Has this ever happened to you? You finally get “the call” for a decent security contract, and the phone interview goes great! The recruiter actually sounds excited about bringing you on board, and you can’t wait to get your foot in the door. Before hanging up, the company man says that you should probably expect to hear some news in a few days. Then, the next thing you know, a couple of weeks have gone by and you still haven’t heard a peep. Your calls and emails go unreturned while you’re sitting on your packed seabags, ready to hop on the next flight to Dubai. Sad to say, but the most likely cause is that a more qualified candidate came along and snatched your spot away! When that happens, you’re pretty much yesterday’s news.
I’ll admit it, I’m even guilty of creating an informational black hole every once in a while. While I try to get back to everyone that I interview, sometimes it just doesn’t happen, and that’s especially true if I’m living on the road while responding to the “crisis of the minute”. I always tell job seekers that if you don’t hear something back within two or three days after an interview, take the initiative and make it your responsibility to check in. A quick phone call or email can go a long way in helping reserve your spot on the roster. Making contact isn’t just a chance to jog a recruiter’s memory, it’s also another opportunity to show how professionally you can communicate. Believe me, that goes a long way in security work. And whatever you do, don’t shoot yourself in the foot! If you sound like an impatient jerk in your emails or voicemails, you’re going to be ignored on purpose.
The most important thing to remember is that you should act as quickly as possible whenever an opportunity presents itself. If you get a job offer, either accept it or decline it as soon as possible. This is where a lot of people lose out, since they waffle back and forth about issues like pay and benefits. If you have any questions about this stuff, then for the love of God write it down so you don’t forget to ask it during your phone interview! Taking too much time to consider an offer shows that you’re not very serious about working in security contracting, since the responsible applicant would do as much research as possible beforehand. I mean, why are you even applying for a position if your mind isn’t completely made up that you want to do the job? And remember that asking about factors like your living conditions mark you as a weak candidate. As much as that single-man trailer with indoor plumbing and internet access would be a nice perk when you’re living in the middle of the desert, there’s probably dozens of dudes waiting in line behind you who would live in a tent for a year if it meant an opportunity to land their first overseas contract job.
Security work usually isn’t brain surgery, but no matter the job you’re always going to find a decent amount of paperwork involved. The application process is no different, and it’s fair to say that managers use this time to assess how promptly and completely you can get stuff done without supervision. None of this pre-hire stuff is particularly hard, it just takes a little effort on your part. For the drug test, fill the cup and Fedex the paperwork in. Simple. Same with your physical examination and dental X-rays, just make an appointment and put your trash in the mail immediately afterwards. I’ve even found that if you call your doctor and tell them that you need the exam so you can go work in a war zone, they’ll hook you up and squeeze you in at the next possible appointment. My own dentist stayed late at his office one night to do my bitewing X-rays before I deployed, and then he didn’t even charge me!
The paperwork involved with your background checks and security clearances can get a little more complicated. This process is always going to take longer than you’d like, so it’s important to start as quickly as possible. Try to get any request for information like photocopies of your passport or driver’s license in to the company’s HR folks as quickly as possible. No matter what the item is, if the company needs it before they can deploy you and you aren’t being quick about getting it to them, you’re a no-go. When you send faxes, always follow up with an email to let the recipient know it’s on the way. Most importantly, ALWAYS save the original copies. Seriously, you can’t be considered a veteran contractor until you’ve had to send in the same piece of information at least six times!
Yes, sometimes you’ll get passed by in favor of a more qualified applicant. Stuff happens, but if you deal with it professionally then you’ll still be a candidate for future vacancies. But keep in mind that it’s much more common for applicants to get themselves passed over when they choose to move slowly. Drag your feet when it comes to the pre-hire paperwork and you’re likely to find your conditional job offer rescinded, given to someone who’s got their act together. More often than not, that fast-mover is an experienced contractor who already knows the drill!