Interview Questions To Avoid When Hiring Security Officers

When I look back over my career in the security industry, some of my biggest mistakes occurred with firing and hiring of security officers.  The hiring process from the outside seemed so simple, but in reality there are many things to consider including what to look for in an officer’s background, what the starting pay rate should be, or how to conduct a good interview. When you are looking to staff a post, you want to hire the best candidate for the job so conducting a good interview is absolutely essential. Generally speaking, during an interview you will want to find out as much as you can about the candidate to ensure that they are a good fit for your client’s site. Keep in mind that as you are digging for information, there are some questions you just should not ask. Either because the question should be irrelevant in the decision-making process and/or the question could put your company at risk for a lawsuit.

In some cases it just depends on how you ask the question. “The answers to these questions might be relevant to whether a candidate would be a good fit for your business,” says Charles Vethan, founder and CEO of Vethan Law Firm. “However, in the legal sense, you could be liable for violating a number of employment laws.”

Training and knowledge are key to avoiding illegal interview questions, Vethan advises, so make sure everyone knows how to avoid these illegal interview questions when interviewing at your company.

The Blatantly Out-of-Bound Questions

Avoid asking any questions that directly address a candidate’s protected class status. These are questions that relate to race, sex, nationality, religion, military status, disability or genetic information, and pregnancy. There may also be state or local laws that protect other statuses, so you’ll need to review relevant laws beforehand, Vethan suggests.

Examples of blatant questions that violate these protections include:

  • “Your name is very exotic; where are you originally from?”
  • “How old are you?”
  • “How far along are you?”
  • “How long have you been working?”
  • “Do you have children?”
  • “Are you married?”

The Tricky Questions

In an effort to avoid obvious illegal questions but still satisfy their curiosity, interviewers may try to reword the above questions to get the answers they want without spelling it out.

For example:

  • “When did you graduate from college?” This is still problematic, as the year of graduation can indicate age.
  • “I see you live in Lakeville; do your kids go to school there?” It’s illegal to not hire someone because they have children; asking in this way elicits an answer that indicates whether they have kids or not.
  • “What accent is that?” This could indicate national origin, which is a protected class.

Help your managers avoid these types of issues by providing questions beforehand. “Thoroughly train any employees that conduct interviews and have them ask questions from a pre-approved ‘cheat sheet’ of questions, and make sure the interviewers know what is clearly off-limits or illegal to ask,” Vethan says.

The Badly Worded Questions

There are some things you need to know about a candidate and that you can ask — but only in ways that don’t invite answers about their status in protected classes. A good rule is to describe the job duty and then ask the employee if they can meet that requirement.

Here are examples of phrasings to avoid, along with acceptable ways to get at relevant information:

  • “What religious holidays do you take off?” This question is a direct inquiry into the candidate’s religion. Instead, word it this way: “Would you be able to work on Fridays?”
  • “Do you have backup child care if you have to work overtime?” Avoid references to family status; instead say something along the lines of “This job requires overtime twice a month on Mondays. Are you able to make that work?”
  • “When did you graduate from college?” If you’re looking for age as an indication of experience, ask about experience instead: “How long have you been working in security?”
  • “Can you lift more than 50 pounds with your bad back?” If lifting and moving things are a legitimate part of the job, phrase the question this way: “This position requires being able to lift 50 pounds up to 10 times a day. Can you meet the requirement of the position?”

This is just a brief list of taboo questions, so make sure you consult your attorney or HR professional for more comprehensive rules. But in the meantime, how do you prepare for interviews? What kinds of questions do you ask to get the information you need?





By Courtney Sparkman

best security companies ordc is a software company that provides security guard companies with an easy way to monitor their officers, better manage their operations, and win new business. Take a tour of our software to see how we combine Electronic Reporting, Real-Time GPS based Tour Tracking, and GPS based Clock In and Out into one easy to use platform.

8 thoughts on “Interview Questions To Avoid When Hiring Security Officers

  1. Jay Abiona

    Courtney, we actually have a three page interview questionnaire. All of the questions were reviewed by our attorney and are consistently asked to every applicant. We also do this so that no one can say one particular applicant was asked a certain question that another applicant was not. In addition, we have a guide in parentheses next to each question showing the interviewer what to look/listen for during the answers to some of the questions regarding integrity. Our interviews have somewhat of a Wicklander & Zulawski aspect to them and I think this has helped us maintain a low turnover rate. #crediblesecurity #cssone #officerreports

  2. ORCadmin Post author

    Hi Jay, thanks for taking the time to read the comment. It’s SO important to get a lawyer involved in regards to your hiring process. Speaking from experience, it can save you a lot of heartburn. I’m glad you’ve done it the right way and that it’s working for you!

  3. Billy

    I was researching the appropriate questions that I would be asked in an interview – I think there are some unprofessional places that have asked me these types of questions in the past when being hired as a security guard. A questionnaire seems much more appropriate and fair all around as mentioned in a comment here. Although I think it is very important to get to know the security officer you are hiring, it seems easy for companies to breach a professional frame and head into personal questions. What are the consequences for asking these personal religious / family / age type questions? Just curious!

    1. ORCadmin Post author

      Hi Billy, asking illegal interview questions will probably get a company into trouble with the EEOC. You can find some information here on the EEOC website. Thanks for taking the time to read the article!

  4. Dave S.

    Good stuff, Courtney. ‘Yes’, if companies attempt to fly by the seat of their pants and ‘wing it’ during interviews, they are exposing themselves big time. I’m sure you know there are professionals out there, who look for companies with deep pockets to drag through the mud. It’s a mad, mad world out there, sir!!

    1. ORCadmin Post author

      Thanks Dave! Anyone doing any type of recruiting should get the letters ‘CYA’ permanently tattooed somewhere on their bodies.

  5. Taylor Bishop

    Thanks for going over some questions to ask when getting security guards. I’m glad that you mentioned that you should describe to them what the job duty is like and if they can meet that requirement. Definitely sounds like it could be beneficial to make sure that you accurately outline what the job is like so that there is no confusion, and to maybe try and get someone else to look over it to see if they understand it as well before the interview.


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