Canadian Security Magazine

Revisiting hiring practices in security

By Camille McKay   

Features Opinion hiring practices

In the face of an evolving security landscape, the paradigm shift of managerial attitudes towards security risks and the public’s perception of the threat environment can be defined as either a tremendous opportunity or a daunting challenge.

In reaction to this changing threat environment, the physical security industry has matured over the past decade. While asset protection remains at the industry’s core, it has evolved from a focus on “people, places and products” to include “reputation, information and environment.”

The question remains, are the right people in the right places to address developments in security technology, criminal trends or risk methodologies? I propose that there are still opportunities for the industry to reflect on how to build their teams for the future while leveraging skillsets outside the traditional security field.

My unconventional entry into the security field began in 2005, equipped solely with a B.A. in Development Studies. Through diverse professional experience in community relations, volunteer management, event coordination and policy development, I brought inquisitiveness, resourcefulness and communication skills to positions within a national security agency, international financial institution and a municipal government.

I found that my capacity to transition from positions in intelligence, corporate security, protective services, investigations and security risk management was not hindered by a limited (albeit growing) security knowledge base. Rather, my advancement was built upon competencies to translate knowledge into action, strategy and tactics.

A few years ago, while waiting at an airport luggage carousel, a member of a business executive contingent was surprised to hear that I was part of their security delegation. Sardonically, he asked if I was “carrying” in my purse. I pointed to my head and replied, “Security starts up here.”

This experience highlights that stereotypes continue to abound in security — whether it is a perception that the industry consists primarily of security guards and private investigators, or that executive protection is restricted to former military or law enforcement personnel, or that security certifications are mandatory prerequisites for security positions.

While all of the above are valuable components of effective security teams; looking to hire outside the lines can also attract individuals with fresh, innovative perspectives. Staff with unconventional backgrounds can often point out the elephant in the room and expand the team’s capacities.

To assess whether or not a security team is built to attract diverse perspectives and skillsets, consider:

  • What story is depicted in the organizational chart? Does it visually describe the mandate? Are its foundations broad enough to address the corporation’s mission and vision in five years?
  • How do current job titles and position descriptions reflect the core competencies required to build a successful team? While certifications (e.g. CPP, PSP, CPTED, IALEIA) provide theoretical knowledge of industry standards, credentials cannot replace staff proficiencies to conduct comprehensive risk assessments, successfully deploy de-escalation tactics, or clearly communicate complex security terminology to stakeholders. How effectively do job descriptions filter or attract qualified candidates?
  • Is there opportunity to leverage consultants or collaborate with other business units? What insights can adult education specialists bring as training coordinators? Can an engineer with project management experience be tapped to design innovative security system frameworks?

Security teams filled with individuals from diverse backgrounds have better toolkits to face the security challenges of tomorrow.

Camille McKay is the manager, security risk at the City of Mississauga, Ont.

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