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The Soul of the Security Officer: Recruiting Staff Who Will Stay

Here’s why you should weigh the hidden ambitions and drives that motivate the hopeful candidate sitting across the interviewing table and how Jungian archetypes can help you make better hiring decisions.

When I was a young over-achiever looking for a challenge right out of high school, I made the decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps. My motivations, as far as I was aware of them at the time, were threefold: I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself; I wanted to be part of something profoundly elite and I wanted to share in the Marines’ camaraderie, which stems from a 239-year-old bond connecting past and present war-fighters.

It was not until years later that I truly understood the unconscious motivations and psychological drivers within myself that pushed me to join the Marines. Those same drivers served me well in the civilian world, including in my current role as the chief operating officer of an enhanced non-lethal manufacturer dedicated to security professionals. It didn’t happen overnight; I had to learn that not all the skills I gathered as a Marine were transferable to the civilian world. And the quicker I learned why, the faster I could move ahead.

Why does this matter to you in your recruiting efforts for your hospital or educational institution, especially in today’s talent-scarce environment? It applies because these hidden motivations and drivers – and the soul or persona in which they are rooted – will determine the career longevity of the people you hire and the number of times you’ll need to re-hire and train in the future.

Look for the Protector Archetype
Today, there’s ongoing discourse around which candidates make for better new-hires. Is it civilians, former law enforcement or former military? Spoiler alert: it’s a special class of civilians, and here’s why.

RELATED: How to Recruit Campus Police and Security Personnel

Research into the security industry by ATOM Design and Research has identified a number of archetypes or personas you may have come across in your hiring efforts. I first learned of these personas after reading privately commissioned psychological research conducted on the professional security role, but there’s considerable overlap with analytical psychology pioneer Carl Gustav Jung’s personality archetypes. Examples of personas include Leader, Explorer, Mentor and Rebel. In this research, the personality types of nearly a dozen profiles were described in great detail, providing additional insight as to how aspects such as stability, sense of belonging, achievement and discovery contribute to a superior officer. The research went on to explore the alter-egos of the superheroes known as security officers and illustrated their dark side, negative tendencies and demons; something we each live with. 

When I finished reading the research, my jaw hit the floor. I knew that I wanted to serve the equipment needs of the security officer, but now I knew why. According to the research, my personality type placed me squarely in the category of a persona known as the Protector, which is virtually the same as Jung’s ”hero” archetype, aka rescuer, warrior, superhero and soldier (see description here).  The motivations and drivers were the same ones that, unbeknownst to yours truly, pushed me into joining the Marines years earlier. 

When looking at the security roles you’re recruiting for, it’s important to take a moment and ask yourself, “What type of persona would be driven and motivated in this position?” A safe hospital, school or university campus is not achieved by having a Rambo-type security officer on the loose. The soul of the security guard is the Protector. This is the persona you’re looking for. The Protector is a very specific personality type that exists within the civilian sector. His or her traits include:

  • A healthy attraction to the power of a role as on-scene authority;
  • Prideful of presenting an attractive image (grooming, professional uniform) to the public;
  • Determination to be vigilant in protecting innocent ones from the bad;
  • A defender of all things under their domain – people, property, buildings.

These aspects cannot easily be trained into a person who isn’t naturally inclined along these lines. After all, how does one go about teaching pride in appearance to a person who is just showing up for a paycheck? The short answer is – you can’t – but these people get hired anyway. This is true for each of the core traits described above.  A select few are born into the Protector persona.  It’s just how they’re wired.

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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!

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