By John Lehman
We have all questioned our value. We have all wondered what we were really worth. The reality is that our worth reflects how valuable we are to those willing to pay for our services.
To understand the question, “is your worth in line with your value?”, let’s put the question into proper context with an analogy.
A parachute is not as valuable closed as when it is opened. But you purchase it packed as a product based on the feeling of reliability the brand gives you. Even “who” is selling it makes a difference. Would you buy a parachute where you buy your laundry soap?
Consider the same value system applied to the brakes on your car, a prescription pain medication, a fire extinguisher, or a bulletproof vest.
Are you as valuable to your client when standing against a wall or walking next to them as when you are dodging in front of them to save them from a potential attacker?
Consider a client paying $110,000.00 USD, for a single Close Protection Officer for one year. Your client must also pay for all your expenses. You will work an average of 2080 hours in this year if you work 5 days a week and 8 hours a day. Your “worth” is about 58.00 dollars per hour. Does your client see this cost as an investment or an expense?
Are you worth 110,000.00+ dollars to your client? Are you doing things to earn that money or do you feel you are entitled to it simply because the client signed a contract and must pay you no matter what? If you are everything your client expected, you are valuable. If you exceed his expectations, you are more valuable, hence, worth more than you are being paid.
If you operate like a parachute, you are an investment by your client in your “brand”. They purchase what they think they might need and hope they never need you. When your client does need you, they just hope you perform. If you perform as expected, your brand is praised. If you fail on any level, your brand is all over the news and you go back to selling shoes or hamburgers or worse.
Unlike a parachute, you can perform other tasks such as an information gatherer, driver, or simply being another person in the entourage to add strength to the group in a merger meeting. All of which add value for the client and maintain your own worth.
You can study your client, environment, and condition influencers. You can read people, the weather, and traffic to predict how these will affect your client. With most assignments, if you do your job, you are the invisible accessory that the client brags about but realistically has never tested. He may never know what you are truly worth because he will never know the hours you spent behind the scenes, planning to prevent an unwanted occurrence.
So, the question really needs to be: How do I sell my true value to my client? How do I get them to pay me what I think I am worth?
As mentioned in other articles, your education, training achievements and both physical and intellectual prowess allow, (or prevent) you from advancing in your career. These attributes are referred to as KSA’s, (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities). If your client is sold on your resume when you are hired but you perform beneath your stated capabilities, your “value” will have been overstated and your “worth” never realized. On the other hand, if you understate your value on your resume but perform beyond your stated capabilities, you will be underpaid, and while your client will be ecstatic, you will have underachieved your worth.
The alternative approach is to adopt a moral code that prevents you from overstating your “KSA’s”. Your resume must be brief and factual. It is not a biography. List only the facts and do not embellish. List the things that the client can relate to in order for them to see how you will avoid trouble, not how you will react to it.
Add something to your KSA’s every six months. Attend classes in language, business, or culture. Attend an Instructor school. Take a summer course one night a week. Practice your skills with your associates. Jog, swim, climb, box, and go to the gun range. Don’t forget wine tasting, dining etiquette classes, and attend formal black-tie charity events to stay polished in these environments and remember, a smile can calm your client in stressful situations, so learn how and when to smile.
Learn the art of negotiation and learn when to say no. If you have successfully sold your client on your value and you find yourself sitting in front of an advance check, you still need to negotiate the conditions under which you will execute your contract. These conditions can affect your ability to perform your duties. If you find that a prospective client is asking for miracles, be careful not to sell yourself as a miracle worker. You are a professional. Insist on being treated like one.
Keep your word and perform as promised. This is ultimately what allows you to ask for more money next time. Your reputation is your name brand. Reputation is what allows businesses to raise their prices. It is also the reason some businesses fail. If you are reliable, you will be successful. Never gamble with your reputation.
Your client pays you based on their perceived value of your KSA’s. They are paying you what they believe you are worth. The challenge is to get them to pay you what you think you are worth. If you are successful, you will bring your worth in line with your value.
About the author: Mr. Lehman is the Vice President of Athena Academy & Athena Worldwide LLC. He is the founder and CEO of White Star Consulting, llc and White Star Defense Industries, llc, as well as GlobeCastR, based in Texas. He is a certified TCOL (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement) classroom and Firearms Instructor, NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, Federal Protective Service authorized Instructor, Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor, ASP Baton/Handcuff Instructor and unarmed defensive tactics Instructor using the Russian Systema discipline. He is a Texas Licensed Instructor for unarmed and armed Security and teaches the Texas Personal Protection Officer (PPO) course.
Mr. Lehman joined Athena Academy Instructor’s team on January 2013 and has 30 years of corporate and private security experience from facility and physical Security to Executive Protection.
Anyone who has read my articles knows that I base most of them on questions or inquiries from those professionals who either offer good and accurate advice or from those who ask for it.
First, I prefer placing female CPO’s with female clients or their children for the client’s comfort or peace of mind. Some males are easily suited to this task but the client may simply think that a male does not belong in constant close proximity and occasionally in isolated private settings with the kids or a client’s wife. This can be equally true with female CPO’s and male clients but the concern of inappropriate behavior with the children dissolves when a female is placed with them. Remember, it’s always up to the client.
The most active topics to come through my office are all related to females in the Executive Protection industry. As a female CPO and as a business owner and as the founder of a successful training academy exclusive to females in the Personal Protection Industry, I will address a few of the more popular statements I am routinely tasked with arguing against.
“A female CPO is better than a male CPO”
Your gender doesn’t make you better in this profession. What allows you to outperform a colleague or be more suited to a specific task is how well you meet or can adapt to a client’s specific need. In our case, the security needs that a client may have might be provided by a female, male, canine or even a machine.
“It is very hard for a woman to break into this industry”
Well it is also difficult for a male to break into this industry. Training, experience, personality, knowledge of how to dress, how to drive and a really well polished CV mean nothing if you believe that you have some preordained right to be here. Both women and men alike will be passed over equally if they lack humility, charm, manners, couth, education, social polish or real world experience. Which of these is most important?
“It is hard to find a job”
Keep in mind that the market for female CPO’s has historically been smaller which means you have to compete harder to get the job.
It is worth mentioning that in cases where security is needed for females and kids, many clients are looking for not just female CPOs but feminine looking females to place next to their wife, sister or daughter so if you are a female with a very harsh or more masculine appearance, you reduce your chances of being hired. And if a male appears too feminine or too “cute” or even too “handsome” he may not be hired either. You see, it is not your gender, it is the appearance you choose to reflect to your client, and it is your client’s perception you must cater to in order to get hired.
Additionally, my records show that a majority of females who want to break into the industry seem to be older than 40 years of age. It seems that many women who are retired Law Enforcement or military are looking to get into the private security industry. The fact is that unless you are applying for a Nanny position, most clients are looking for 25 to 35-year-old CPO’s with at least 5 years of experience. So at 38 to 40 with no experience, men and women alike stand less of a chance against a younger experienced CPO.
Finally, among those women who complain that they can’t find a job, a vast majority of them do not have what it takes to be hired. Having a large database of female candidates and qualified operatives allows me to compare them to each-other. Here is what I found out of 400 applications:
Some don’t have a passport. Some don’t have a local State license and can’t drive. Some have no firearms license or experience with anything mechanical.
Some are waiting to apply for licenses as they are interviewed and being hired by a client or a company.
Understand that if you don’t have the licenses or other qualifications, you will never be considered for a position, so act in advance. And if you make a misstatement of facts to get hired, you will get fired and never hired again.
Many female candidates are not willing to relocate due to being married with kids. Although a male CPO can leave his wife and kids behind, it is traditionally harder and less socially acceptable for a female CPO to do so. Many women in the U.S. left to fight in the Gulf War in 2002. The practice of the Father staying behind became acceptable there and the trend quickly spread to other countries.
Some women practice the outward arrogance associated with a man’s success when they have a couple of good assignments and don’t recognize when this attitude is rejected by the client or colleagues. This is a problem with the men too so again, no difference.
The result is, if you rub the placement company or client the wrong way, your CV goes in the trash. Turn down too many offers due to money or other issues and we will stop calling. If you don’t have a verifiable track record and reputation, you cannot make demands. Fail to answer when we call with an offer, we will not call back……ever.
“Female CPO’s are paid less”
From my experience both personally being an operative and placing females with other companies or clients I highly disagree with this. I have always been paid the same as the rest of the team and even more than the rest of the team when my performance or qualifications were measured against theirs.
In closing, we need to clarify and understand four things:
1) If you are making less than your colleagues, male or female, remember that you agreed to the terms of your employment. It was your choice.
2) If you don’t know how to ‘’sell’’ your skillset then you have missed something in your professional training. Go back to the basics and learn how to respond to a contract offer.
3) If you are a beginner, you may have to agree to a lower rate in order to build up your experience and work portfolio. If you do your job, you will progress.
4) Because of the nature of the services needed, some team members may work less hours than the rest of the team, therefore they may be paid less. If you are a female working with the kids for 6 hours a day, you cannot compare your position with a CPO that works for 10 hours driving the car or standing next to the client. If you are doing equal work on equal ground, you should argue for equal pay and equal treatment. If you don’t like the terms, don’t take the job. If you find out after you accept a position that you are paid less, chalk it up to a lesson learned and don’t make the mistake next time.
The demand for female CPO’s has increased steadily over the last decade. If you are not working or not earning what you think you are worth, ask yourself the following:
-What kind of experience do I have?
-What education do I have?
-Does my personality, loyalty, integrity, knowledge, skill and ability add to the client’s needs or solutions?
-How does my CV measure up against the other candidates interviewing for a position?
If you need a professional assessment of your CV or even your image or need to add to your skillset, go to our website. There is guidance there to help you.
You are equal in your ability to protect a person from the threat of another but the opportunity to perform will be based on a human being assessing your value to the effort. What are you doing to increase your value to the person that needs what you offer?
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
In a recent CPO class I was teaching, a student asked me what I would suggest as further training to add to his skillset. The first thing that came to mind was First Aid and a defensive driving class. He said he hadn’t thought about those so I took the opportunity to ask him what other training he was thinking of. The answers I got were a Tactical Shotgun and Rifle class and a weapons disarming class.
Now before I continue, understand this was a student who was just entering the close protection industry, with no prior training or work experience in the field.
Having been in the industry for a long time, I realize that continuing education is critical to any professional’s success. I simply believe that as we live we learn and in this industry we have to be better prepared and educated than the bad guys or even our ‘’competitors’’. Before you spend money on your next course, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- What position are you currently holding?
Are you a new CPO? Even if you are making a transition from LE or military to private sector security, you may be over trained and under experienced. This makes you new. If you are a new CPO, you will not gain any credibility for having advanced skillsets if you don’t know the basics. How to speak, dress, manners, social etiquette, First Aid…
- How do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
How far do you want to go in this industry? How do you envision your career? What do you want to achieve?
There are people who are satisfied working in lower “Operator” CP positions due to their family status or just because they are comfortable with it.
If you are a security guard seeking advancement or interested in working in the United States as an armed Security Officer, your primary weapon would be the Semi-Automatic Handgun, so why would you need carbine rifle tactical training? Since your primary focus is to remove your client from the hostile environment, how would you use a two-handed weapon when one is needed to guide your client? Why would you attempt to master the “tactical rifle” if you don’t know basic and advanced First Aid or even how to tie a necktie?
- How much money and time are you willing to spend for additional training?
Training in our industry costs a small fortune. Add to the course the time off of work, accommodations, meals and travel to a training site and your cost could exceed $8000.00 dollars U.S. for a week-long course.
There are many training courses available. A training provider/company is a business, not a charity so they want your money. Many of them will use unethical practices in order to sell you their courses so be extremely careful and vet the provider before sending them your money. Especially if you are a U.S. Veteran using your GI Bill.
I have seen courses offered to CPOs such as horseback riding, helicopter rappelling training, commando survival techniques and subterranean exploration, (Cave crawling). Now even if those classes sound cool you have to ask yourself if they are within your professional range of use.
If you want to break into CP industry then start with a nice CP course, get your basics and start building from there. Attend a Basic First Aid and work towards advanced First Aid classes and even Combat Lifesaver. A Security Driving Course would also be valuable. Any Threat Management class, Computer Forensics, and yes, even Photography. Think about your imaginary “perfect client” and educate yourself toward being the perfect CPO for them. What do you think that client needs you to know? Driving in Germany is not like driving in Iraq or the U.S. And driving in New York is not like driving in Dallas, Texas but First aid or the ability to communicate or knowledge of how to dress to your client’s needs are universal.
Prioritize your training on the needs of your assignment and your career path. Remember that there are over 3300 security specialties. To be a specialist, you need to master only one. A PSD Personnel Security Detail “Operator” can but does not have to be a socially refined individual and a CPO can but does not need the advanced physical skillsets of a soldier. If you are in a combat or warzone, operate as a PSD Operator, in all other cases operate like a CPO. Know the difference and train to your interest.
Some of the training providers that Athena Academy endorses are:
In the U.S.
Vehicle Dynamics Institute, http://www.vehicledynamics.com/
White Star Consulting, http://www.whitestaroftexas.com/
Global Options & Solutions, http://gos911.com/
Independent Security Advisors, http://www.dignitaryprotection.us/
VIP Protection Group, http://vipprotection.gr
ANG Protection, http://www.angprotection.co.uk/
Odyssey Security, http://www.odyssey-security.com/
Cyrus Strategies & Tactics, http://www.cyrusstrategiesandtactics.com/
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
Over the last 10 years, I have written a few hundred articles and granted interviews related to protective work within our industry. I have almost always addressed topics of interest from the perspective of a Close Protection Operative or directed advice or opinions toward the CPO.
As threats change with the times, the topics of discussion must change and occasionally we have to address an old topic from a fresh perspective. This article is directed to the security company Owner or Manager and addresses a more mundane yet equally important topic: INTEGRITY.
What many company owners and managers will tell you they are looking for when hiring someone to work for them (and represent their companies), is loyalty, dedication, hard-working, punctual, positive attitude, team player, ethical, honest, law abiding, professional. It shouldn’t be surprising but many employees are looking for the same qualities in a company’s top leaders.
Most of us as Managers, CEO’s, CFO’s, COO’s, or other Owners fail to remember that when our company is awarded a contract and we hire people to work for us, our organization’s integrity is judged by, and dependent upon our employees. So as important as they are to us, why did they suddenly resign?
Most successful protection organizations are managed by company Owners, Managers or CEOs who have been operatives at some point in their careers, so it should be hard to understand how they would neglect their employees, but it does happen all the times, and I do understand.
Below I will try to point out some issues that allow for a toxic work environment for both employers and employees which lead to turn over and poor loyalty.
Each company has its own vision and goal. The question is: are you as the creator or guardian of that vision as loyal to it today as you were on day one? Are you loyal to the people who work for you, to what your company represents, to the profession? Or are you ‘’bending’’ your own work ethic or clouding your company’s vision for that monthly check? Great operatives sometimes work for organizations that have cut corners, lagged behind in paying their employees, failed to support their employees, siding instead with the client, and forcing employees to quit before it was time to give them a raise. If you think that your employees won’t quit and inform everyone they know (including your competitors), about your conduct, you are wrong.
Are you on time with your responsibilities toward the people that work for you? Are they getting paid for their working hours/days expenses and benefits on time? “I HAVEN’T BEEN PAID BY THE CLIENT YET” is not an excuse for not paying your operatives on time. Operating a business and hiring people means you have a specific amount of capitol you must set aside to insure payroll. Failing to achieve payroll independence probably means you are mismanaging your profits and maybe your company. Do you return phone calls promptly? Do you promise performance raises at 6 months of employment and then wait for the employee to beg you for it at 7 months?
Are you honest regarding employment contracts? There are companies who practice “Shadow Contracting”, which uses two sets of terms: one for the clients and one for the operatives. The difference between the two are the services promised to the client within the terms of service and what the operative believes they are signing up for in pay, working conditions, risk and support. In most cases, the client is unaware of this.
Additionally, when you hire a CPO, you informed them about the initial threat assessment, so until they get their foot in the door and deal in real time with the client and his environment and do their own assessment they have to rely on what you know. As we know, in our line of work, the threat level is, in part, what sets the cost for our services. Some organizations will not inform an operative of the real threat level in order to pay the operative less.
Are you a law abiding professional? Unfortunately we have seen people with criminal records running security businesses or Managers who don’t mind hiring employees who have prior problems with the law or regulatory authorities, who add them to their company administration or to their CP teams.
These decisions initially affect the CP effort but quickly destroy the trust and loyalty in the organization as a whole and eventually the Client relationship.
Are you a team player? I have heard the phrase “I want you to see our company as your family”, many times. This is a hollow statement because:
- They already have a family.
- They are usually under a contract with a time limit
- They will never feel like family when your family and friends are in all of the key positions or in charge of the operations.
As a business owner, manager or CEO you have to think ahead and take care of your people. Some contracts require assignments in distant cities or other countries. Those people, who work for you, protect your client and basically make money for you and are away from their homes and families, possibly in a different culture, unfriendly country or in a domestic environment which tests their patience, fidelity, fitness and temperament. Are you focusing on what the CP needs to succeed 20 or 30 or 60 or 90 days into their assignment? Are you watching for complacency and prepared to replace or rotate your CPO’s if complacency or boredom becomes apparent? Did you remember to add this possibility in the client’s contract and explain that the CPO the client starts with may not be the one they end up with?
Do you regularly check to insure that your CPO’s do not exceed 10 hours a day in service and that they receive proper time for rest or rehabilitation or training or fitness? Did you put these terms into the contract? Did you secure a retainer?
Recently, I was made aware of a female CPO that took an assignment in a country she had not worked in before. She took the assignment with a signed contract which she was awarded because of her experience working with and protecting children. She was promised a weekly bi-weekly paycheck, time off, 10 hour days, clothing, food, lodging, travel and other allowance “reimbursements” and was furnished equipment. Within 30 days, she was behind 2 paychecks, out of personal money due to not being reimbursed, was working 18 hours a day, was being berated daily by the client’s wife, not allowed to discipline or correct a spoiled child and was not accustomed to the local exotic diet which was her only source of food, resulting in her being sick and under nourished much of the time she was in the country. Additionally, she was not able to leave once she decided to do so and had to work an additional 4 months before finally being paid an adequate amount of money to allow her to “escape”. She has not yet been paid the balance of what is owed her and has no legal means of demanding or recovering her earnings. The company is still in business and continues its practices. It has no loyalty and the internet is now peppered with negative comments about it.
If you see fallacies in your corporate hiring and management practices or are experiencing a high turnover in CPO’s or your management staff, spend some money on a private consultant. They can evaluate your practices for far less than what you are losing in lost contracts and overtime or training costs due to employee turn-over. Having the right people working for your company and stay with you for a long time is the best investment you can do.
End f the day, while you are running your own security firm take some time to remember where you came from and guard your reputation within the industry.
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:
- a) You either don’t pay attention to details and what the assignment requires, or
- 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.
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
Proud Member of International Security Driver Association (ISDA)