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What Makes a Good Security Officer?


Every security manager dreams of having a staff of perfect security officers. When recruiting, they look for ideals.. and often overlook many “diamonds in the rough”.  Yes, training budgets are consistently strained. The danger is in using lack of training funds as an excuse to go only after the very best. That may be a good idea in the short term, but can cause other issues long term.

The “best” recruits are those with experience in various positions. These officers expect higher compensation and greater responsibility. Good for the short term, but could soon become too expensive to retain. They also tend to become dissatisfied when advancement opportunities are too slow to materialize.  Another consideration is that the more experienced they are, the more “hard coded” certain procedures and processes are in their toolbox. It can be difficult to break habits ingrained in them in order to ensure their duties are accomplished in the manner you require.

On the other hand, less experienced recruits require an investment in training. While that inexperience is a handicap while they train, it also means that they are learning your processes and procedures, rather than replacing previous training- which is a much harder task.

I have a theory about what makes a good security officer. Its all about balance. Every potential recruit has certain qualities- some measurable, and some subjective. The key to selecting the “best” recruit is to identify these qualities and find the right mix.

There are several general descriptors that the hiring manager should be aware of. Some will be obvious, others discovered through the interview process.

While this article is primarily aimed at trainers and hiring managers, those presently employed as security officers (as well as those considering the career) will find these descriptions helpful in identifying their personal strengths and weaknesses. This understanding is crucial, because it allows one to seek positions best suited for their personality. They also point the way for additional learning opportunities and areas of experience they should concentrate on.

The most common personality types found in the physical security profession are:

  • Einstein – in or fresh out of college.. They have the book smarts, but not a lot of experience in applying what they’ve learned. When they do apply their knowledge, it will most likely be a “by the book” application, since judgement and moderation are byproducts of experience.  Report writing will tend to include more detail than necessary, and thus take more time than usual to complete.
  • Mr/Ms. Nice – Great at making people feel at ease. Friendly, conversational, helpful.. All good qualities for customer service, but not so much for security when taken to the extreme. Being everyone’s friend is nice, but often makes the officer more susceptible to being “used” or deceived by those seeking to get around policy or regulations.
  • The Hulk – Bodybuilder.  Strong shoulders, bulging biceps. Ladies love him.. and so does he. While the intimidation factor is usable, the ego that (usually) goes along with this officer can be detrimental to the overall security mission. Strong egos tend to draw others in, resulting in more than average opportunities for distraction – flirting, conversations, etc. There is also a possibility that colleagues within the ranks might develop a level of distrust, envy, or lack of confidence in the officer upon observing his interaction with others (especially self-serving interactions such as flirting or other excessive interaction with the opposite sex).
  • Non-Hulk – On the other end of the scale (no pun intended) is the officer who, for whatever reason, is less than average on the fitness scale. Overweight, underweight, smart, not so smart. These officers have the most to prove, at least in their own eyes, and tend to overcompensate in most areas.  There is a tendency to seek out issues, and sometimes to create them if they can’t find them, in order to look and feel important.
  • The Geek – A big fan of technology, usually has all the latest gizmos and widgets. This officer is generally analytical, spending a great deal of time in the details. He or she is good at finding issues, or things that could become issues, but tends to seek solutions that require little personal effort.
  • Adam 13 – Law enforcement wanna-be. Good at keeping order, but at the cost of good public relations. We all know the type, so not a lot of explanation is needed.

There are more types, mostly subsets of these though. You get the idea – lots of qualities to consider. The important thing to keep in mind is that a good security officer usually has all or most of these qualities.

The secret to finding that “perfect” security officer is to measure qualities such as these, weigh them against the existing force, and select those which complements and balances out the force as a whole. Training in the areas that are deficient will help the individual balance.  Consider the type of post open, and select the personality type best suited for it.


Categories: Security
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