What Should I Consider When Hiring a Security Guard?

Sherry Holetzky
Sherry Holetzky
Experience, physical fitness and background are considerations when hiring a security guard.
Experience, physical fitness and background are considerations when hiring a security guard.

There are many different issues that you must consider when hiring a security guard, including the prospective employee's experience, fitness to carry out the expected functions, professionalism, and background. You should consider whether or not the applicant has experience in the type of environment you need guarded, and if he or she is registered and trained to carry a firearm, if necessary. Any past injuries or current disabilities could also prevent the guard from standing for periods of time or from walking around your property while on guard.

Security guards are often authorized to make arrests.
Security guards are often authorized to make arrests.

It is important that you learn as much as you can about a potential employee before hiring anyone, so ask for references. An employer may also run a background check. State and national laws vary, so it is wise to hire someone with experience in conducting criminal checks or to consult with an attorney before proceeding.

You should also obtain consent, preferably written, consent from the prospective security guard before running a background check. In fact, to obtain many records, consent is required. If you are given permission, you should only delve into information that you genuinely need, and you should only use that information as necessary to evaluate that person's ability to act as a security employee. You must also remember that all information you acquire is strictly confidential.

Usually, when hiring a security guard, the most important question is whether or not the applicant has a criminal record. Determining the scope of a criminal records check depends largely on the laws in your area. In some places, you will only be able to examine convictions that are directly related to the job at hand. You will most likely not be allowed to look at juvenile records, which are generally sealed, and you may not be able to review arrests that did not result in conviction.

Another issue that many employers are concerned about is worker's compensation claims. The law will not allow you to discriminate and avoid hiring someone simply because he or she has filed a claim in the past. The only way that worker's compensation records can be used when evaluating employment potential is to determine whether or not past injuries may prevent the prospective employee from doing the job as described.

Running a background check when hiring a security guard can be a detailed process. There is a vast amount of information that you can learn from conducting background checks, but it is also important to respect the applicant's private information.

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Discussion Comments


This makes me think of the time I went to France. In most all of their grocery stores, they had a large security guard at the door. I think it would make a positive difference in the US and drop the shoplifting rate. However I don't think that they should be armed, that would make normal shoppers too uncomfortable.


Another thing to consider is that there are different kinds of set-ups for security. My mother's school, for example, has an alarm system that calls their security guard firm if it is triggered. The firm will then try to contact one of the staff members to get them to go and check on the school. If they can't get hold of anyone, they will go themselves, but they charge a fee every time they have to do that.

It's good in some ways, because it's much less expensive than paying for a full time guard, but in other ways it is less than ideal, because it's not a very fast system and it's not exactly safe for the poor teacher who has to go and check on the school.

But it could make a good compromise for someone who can't afford full time security.


I think the best thing to do if you're not sure about the private security guard you've hired is to just check up on them regularly. Don't let them know you're coming and make sure you do it at different times so they can't just be working for the first few hours and then take a nap for the rest of the night.

It's a tough job though. It really messes you up having to stay up and at attention all night, so if you find someone who works well and has a good work ethic, hang on to them.


@Veruca10 - You are right, and a lot of people don't realize there are all different kinds of security guards.

The average "rent a cop" or night watchman is quite different from a hospital security police officer or an armed security guard at a nuclear or other government facility, all of whom may have limited (or full) police powers and go through extensive hiring processes and training.

Armed guards are another example. They get very strict checks, even a polygraph, due to the nature of their job.


I would like to point out that while bad things happen, there are definitely some professional security companies out there where the hiring and performance standards are much higher.

These companies do perform extensive background checks, and they maintain quality control on things like uniforms, appearance, behavior, and professionalism.

Their guards are often ex military or off-duty police. Of course, it is quite a bit more expensive, but this is one case where you definitely get what you pay for.


@MaPa - I found this one out the hard way myself. I own some mobile phone stores, and we had a security company for a while that was supposed to do roving patrols over night, driving between the stores.

I found the guy passed out in his car behind one of my stores, drunk as a skunk! Needless to say, I don't bother with a "night watchman" anymore.


I did some guard work way back when I was in college, and quite frankly I was amazed by the people they would hire. It did not really seem like they did any kind of background checks at all, other than the state-mandated checks for felonies and the like.

We had all kinds of crazy stuff happen. One overnight guard was from Jordan, and he was calling his family there from the site when everyone was gone. He got fired about a month later when the client got their first phone bill and it was hundreds of dollars, all in calls to Jordan.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, you get what you pay for. A lot of security guard companies are not too picky about who they hire, and it is definitely worth doing some homework before you trust a person to watch over your home or business.

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