This article will address the most common mistakes made by Protection professionals while searching and applying for jobs.
I will not pull any punches here so if you don’t do well with constructive criticism or feel the need to argue with the scores of people I contacted to write this article, read something else. On the other hand, if you are not getting hired and are willing to consider that it might just be you, remain open-minded, and consider the following, you might just discover the reason you are reading this article instead of working.
I am no better than anyone else reading this, but I have been there, done that, learned from my mistakes and am sharing what I have learned with you. I wrote this in first person, so bear with me, there is a reason.
I as many others, started in this industry as an operator, progressed through years of working under and behind others, made mistakes, survived, and progressed to owning my own firm. I found so many “operators” in the industry that really didn’t know what they didn’t know and I began to teach. After many years as an operator and a business owner, I have learned firsthand what it takes to work as a successful security operative, how to find the right candidates for my company and what recruiters, other companies and clients are looking for in a real Operator or Protector.
Most recruiters have been operatives before. They are quick to identify the needs of both client and operative alike. While many will share with a client the reasons an operative was not picked, they seldom share those reasons with the operative.
In the security industry, it is extremely important to find the right candidate for the right job. Due to the nature of our services, we don’t have the privilege of making a mistake. I would rather interview and reject 100 qualified candidates to find the exact fit for my client, than have my client reject my choice even once.
Here is a collection of the top complaints from Recruiters, Protection firms and Clients. If any of these even remotely apply to you, it may explain why you are being passed over.
■ You applied for a job that you are not qualified for.
Understand that time is extremely valuable and going through hundreds of Curriculum Vitae’s, or CVs, and Resume’s is both time consuming and labor intensive. Additionally, researching your background can be quite expensive, so please apply for a job you can prove you are qualified for. Viewing resumes from people with irrelevant experience or training brings to mind two things:
1 a) You either don’t pay attention to details and what the assignment requires, or
2 b) You are just sending out inquiries for any job vacancy.
If your only job is to find yourself a job, and that seems like a lot of work, imagine how it looks to me when I have to go through so many candidate’s CV’s and Resume’s, evaluate their information and narrow the field down to the 6 to 10 I will interview.
However, if you can see that you don’t have what it takes for the specific assignment, you can always send your CV with a note requesting consideration for any future opening that may come available’’. This is not only acceptable but actually leads to more offers than “padding” or falsifying a resume ever will.
■ Pay attention to the whole job application process. PAY EXTRA ATTENTION TO WHAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR AND WHAT YOU SHOULD INCLUDE WITH YOUR APPLICATION.
Generally speaking, most job ads give you all the clues you need to apply and what you should include with your application. With this said, I prefer to receive ONE email or letter per applicant with all requested documentation. Failing to pay attention to the job description and application process and having to e-mail me 3 or 4 times for clarification or further instructions won’t get you hired. It will give me the impression that you either don’t pay attention to simple details or you can’t follow simple guidelines and directions. Either one will get your CV tossed in the trash. Dealing with hundreds of applicants by E-mail is tedious but having to search through hundreds to match three from the same candidate is impossible. I will delete the email. I need to keep track and have all your info in one e-mail.
■ If you are asked to include a photo with your application that means a professional head shot or full body photograph.
I will emphasize the words professional photograph. Pictures taken in your home, during your training or holidays or those taken of you in the field are not considered professional. Neither are the ones you have cropped yourself out of. Professional means suit and tie for the men and business attire for the ladies. DO NOT WEAR SUNGLASSES in your professional photos. Avoid the ear pieces. If you are really on top of your game, you will seek out a professional clothier to help dress you. Meaning that you will not wear button-down shirts with a suit and that your tie is the right color and length and that your shoes and belt match….And ladies, avoid over applications of make-up and hair products. If you seem “high maintenance” in an interview or photograph, you will not be chosen for work. A team of Operatives and more especially the Client won’t wait on you to get ready. And don’t use a combat photo from Iraq if you are applying for a suit and tie position in an Executive security assignment.
The reason you may be asked to provide a professional photo is that in some cases, depending on a client’s needs, we want to make sure your image and body posture can blend in or fit with the specific detail. No we are not interested to see if you are handsome or pretty. In many cases the client may request someone taller or shorter, or that the Operative not have facial hair. The Client may be wanting a person with lighter or darker features or to not have a military appearance in order to blend in to the environment. Also, when we ask for a photo that means a recent one, (no older than 1 year). It should reflect your current appearance. If I grant you an interview and you do not look like your photo, your interview will be very short and your resume will go in the trash as soon as you leave. Photo-editing is not acceptable. It is the same as lying.
■ Be extremely honest with the information you provide in your CV.
If you have attended training from which you don’t hold a certificate or you have been working for companies you can’t name, DO NOT include them in your CV. Most reputable agencies or firms verify a candidate’s training and professional background. In fact, most Firms have the phone numbers and names of the major training providers and we all know or know of each other. So if you can’t back up your training and employment claims with a certificate or reference letter, then don’t include it.
Be honest when I ask you why you left your previous assignment. If I ask you how much you were making on your previous assignment, it may have nothing to do with what I am offering you now, so answer honestly. I may ask you this to determine if you were out of the job due to budget cuts, contract ending or because you didn’t fit in well. It is possible that you may have either been terminated or you quit for some good reasons. Being terminated due to budget cuts or the contract ending is acceptable but being fired because you made critical errors in judgement or because you were toxic to the team or working environment will keep you from being hired. If you did make a mistake that can be explained, you may want a letter from a supervisor or previous employer to detail the events on your behalf.
Be diplomatic. This means, don’t toss out accusations about your former employer or client. Keep a professional tone and give only professional justifications. If you are blaming your former employer or team manager for being unprofessional or unfair to you, this may be seen as an excuse for your conduct.
If I ask you how much you were making in your old job, make sure you provide a 100% true statement. No I’m not the IRS and I’m not interested to see how much you were making and how much you were declaring. I ask that question for two reasons, a) see how much you ‘’sell your services for’’ and b) to see if you will be honest. I have had people giving much higher pay rates than what they were actually earning and when I asked to see an old invoice or check stub, they couldn’t or wouldn’t produce it.
■ If I ask you details about your previous client or employer, I have a good reason.
I want to see how much information you are willing to share. Your answer to these questions should be “I prefer not to answer a question that would compromise mine or my previous client’s integrity or the safety of the client or the team currently in place there.” This shows candor, honesty, integrity and class. Also during this interview, I want to see how you respond. Can you hold a simple conversation? Your professionalism
is measured by appearance, integrity, oral and verbal communications skill and references.
■ Changing companies every few months doesn’t look good on your CV but it is not a death sentence if you can explain it.
If we see candidates that change companies often, that is not the same as changing clients in the same time frame. In either case, you should be ready and able to explain the reasons for having multiple employers.
■ Have a properly printed resume
Your resume is my first impression of you. It is the first tool I use to determine your eligibility for employment. It is extremely disappointing to see someone with exceptional experience who presents a poorly written resume. Errors in spelling, grammar, font size, letter and paragraph spacing, paper quality and color are al determiners to a lack of detail. Many security operators will spend thousands of dollars on a close protection training course and education in technical qualifications, then Hundreds more on clothing to enable themselves to work in the protective services industry, and then fall short when it comes to gaining employment because they have a poorly written resume or “CV”.
In order to be successful in gaining employment it is important that an employer, when reading a CV, gains an accurate picture of the person they are reading about. The CV should highlight the operator’s key skills, if former military, then maybe operational experience or if not then transferable skills to the workplace such as leadership and management. Understand that there is a real difference between a CV and a Resume’. In very general terms, a CV is what you can do, what you have done and how you are qualified, and a Resume’ is who you have done it for.
■ Have a good, positive and professional presence during your interview. Present yourself professionally.
If you want to be considered as a professional then you have to start looking and behaving like one. When it comes to your appearance, have a clean cut look, if someone is going to hire you to be close to important clients and dignitaries then he/she must be sure you can blend in with the environment. I always recommend being clean cut.
You can always grow your hair back but you can’t shave it off in the interview. If you are used to having a beard or mustache and don’t want to shave it, it is appropriate to ask the employer what is acceptable. If they prefer clean cut, do not try to qualify their request, just shave. And please loose the pony tail and hair gel. Both suggest that you have a weak self-image. Be aware of personal hygiene, it is sad how some people think it’s acceptable to have a specific natural body scent or unpolished shoes or dirty or jagged fingernails. If you are operating in some PSD assignments, it is acceptable but not if you are operating in Corporate Security or for Executive Protection in the western world. And in this case make sure you invest some money in professional and comfortable suits and shoes. Those will be your work tools along with your firearm. Ignoring details in your appearance is seen as a sign to how you will operate.
On an additional note, just because you don’t own a company doesn’t mean you can’t print some business cards. You never know who you might meet. People that can be potential clients for you or can forward your contact details to other people, potential employers or even contacts in the field who you need to work with such as Law Enforcement, all deserve a card. I have heard many stories of colleagues that after talking with people, had to offer their contact details only to have to hunt for a pen and a paper….and yes, I have made the same mistake myself when I first started working in the security industry. I still remember the embarrassing situation when I met an ambassador who was thrilled about female close protection services and when she asked for my contact details I wrote on a napkin. I have only made that mistake once. If you use a card, keep it simple and professional. Avoid bold or aggressive. Many colleagues use a plain card on thick stock simply stating the person’s name and a telephone number. That number rings to a 24 hour call center which then forwards the message to the person. More on this in another article. Stainless steel cards are cool but if you present bold and arrogant, you will be seen as such. Bold might get you lucky and get you an assignment to work alone but you will never be hired by anyone if you appear arrogant.
Use an email address that you use only for business. It should contain at least your last name to make it easier to search for you. Avoid e-mail addresses that reflect weapons or martial arts or other fieldcraft in the address. (Afganfighterdude.net…)Avoid using AOL, Yahoo or Gmail accounts for employment inquiries as these appear adolescent. If you use Linkedin, for a posting of your professional life, never contact the client or potential employer this way. Choose instead to communicate with them through E-mail and encourage them to do the same.
■ Pay attention in your network appearance and activities.
It is sad but people in the security industry who are affected by personal issues sometimes can act unprofessionally. Do not to take part in on-line forums ‘’fights’’ or talking bad about other colleagues or companies. You need to remember that before you are hired, you represent yourself. After you are hired, you represent everyone you have ever worked for. These days companies and clients are monitoring social network sites and if they see you posting unprofessional comments about other people or companies, they will assume that you will do it to them. Regardless of how unfair you might have been treated by a colleague, a client or a company you must always act and talk professionally about them, even after your resignation or dismissal. Avoid posting pictures or comments about your social or family life, conquests or challenges. These lend the viewer to visions of substandard moral or security behavior, and can unfairly influence them when considering you for a higher level security assignment.
■ Be serious if you want to proceed further with the selection process.
You will have all the needed job details to decide if you are interested in proceeding further. Think it through completely before committing to contacting someone for an interview. We don’t like to have spent our time with people who decide not to show up on a later interview. If you have other proposals and you would like to think about it, let me know. If you decide not to proceed, call us. This can go a long way if you decide to contact us again for future opportunities. There is nothing we appreciate more than an honest conversation.
In the beginning of this article I mentioned that I am not working for you, BUT I am working with you. I am a recruiter. As such, disagreeing with me or harassing me over the contents of this article won’t help your cause. I have spent a lot of time talking to those who hire you. I am but the messenger here.
As a recruiter I am paid by the company or a client to find the right candidate to fill a job. I am not paid to get you a job. There are also guidelines I have to work within so if you get passed over, it is not personal.
Having been in this industry as an operative and agency owner I have a good sense of what the current market is looking for, what the standards are, and what the pay rates are. If you have what the company/client is looking for, I can try to negotiate your fee with them. I can also advise you or guide you during your application process, so diplomacy, patience and consideration is expected and appreciated.
■ Be polite
It sounds so simple but many candidates fail to be polite during and after an interview. A simple thank you is more than enough. Even if you don’t have what the current company/client is looking for I can help you with another job opening if I see that you are a genuine and polite professional. Also, handling rejection with grace and good manners can land you an offer from the person that just turned you down.
Build a good relationship with your recruiter. If you are transitioning from military or Law Enforcement to private security, note that we do understand how stressful this can be for you, not to mention when you have bills to pay or families to feed. What does not work is calling or emailing me twice a week to complain about how badly you need a job. I know you may be desperate but so are several hundred others. In this case, the squeaky wheel does not get the grease. I will flip past 30 resumes that came in a month ago and place an operative that came in this morning just because the candidate is the right height and has manners.
■ If you don’t fit a specific placement opportunity but you know someone who does, please make a referral! The recruiter as well as the potential candidate will both remember you. This will also go a long way in showing me that you have a positive teamwork mentality which is a great referral by itself for other opportunities.
Finally, I would like to point out that the job search and application process can be challenging and time consuming. There are many phases consisting of recruitment, civil and criminal background checks, physical and psychological testing, and meeting each specific company’s standards as a prerequisite of employment. Make sure you complete all the necessary steps and remember that the best time to look for a new assignment is while you currently have one.