Ability does not equal suitability, says Mike Hurst of HJA


Mike Hurst, Director at HJA.

I have been speaking to Mike Hurst, Director of HJA, about the skills shortage in the security industry, the impact of cyber security threats, and other challenges that security recruiters are having to overcome.

We have spoken to other recruitment firms about issues in recruitment for the security industry, and the main theme to come out was the current skills shortage in the industry. Why do you think we’re in this situation?

In the physical and electronic security sectors, historically and largely for commercial reasons, many companies have sought to recruit individuals who already have relevant skills and experience for the roles they are looking to fill, but have been reluctant to invest time and resources into offering training and career development opportunities.  One result of this has been that in many cases you find the same people moving round from company to company with relatively little ‘new blood’ in the system.  In the security services and corporate security sectors there has perhaps been an over reliance of people who have left the Police or Military and who are seeking a second career in security.

What do you think needs to be done to resolve this? 

One way to rectify this, and to help professionalise the industry, is to offer existing and potential new employees structured high quality training and career development opportunities.  Some people will ask “what happens if I train someone and they leave?” the answer to this is “what happens if you don’t train them and they stay?”

Vetting candidates for security jobs is clearly another key issue in recruitment. How do you source candidates for delicate positions and how do you ensure candidates are suitable?

This is really at least two separate questions.  There are many ways of ensuring candidates are suitably able to fulfil a role successfully.  This can be done by interviewing and / or putting candidates through testing, but ultimately an employer you have to use their judgement on areas like, “Will they fit in?”, “Can I work with them?”, “What training needs or skills gaps do they have?”. Candidates have to ask themselves similar questions.

Someone’s ability to do the job doesn’t necessarily make them suitable.  In addition to the traditional questions of suitability and looking at career history, length of employment with previous companies, record of success, qualification etc. we now have to be more aware of the Insider Threat which we has come to the fore recent years.  Is the potential employee honest or are they likely to steal from you or your customers? Are they secretly working for a competitor? Are they affiliated with terrorists or extremists out to damage or discredit you? Are your employees and customers safe with this person?  My advice would be to carry out very thorough pre-employment screening, possibly using a third party company if you have not got the resources internally.

We’re facing a boom in cyber security threats due to the evolving way we use technology and move, store and access information. Do you see this trend creating new roles within the industry, and how will we fill them in the current state of skills shortage? 

As to whether the boom in cyber security threats will create jobs we shall have to wait and see.  Luddites and the original saboteurs feared there would be no more work for them as technology advanced and yet we have more people working than ever before.  Certainly it will change jobs and the nature of roles and functions that need filling.  With more and more companies using security systems that operate over IT networks and the rise of importance of Information Security, companies and individuals need to ensure that they have the knowledge, skills and resources to compete in what is becoming an increasingly knowledge based economy.

We must also include the area of Big Data.  Many technologies currently used in the security sphere capture data on people, their movements and activities, business functions etc.  There are now technologies that seek to utilise the data.  By making use of the data collected (in line with DPA principles) a security professional can, in many cases, demonstrate a ROI and other tangible benefits which can result in security being seen as a business enabler and not a business preventer.

 What makes HJA’s approach to recruitment unique?

HJA has been trading since 1992 and in that time we have done some things well and if I’m being honest to myself, things we have done less well. However, we learn and evolve which has meant we that we have developed ways of working closely with clients and candidates to that get results.  If you are looking for someone to throw fairly random CVs at you (or throw your CVs at random companies) then there are companies out there that will do it – we don’t.

Are we the biggest? No.  Are we the cheapest? No. Yet after 23 years we are still here, so I will let others decide.










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