Here's my brief to the EP Networking event held in Manchester in October 2015.
Hopefully today I can help you try to understand the employment and application process a bit better.
For those of you that don't know me my name is Tom Richmond. I have a background in close protection starting with the Royal Military Police Close Protection Unit, as a Team Leader, conducting hostile environment close protection. I then worked with a client of very high net worth when i left the Army before being employed as a full time consultant in protective services for Control Risks at their London office. It was whilst with Control Risks that i really started to gain an understanding of the close protection industry and more importantly what it took to gain employment for most operators.
The main reason I'm talking to you today though is that I'm the owner of The Security Advisor website which is a site based around training and gaining employment in the security industry. I decided to set up The Security Advisor because I believe that most operators are getting absolutely nowhere near gaining employment because of a lack of understanding of the job application process. The site walks you through the application process from start to finish and if you can master the application process you will put yourself well ahead of your peers, and those around you who have got similar experiences and qualifications, when trying to gain employment.
State of the nation
So where are we at the moment as an industry, well I've been giving these briefs now for around four years and the content that I speak about is generally very similar to what it was four years ago, however the industry as a whole is so much more difficult to get into.
As we know there has been a reduction in close protection roles in areas like Iraq and Afghanistan with an increase in the use of local nationals to conduct these fewer roles. So there are less jobs out there in hostile environments, which means there are more operators who were working in hostile environments trying to gain employment in the UK.
In the UK, we've experienced some of the hardest economic times that we've seen in recent decades and as we all know often one of the first resources to go or at least be reduced is the security function.
So we've seen a reduction in security roles available but at the same time we've seen the Army reduce its numbers drastically and therefore there has been an influx of personnel into the employment market who's skill set is ideal to train in the security industry.
So where does that leave us as an industry, well I think the common term that we will all be familiar with is the market is flooded with operators. However there are things you can do in the application process to drastically increase your chances of gaining employment.
The best way I can try and highlight the importance of the little things you can do to improve your chances of gaining employment is at The Security Advisor we receive hundreds of CV's every year and the vast majority, I'd say 98% are absolutely rubbish. For us to hold your CV on file at The Security Advisor we ask people to resubmit their CV in our format which makes it easier for us to compare CV's when we are putting operators in roles.
So of those 1000 CV's that we have received in the last two years can anyone have a guess of what percentage of people have resubmitted their CV in the format that we have asked them to?
The answer is 0, not one person has resubmitted the CV in our format in the last two years and therefore we've not held anyone's CV on file. What that tells us is the vast majority of people are chancers, sat behind their computer sending out their CV to as many people as possible but putting in little effort in the hope that someone might respond, and then people wonder why no one gets back to them.
THE MULTI-LAYERED APPROACH
In order to make your employment search more effective the best piece of advice I can give you is to use a multi-layered approach to finding employment or progressing your career, and the more elements of this jig saw that you use the more likely you are to be successful.
It's no good having a great CV if you don't know who to send it to.
Or it's no good knowing who to send your CV to if they aren't recruiting.
Or it's no good having a great CV, knowing who is recruiting but them not employing people with your skill set or level of experience.
Or it's no good having a great CV and all the qualifications a company is looking for, if you've destroyed yourself through poor use of social media to the point where no one wants to employ you.
So by using this multilayered approach and targeting who you apply to as they meet your criteria it will dramatically increase your chances of being successful finding employment, it's about a quality application approach over quantity.
When using a multilayered approach it makes sense to start with CV's as they form the basis for anyone on which to build their application.
When I worked at Control Risk I would say that no more than 10% of CV's that we received were read in detail, and we received hundreds of CV's a week. Now what happened at Control Risks, and this is very similar at the other big security companies, AEGIS or Olive for example, is that we would have a huge pile of CV's that had arrived throughout the week and whoever had a free ten minutes had to sift the CV's into a more manageable pile in order to read those CV's in more detail.
The process was actually quite brutal and realistically you'd spend no more than 20 seconds, sometimes down to 10 seconds, on a CV trying to establish whether you wanted to read it in more detail.
So when writing your CV, first impressions really do count and you should think of it from perspective of not being read in detail initially, but being skim read to start with in order to get it into this more manageable pile to be read in detail.
Therefore when someone picks up your CV it must look inviting to read and easy to extract information from. And the information that they are trying to extract is what was requested in the job description.
So those CV's that look hard to extract information from would be put in the shredding pile straight away before being even skim read, never mind read in detail.
Equally, If you pick up a CV and it's over two pages in length you know it's going to be hard to skim read in under 20 seconds because it's too long so again it goes straight into the shredding pile.
If you start to read a CV and the use of English language, the spelling and grammar are bad making it hard to read then again it goes into the shredding pile.
If you start to read the CV and it doesn't capture your attention immediately for example if the person hasn't tailored it to a job description so when you start to read it it's not outlining the information the reader is looking for then again it goes in the shredding pile.
And the best bit of advice I can offer you is that a well written profile at the start of your CV outlining everything required in the job description can be enough to get your CV into the more manageable pile to be read in detail without having to read any further into the CV past the profile, that's how important it is. With your profile, stick to the facts, no personal attributes, like I'm a good communicator or a team player, these personal attributes are the minimum you'd expect of someone so they are not selling you a job, keep it short, sharp and to the point.
So to ensure your CV is read in detail, firstly make sure it looks presentable, make sure it's skim readable, it's tailored to the job description and there is good use of English language, spelling and grammar throughout.
How many times have you seen people post Giz a job on forums, or I'm available, message me for my CV, it's embarrassing, they're hardly going to be inundated with offers in an industry where 100's of applicants are going for every job
So it's really important that you add some structure to your application process.
When you are out of work your full time job becomes finding employment therefore you should structure it that way.
It is important that from the start you set out your aims and ultimate goal, then use your structured week in such a way to help you achieve this.
Your structure can be as basic or complicated as you want, in line with your personal preferences. Some might opt for a school timetable style, breaking the day down into hourly periods of what they want to achieve that week. Some may prefer just to list items they want to achieve that day and tick them off when complete.
But whichever method you use you need to structure your week in a logical order.
Coming back to what I spoke about earlier, the vast majority of people look for work in exactly the same way, by sitting in front of the computer and trawling the same internet sites and sending the same untailored CV over and over again.
Therefore as most people are using the same methods they are actually making it harder for themselves as the competition for roles found in this way is much greater.
Instead what you need to do is use this structure to your day and week in order to make you more effective in the application process and do something different to what most people are doing.
Which companies to send your CV to
So when it comes to who to send your CV to most operators use a quantity approach over quality and if you take anything away from this brief I really want you to change that mindset and start using a quality over quantity approach, as it's far more effective.
So how do you use a quality over quantity approach. There are so many operational companies in the security industry as I'm sure you know, that you have to be smart about how you go about this and use your time wisely. It's no good establishing a long list from the internet and trying to approach them all. You need to work out which companies deal with the area of protective services that you want to gain employment in. Then think about which of these companies employ personnel with your skill set and level of experience. And then coming back to a point i made earlier about only sending your CV off to companies that are actually recruiting, which makes sense?
So by narrowing your search to companies operating in the areas of protective security you want to gain employment in, that employ operators with your skill set and that are actually recruiting it allows you to focus on those that meet your criteria. Therefore you spend quality time on the application process to the companies that you have narrowed down to meet your criteria rather than using a quantity approach and trying to apply to everyone but doing it badly.
Once you have narrowed down which operational companies that you are going to apply to, you need to identify who to send your CV to within that company. Again It's no good having a great CV, knowing which companies are recruiting operators with your skill set and then sending it to the wrong person so it ends up being shredded.
It's a popular misconception that HR departments actually sift CV's, again coming back to Control Risks, a huge international security company with a large HR department, the CV's came direct to the consultancy team not through HR. So be specific, and make sure you get the contact details of the person who has the ability to offer you employment within that company.
In companies such as Olive for example it will be whoever runs there Middle East or Iraq / Afghanistan desk if you want to work in hostile environments. And it's this easy, type the company name into LinkedIn and it will list all those with profiles on LinkedIn employed within that company so all you need to do is connect with the right person and subtly, SUBTLY, approach the subject of employment. And again, whether it's sending your CV off, or approaching someone on LinkedIn, first impressions really count. Don't jump in there and ask for a job immediately, you've got to establish a professional working relationship with them.
Network network network
Networking is a term used all the time, but what does it actually mean, and how many people are doing it effectively?
Networking In its most basic form is use of the various professional and social media streams such as LinkedIn, facebook or The Security Advisor. But it's no good just amassing a long contacts list, you need to establish a professional working relationship with them.
Work out who within your social media network works for the companies you are applying to and then ask them what the company looks for in a CV, format, wording for example and then you can tailor your CV accordingly before you send it to the company.
By establishing a professional relationship with those in your social media network then they are more likely to give you information of when a job has become available. As we all know the majority of jobs are never advertised so you need to use your network effectively so you become one of those operators who are informed about a vacancy when it becomes available and therefore have a realistic chance of applying for it.
The intermediate network level is actually getting out there and meeting those individuals in the security industry who will have a direct impact on you gaining employment.
When at networking events like this, when introducing yourself to someone try to find out something about them and what they do, but more importantly work out what you could do that would benefit them.
For example if you meet someone at a similar level to you in the industry with similar aims and objectives, that you identified from your structured week, then stay in contact sharing lessons learnt or any advice you've been told, bounce ideas off each other and work on gaining employment together. One of you might find a job that doesn't necessarily suit you but it might suit the person you're now in contact with.
The most advanced network though is 100% reliant on you as an operator and the way you conduct yourself whilst on task. The vast majority of companies use a small core of personnel for each task as they know they are reliable and trustworthy so your aim has got to be becoming part of this core that companies ring first whenever they have an availability on task.
Therefore it's all down to your professionalism and standard of work whilst conducting the job. This will be seen through your preparation such as profiling the client before you arrive on task, ensuring your kit is appropriate for the role and that you are presented perfectly at all times. During the task are you flexible and adaptable to the changing itinerary. Do you put yourself forward for extra work where others want to rest. Have you established a good rapport with the principal and your fellow team members. Post task have you taken the time to send some lessons learnt to the team leader or write a post operational report for the company employing you.
This might sound like a lot to do, but to make yourself more employable you've got to go above and beyond what everyone else is doing, in employment terms it's standing out from the crowd, but it's actually physically standing out from the crowd and not doing it on paper through your CV.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you when it comes to networking is to get out there and meet the companies that you are applying to. Coming back to Control Risks, every Friday if we weren't on task we would meet operators who had sent us their CV and followed up with a phone call asking to meet us. It's Friday, we're winding down for the weekend, we're probably going for a coffee anyway so of course someone else can buy us a coffee.
But even though this piece of advice is offered all the time, the majority of people don't do it. On average only around 2% of people actually follow up a CV with a phone call. So all you have to do is lift the phone and you have dramatically increased your chances of employment for the price of a coffee! So the next week when a task comes in and the employer has 100's of CV's in front of them, one of whom they've met the week previous for a coffee and they've shown themselves to be an amicable person, presentable, who are you going to put on task, it's the person you've met no questions about it. These companies have very little time to trawl CV's so you're not going to spend an hour trawling random CV's when there is a person you've met right there in front of you. It's that easy.
I'm sure social media forms the largest part of most people's employment search and it is becoming an ever more important tool in helping people find employment. Companies like G4S actively use Twitter to advertise jobs, there is a whole myriad of facebook groups based around employment in the security industry and it's probably the most hotly discussed and emotive topic on the forums. LinkedIn provides a great opportunity for you to showcase your e-CV so you should spend time on it to ensure it is absolutely perfect as you have with your written CV.
But sometimes If you are using social media to find work then you may have to sacrifice what might be the more social side of social media and again first impressions really do count. Your first impressions on social media can be just as important as your first impression at an interview. You wouldn't walk into an interview wearing jeans and a t-shirt, so be very careful about how you come across and other people's perception of you on social media.
Firstly ensure you have a neutral username such as 'securityprofessional' on networking sites, or if you are using facebook then use your actual name so others can see you are genuine from the start. Usernames such as MadPara1 or not using your actual name can be very off putting as this is the first impression others will see of you on these sites.
When started threads, or commenting on posts, try to stay neutral and professional rather than descending into political views or using offensive language. Make sure that what you are writing is balanced, spelt correctly and has good use of English language.
How many times have you seen the way someone conducts themselves on social media and thought I'd wouldn't want to work with that person.
It's always worth after writing a thread, or commenting on a post, just pausing before you publish it and asking would i employ someone who posted information like this? Remember only 1% of people signed up to social networking groups actually play an active role. The majority just like to view the information available, therefore it is this other 99% who you also need to keep onside as you never know when you might be asking them for employment.
Companies will use your own profiles to find out information about you. Therefore it makes sense that to gain employment in the security industry you might expect someone to have used the privacy settings on their account and that you're not plastered all over it drunk with friends or gangsta style posing topless with weapons which seems to be a weird trend in the security industry!
Twitter is the most underused form of social media being used to find employment. Coming back to what I said earlier about most operators using the same methods to find work. By going against the crowds and doing something different like using Twitter you increase the likelihood of you finding employment because you have reduced the competition. You can use Twitter to direct people to your LinkedIn profile or establish a relationship with someone within a company which you're aiming to apply to and then send your CV direct to them before building up to meet them in person.
Work hard on your social media, don't just amass a list of friends or contacts but actually spend some time getting to know those who could help you find employment.
The best piece of advice I can give you on social media comes back to the concept of quality applications over quantity. How many times have we seen a job advertised on a facebook group and it's gone almost immediately. Therefore when you have people posting jobs and start off by saying I'm not the point of contact but this might be useful, although they are trying to be helpful, but they've copied and pasted it from random sites and they've no idea how long it's been there, the reality is that the job has long gone. Therefore don't waste your time applying for jobs where someone has copied and pasted it from another site as it's highly unlikely to be an achievable job. What I said at the start of this, the only person that will find you employment is you, so don't be reliant on other people.
So by using this multilayered approach it will allow you to ensure your CV is absolutely faultless before you send it off. It will add structure to the way you go about finding employment rather than using the same methods day in day out. It will allow you to focus on jobs that are suitable to you, with companies that are actually recruiting and ensure that when you do send your CV that it goes to the right person.
I want you to take away three things from this breif and they are:
Use your network effectively to help you in the application process
Use a quality application approach over quantity
And first impressions no matter where they are really do count