner or hiring manager, you are NOT your target audience, recognize their motivations are different from yours.
Research shows most contract security firm owners and upper level executives are in their forties and fifties, while the age range of the average security guard is 18 to 24.
In the workforce, Millennials and Gen-Xers value flexibility, social responsibility, and jobs aligned with personal interests. While not yet focused on retirement, they tend to be impatient on career advancement. Your hiring message should speak to, What’s in it for me? The opportunity to work in exciting environments, matching assignments to interests, and propelling their careers in the security industry.
Leverage Your Workforce
Your current employees are your best ambassadors for recruitment, as they can tell friends and acquaintances about the positives of working for your firm as a security guard. Having a few friends around and working with people they already know can make work fun and increase teamwork.
Set up a referral bonus program to encourage employees to bring friends aboard, but be sure to clearly communicate the minimum qualifications and qualities in the candidates you seek to avoid the embarrassment of rejecting a referral.
Think Outside the Hiring Box
Other ideas to recruit candidates for security guards include:
- Maintain a database of applicants who applied in the past but took another offer, seasonal employees like college students on break, or those who fell just short of certification last time. (Spoiler Alert: Trackforce Valiant is adding Talent Management and Development recruiting software. Powered by Paycor, it will offer tools to create a potential employee database to track candidates).
- Advertise and recruit at security training institutions and firearms schools. Aspiring security guards often register with programs and take classes to get certified before commencing with a job search, so they have a license in hand when applying. Reach out and partner with these schools for a job placement program upon graduation. A win-win for the school and your firm.
- Recruit at criminal justice schools. Students with an interest in law could make excellent part-time security guards while gaining valuable experience in their field. Search for institutions offering degrees in criminology or certificates as court officers, Homeland Security, or Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents.
- Partner with local military and law enforcement authorities at their live recruiting events. It could be months before the police academy starts its next class. Perhaps the applicant is placed on a wait list, or the individual may not be eligible to become a soldier, marine or police officer, but they may be qualified and interested in a related position as a security guard.
The common denominator here is that criminal justice schools, military and law enforcement academies, and security training institutions all produce high quality security guard candidates. These are some of the best sources for finding new security guards.
Prospects found through these channels are career motivated individuals who are already focused on serving the public and tend to be good communicators. They may be looking for a means to gain related experience while in school or help pay tuition.
Hire Security Guards the Right Way
The candidate search and interview process is a continuous effort in the contract security guard industry; it’ll have to be with the level of turnover firms face. But that doesn’t mean it has to be an arduous process.
The ultimate goal is to reduce attrition. With these tips you can hire the right people from the start. Spend less money and time on recruiting by creating channels that funnel high quality candidates to you, and focus your efforts on managing a growing workforce. Good luck!