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Five Tips for Hiring and Maintaining Quality Security Guards

2014 December 13
by Jason Nairn, CPP, CISSP

In the past few days a report about security guard industry by CNN and the Center for Investigative Reporting has been making the rounds among security professionals.  The report does not paint the industry in a good light.  The theme is lax regulation, which is a real issue in some states.  But based on what I’ve read, I don’t believe that they bothered to interview very many reputable firms.  Nor did they dig very deep into the regulations in at least some of the states they surveyed.  Michigan, which was listed as having no regulation at all, actually has some fairly robust regulations on the books for private security.

As someone who has managed multi million-dollar armed and unarmed security contracts, I’ve seen and addressed plenty of quality issues with both guards and managers in security companies.  Given that the CNN/CIR report didn’t provide much in the way of helpful advice, I thought it a good opportunity to share a few tips that those in responsible charge of security might apply to retain resilience forces that are up to scratch.

Here are five tips for hiring and maintaining quality security guards, whether armed or unarmed:

  1. Pay Up – In most service industries, you get what you pay for, and security guard services are no different.  You must be willing to pay up for quality.  I have heard some security managers say “I will hire solid, new, less expensive people and train them well”.  Sure go ahead, and when you get them trained well they will be transferred away from your contract to the other client that will pay them what they are worth.  Be that guy, and pay for quality up front – then you’ll get the good stuff and you’ll save on the training costs.
  2. Contract, Contract, Contract – The quality of your contract is directly proportional to the quality of the guard service you will receive.  Even if you live in one of those “unregulated” states, incorporating plenty of training, refreshers and requirements into your contract just makes sense.  The good companies are doing it already – so you’ll weed out the small fish quicker.  The contract becomes your primary tool for quality if you are a government agency working toward hiring a “lowest qualified bidder”.  Beware – a contract light on requirements like post orders and training could literally be a matter of life and death.
  3. Join a Trade Group or Network in the Security Guard Field – One sure fire way to get the skinny on who is good and who is not is to join a group in the industry.  Most states have groups, like ASIS, that meet to discuss trends in the security guard industry.  Some lobby legislatures or provide information to the public about the industry.  Others’ like ASIS, certify professionals in the field.  Join a group to find out who the best firms are and stay active to be up on the latest information.
  4. Find the Insurer – Security guard companies have to get insurance just like any other business.  If you can find the company that insures the guard companies in your area, you might just find a source of great information about which companies are the best.  Sometimes these insurers are members of the trade groups.  Ask them questions.  If it’s legal and ethical, they’ll tell you what they can because they are interested in quality as well – better quality = fewer claims.
  5. Get Out and Observe Your Forces in Action – It’s tough for executives to get out to the posts where the guards are on duty, but it is essential.  At site inspections I always found something that could be improved.  Sometimes it was just a simple issue like guard comfort, other times it was a dangerous safety issue.  Check on the guards often with supervisors in-tow to make adjustments when appropriate.  DON’T order your guards around at their posts – it is demeaning and amateurish.  Use the contractual chain of command.  Get to know your site supervisors and build that trust relationship.  You will need them when something goes wrong – and it will.


7 Responses leave one →
  1. June 4, 2015

    These tips are perfectly meant for hiring and maintaining quality security guards. The points you mentioned above are also really important for the persons who are willing to do job as a guard.

  2. October 14, 2015

    Wow! Some of these suggestions are really good! Especially the tip you gave to check with actual insurance providers on security business’s to find out which security group is best! And in addition to that, my assumption would be leaning towards security groups who have not made many claims, means fewer accidents on the job, would that be correct?

  3. Jason Nairn, CPP, CISSP permalink*
    October 24, 2015

    Yes – all information that could be available through the insurance industry. Workman’s Compensation claims would be another indicator of a company’s effectiveness in preparing, training and equipping their staff. Just make sure that this information is obtained legally and ethically!

  4. June 17, 2016

    It seems like that rule that you get what you paid for applies to just about every investment. I can’t decide which is more important the payment or the homework that needs to get done beforehand. Though it sounds like that when hiring security guards the homework is more important.

  5. October 5, 2016

    What a great tip! I wouldn’t have thought of going to the security company’s insurance company as a source of information on security companies. I have tried asking the companies who employed different security companies, but they only know the company they currently work with, unless they had a different agency before. So good to know an insurance company can help me in this search!

    • Jason Nairn, CPP, CISSP permalink*
      October 6, 2016

      Yes! Potentially. They have to be careful about what they share, but I have had luck in getting recommendations for reputable firms and advice on steering clear of those that have excessive claims or shady dealings. Your results may vary, but finding a person in the insurance industry and building a relationship with them could help immensely. Good luck!

  6. June 7, 2017

    Thank you for talking about how you need to be very specific on your contract in order to get good security guards. It makes sense that taking the time to do this and to take into account your needs can help you make sure you find people that are willing to work with you. If I was hiring guards, I would want to find someone that has experience protecting people and have training on self-defense and how to prevent dangerous situations.

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