From Raw Recruit to Effective Security Guard

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We have had all the furore over the Olympics recruitment shortfall and the follow-up news articles about poor recruits, unable to speak English and poor or non-existent training. I thought it might be time to look at the processes involved in a proper recruitment programme for security personnel, which might give us some insight into why the failures have occurred and what processes should have been in place.


Selection starts with the job advert, whether on-line, in the paper or job Centre, by making sure that your requirements are specified to help filter away unsuitable candidates. For example, “Candidates must have no recent criminal record, have a checkable career history (including unemployment) and have good written and spoken English language skills”. Hopefully, (but not always!) those who do not possess these attributes are put off responding to the ad.

The next part of the selection process begins when interested people respond by sending a CV, an application form, email or telephoning the office. Those telephoning are asked questions to verify their potential suitability and are then asked to complete an application form if we consider them to be potentially suitable. Those sending in CV’s or completed Application Forms are assessed for appropriateness and as potential employees, before we decide on selections for interview. All candidates will need to have completed an Application Form prior to interview taking place. CV’s can create a good impression for someone applying for work, but frequently they don’t answer some of the questions we need to be answered.

At interview, information is gained about the candidates, especially where information needs further exploration. Decisions to employ or not to employ are then made and successful candidates are booked to go on the next available suitable training course.

Vetting and Screening

The next stage of the process is vetting and screening of candidates. We complete a check of all employers, periods of unemployment and self-employment, and education over the previous 5 years. We also check personal references and confirm other claims made in the Application Form. Checks must be made prior to employment and fully completed within 12 weeks of commencement of employment. Ideally the first part of vetting should be complete prior to training, so that valuable effort isn’t to be wasted. If we are unable to complete vetting during this probationary period of employment, then there will be a subsequent termination of that employment.


The training course qualifications must be recognised by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) for licensing purposes and these will be, most usually, either Security Guarding or Door Supervision courses. The courses last for 30 guided learning hours usually spread over four days. To pass the course 3 multiple choice test papers must be completed, with a pass rate of 70% in each of the three papers. Tests are conducted in English and candidates are not allowed to use interpreters or other language to English dictionaries. The results are usually available around a week after taking the tests.


Once we know that a candidate has gained a pass, we can then apply for their SIA license. Under the Private Security Industry Act, individuals must be licensed to work as a security guard and working without a license is a criminal offence. Once a license has been applied for, it is likely to take around four weeks for it to be granted, under normal circumstances. Licenses are normally granted on the basis of three factors: appropriate qualifications, no recent or serious criminal record (a CRB check is carried out), and the individuals’ right to work in the UK.

If a security company is an SIA Approved Contractor, it is possible that an employee can work whilst their application is in the “pipeline”. The rules are clear: payment for the license must have been taken by the SIA, and any employee used under the scheme must be issued with a License Dispensation Notice (LDN). Using this process, it can be up to 2 weeks before an employee can be deployed.

So, from start to finish, how long does it take to employee a security guard?

  • From inserting a job advert to interviewing can be fairly quickly done, perhaps a week for some candidates, though probably 3 to 4 weeks for many others.
  • Next, an available training course has to be located which will be at least another week or two and possibly more.
  • A week waiting for the course results
  • A week and a half to get to “payment received” by the SIA

In total a minimum lead-in time of four weeks, though it is more likely to be nearer six weeks if you are an SIA Approved Contractor and eight weeks if you are not. That becomes a problem when you’re trying to recruit and train not just one or two but 10,000 guards at short notice!

So, that’s it, we now have a fully trained security officer: well perhaps not!

The training they’ve had so far is just a basic training, but before they’re left to their own devices, they need to have some site specific training, where they are surplus to the normal establishment of the site. The length of time the on-site training should take will vary, depending upon the complexity of the site and the duties they have to undertake. The minimum it is likely to be is an additional full shift, but it could be as much as two weeks, before the freshly trained “newbie” officer is ready to be left to work on their own. Even then, they are going to be checked on and visited more frequently than more experienced and trained security personnel, until it is established that they are fully competent and effective.

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