In this episode of the Recruitment Hackers Podcast, Diana Trasolini, Vice President of People and Culture at Paladin Security goes into the mechanics of volume hiring in the security industry. From creating a streamlined process where every team member knows what the next step should be (and follows it to a T) to optimizing the process with a deep understanding of analytics, to interview tips to align candidates to company values.
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Max: Hello and welcome back to the Recruitment Hackers podcast. I'm your host Max Armbruster and today on the show, I'm pleased to welcome Diana Trasolini from Paladin Security, Vice President of People and culture at Paladin Security, which is a company that hires, well as the name suggests, hires in the security sector, and has over 16,000 people working mostly in Canada, is that right, Diana.
Diana: Canada and the US.
Max: Canada and US. So, welcome to the show.
Diana: Thank you very much for having me, Max.
Max: Pleasure. I'm excited to find out about how to hire security, and what are the specific challenges around that. But first, perhaps, tell us a little bit about Paladin Security, what do you do, and what kind of people do you hire.
Diana: Yeah Paladin Security has been around for a while since 1976. I've been with the company for just over 10 years, so for a pretty long time and I would say that the company has been growing extensively since its inception, but also extensively over the last 10 years. So really fast growth for both organic growth and through acquisition. So since I've been with the company, it's been about eight times growth. And it's been fun to be a part of that. We do obviously specialize in physical security so security officers or security guards. We also have several other companies that fall under the Paladin name, so Paladin risk solutions which does investigations, emergency management and risk solutions, we have a parking company palette of parking. And then we also have a US company, PalAmerican security. So, again, all these services on the US side of things. So, yeah, kind of sums us up on what we do,
Max: What is the bulk of your hiring? What kind of positions?
Diana: The majority of our hiring is at the security officer level for sure.
Max: And that service, I guess the private sector mainly. You were telling me before the interview about the work you're doing in the healthcare sector and hospitals. Is that a big, big industry for you, and what are the other industries you serve?
Diana: Yeah we serve a variety of different industries, so healthcare is a big one. A lot of the hospitals, care facilities across Canada, we provide security services for. We also are in commercial, retail, business centers. We do mobile security so security officers in cars do mobile patrols. Yeah, pretty much anywhere that means security, we provide the services.
Max: So, last year was good for business, business kept growing, as you said, eight times growth in the 10 plus years you've been there so from a few thousands to 16,000 people today. Congratulations on driving that enormous growth. Do you miss the old days, you know, just 2000 people? I mean 2000 is still too big where you can't really remember, you can't really remember everybody's name, but now 16,000 like, you probably don't even know everybody on your own floor.
Diana: Yeah that's a great question. I mean it's been so exciting to be part of the team that's helped with the growth. Do I miss the old days, I would say in some ways, yes, in some ways, no. You're right it is, you do miss knowing almost all of the employees by name, but to be part of this big organization that still managed to keep a very like small company feel. It's been fun to be a part of that and to build the culture around how to be a big company that still maintains personal touch to everything that we do.
Max: Yeah. I noticed the word 'culture' was in your job title. It's obviously something that after being in a company for 10 years, people will come to you to answer culture questions. But culture is a living thing, has you has your culture evolved recently or have been challenged with the events from last year?
Diana: Yeah COVID definitely, it shifts things, but I think when you have a strong corporate culture, it helps that that foundation helps the company persevere through difficult times like COVID. So, yes, of course it's been tested and tried with having to shift people working from home and having security officers who are working in certain healthcare facilities during a time when there's a worldwide pandemic. I mean, it's tricky, and we have to be fluid and flexible and be able to shift within our culture to make sure that we continue to meet our employee needs and I think that's kind of been the key is to foundationally, you stick true to your culture, but you're also fluid and flexible enough to move with the times.
Max: Yeah the shifts to accommodate the concerns you said some of the security guards did not want to work in the health care sector in your hospitals. I've heard that from other people that it was really difficult to hire in the healthcare sector during this time, due to all that's going on and the coverage, the crisis. But let's talk in a more general sense about those security guards, like, I think a lot of us have have watched, unfortunately, the mall cops movie where we imagine sort of a comfortable job where there's not that much happening, but you do get to wear either a gun or a taser. Is that the bulk of security is mostly just maintenance and kind of like making sure everything is okay and surveillance, or are there other similar like squat teams that are a little bit more action oriented?
Diana: You know what this is a good topic to discuss you need to know. You talked on what really is the crux of what causes our recruitment challenges in security is the stereotypes.
Max: Yes, I am great at those.
Diana: Yeah, and you know what everyone is, it's not just you, but the security industry has the worst stereotypes and that makes it so challenging in so many ways, but I can tell you, lots of like lots of companies I would say yeah sure like maybe stereotypes come around for a reason, and lots of companies maybe have those minimal standards. But I mean for Paladin, that's something that we as an organization are pushing so hard to set the bar higher and to do things differently, so that we can rip those stereotypes so that we can show the true value of security. And it really does start at like the onboarding and hiring level but all the way through our organization, I mean, we pretty much have no sites for our work. Well first of all in Canada we don't carry a weapon, so no guns and tasers unfortunately. But also, our security officers are often embedded in our clients programs, so we're not just maintaining status quo, and walking, we're often embedded in their health and safety, embedded in their concierge and customer service. We provide such a tailored approach to the services that we offer. And then on the security officer side we provide such extensive training for everyone coming in and then ongoing training to ensure that we don't just have bodies, the mall cop stereotype. That's just not not really how it is for us.
Max: But I guess, I apologize for the stereotype, somewhat, didn't want to say there was anything wrong with kind of having a surveillance, more passive approach to security. Because, obviously, it's one of those things where you're there, you have security for when things get bad, but 99% of the time, things don't get bad, right. And so, I would imagine that it is a career where it's not going to be filled with day to day excitement, and that you also need to hire for a personality type that can adjust to an environment where 99% of the time, you have to stay alert, but also you know, it's not an action movie.
Max: So, do you look for people who are not too action oriented, I guess. And would that be a hiring risk if somebody who would apply for a security guard position. And I know you said there's no weapons but I was gonna say everything especially trigger happy.
Diana: Yeah, I mean, to be honest, as a company we tend to steer away from contracts that are 99% nothing jobs. Of course, we have some of those in across the country, we're going to have some of those contracts, but like I said if our security officers are more embedded in the actual work that our client does, it's very infrequent that they're static and have nothing to do. When it comes to hiring, are we looking for someone specific who could do that static work, because we have such a vast contract base at a variety of different sites. Really, if we say post a job for security officer and one person is, really action oriented, Go Go Go, and one person is a little more passive and, has a different skill set, we could easily hire both of them and stick them, it's a matter of at that point, figuring out where is that person, and we do this through, we have a very extensive hiring process. Where is that person going to be best suited for success, because if you put this what you call the trigger happy person or just someone who is more action oriented at a very quiet site, they're going to be miserable. And alternatively if you put a more passive person at a very high action site, they're also going to be unhappy and that's just going to cause turnover. So I think it's more about hiring the right person at, not necessarily a skill level, we can hire that or we can train that, but hiring a person who has the values, and is a cultural addition to our team and then figuring out where they fit.
Max: Okay great. Well can you tell us a little bit more about exactly how you would interview somebody for for one of these positions?, some some interview tips. If I have never interviewed, I've never hired anybody for my own firm and security, so I'm really coming from a place of ignorance. I would imagine it'd be, you have a few questions around different scenarios how you would respond to that and understanding how they would maybe create some protocols around certain situations, to see how they think around that, and maybe you mentioned a little bit about values. So identifying what the kind of world they want to be part of. Am I on the right track?
Diana: Yeah, we have a little bit of of all of it. So we obviously, well there's a fine balance between, especially in an entry level position in having a short enough interview that keeps the person engaged, but a long enough, interview that you're getting all the information you need and also allowing that candidate to get to know the company a bit. So, for interview question specifically we have a few questions to get to know the candidate. So a big part of it is going to be experience they don't necessarily need security experience to work for us. But what experience do they have, do they have gaps in their employment?, have they been terminated from previous positions? So all of their employment history questions, any red flags, kind of digging in a little bit there. And then you're going to want to go into like behavioral questions, so you know tell me about a time when, how did you react in this situation. And then, of course, we'll do a couple of scenario questions, so give them a specific situation that really might come up in the everyday work that they do, and then see how they react or how they would react in a situation like that.
Max: Can you give us an example. I mean, I know you're interviewing 1000s of people every month, I don't want to give up your secrets to trade secrets, but.
Diana: Let me see if I can think of a quick scenario on the spot that we might ask. Okay, I'll think of something really simple and basic. So, say you're a security officer and you're on patrol at one of your sites so you're doing an exterior perimeter patrol of the site, and you find a wallet on the ground, and you're, you open it up then there's an ID in there and there's a whole bunch of money in there. What do you do? so something simple like that where you can kind of dig in and figure out does this. First of all, is this person like well, I don't know it's going to the 'lost and found'? Well, in most situations in our sites security handles lost and found, or is it like, take the money and run. You know what exactly would they do. Can they problem solve, or are they going to call the manager and ask them what to do. There's so many different ways that a person can go in so many different ways that you can kind of probe and find out this person's ability to problem solve a little bit about their morals. So it can be as simple as that, where you can dive into things a little bit.
Max: I love that question because it puts me in a great mood. Like, when's the last time I found a wallet full of money. It just kind of like puts you in a good mood and I want to continue the interview, kind of, what else you got for me. Incidentally, I have left my wallet in a food court. And I came back for it and an hour later, it was still there, but that was when I lived in Singapore, which is the safest place in the world. But I think like half half of the country is undercover cops, so it helps. That's great. You talked about hiring for more junior roles and younger staff. That's typically the space where more automation happens, as people become more senior, they expect to have a more personal approach, high touch approach, but in for young and college or high school graduates, they would expect. First of all they are a little bit more technology friendly and they go through a few more hoops to before the interview, typically. What kind of automation were you able to do on the recruitment front to help you with either sourcing or pre screening?
Diana: Yeah that's a great question. I think a big part of cutting down on time comes around recruitment metrics, It's a big one. So making sure we're optimizing the time and the money that we use by tracking metrics on everything that we do with regards to recruitment. So track the source of hire, to optimize the spend, to track conversion rates so we can eliminate unnecessary steps in the process, create multipliers, so maybe it's a referral bonus or something where one candidate becomes three or four candidates. But yeah, those metrics are key figuring that out so that we can optimize that approach. So any sort of software, whether it's a recruitment software or in HCM, that's tracking every step of the candidate process, metrics is going to be a key one. Through COVID obviously switching to video interviews. That's obviously going to be big and I think we're gonna see that more and more, even pre recorded videos, we're going to see that more in the interview process where candidates are pre recording answers to questions and submitting those.
Max: You said background checks are, I mean they're obviously very important in your industry. Is that something that is typically outsourced to a third party?
Diana: Yes, so well, yes and no. All of our like criminal record checks and those kind of checks have to be done. We have to do those internally, but reference checks, and those types of things it's done a little bit differently depending on the province that we're in. Some of them are done third party and some of them are done by our HR teams directly, so a little bit of both, but we definitely see obviously more efficiencies with outsourcing that.
Max: Yeah. I was thinking about the fact that you're doing those video interviews and asynchronous video screening. I believe some companies have moved to the place where they can authenticate someone through video, and their documentation as well. An automated and semi automated manner. So, gradually I guess this is where it's going. Though unfortunately, there hasn't been sort of a crypto passport that would tell all employers, this person has been verified, and that could be used throughout. There's only the LinkedIn profile, but I don't think there's any security equivalent to a LinkedIn profile, right?
Max: No. I'm sure people are trying to build that over the years, you must have heard of few pictures.
Diana: Yeah. I don't think so.
Max: So it' not something that we like to think about in our own time but usually but there's terrible hiring mistakes we've made in the past. It is an opportunity for the audience to learn from each other's mistakes. Can you take us back to a hiring mistake that you've made in the past. And what lesson there is to learn about that hiring mistake?
Diana: Yeah that's a great question. I would say that that any hiring mistakes that have happened, obviously there's been a few. In my time in HR, it usually comes down to the battle between being under a tight timeline and rushing the process. So you know you hire someone on and you skip a step or you rush a step or you don't follow the standard process and you end up with someone who is a bit of a bad egg. And then you go back and you look at your process and you're like, okay, I can see exactly why this happened. And you get the organizational time crunch where this position needs to be filled now and that's the priority and you budge on your HR best practice or in your standards that you've put in place to make sure that you're hiring the best people. So yeah I think that's kind of what I learned is, at the end of the day if it means the position is open longer than I want it to be or then someone else wants it to be, the most important thing is kind of sticking to the process to make sure that all of our ducks in a row when it comes to hiring person because a turnover is more costly than leaving a position open a little bit longer.
Max: And there's a conflict, inherent to your position, because you went into HR because you trust people, you love people, you love psychology, but you have to be that process person who is going to drag things out sometimes.
Diana: Yeah totally. It's a constant battle between as HR being a part of the business so needing to understand the strategic objectives and day to day operational needs, but also meeting to understand how the people approached things and sometimes they don't go hand in hand, that the processes don't necessarily match the organizational needs so it's figuring out how do we work with the organization to make sure that we're safe and sound and everything that we do, but the needs are also being met. It's a challenge.
Max: Yeah. And then the particular challenge you also alluded to when you talked about making sure people have good morals good values that they align with Paladin security. That must be difficult to extract in the interview process. Is that a standard thing? Is that just part of the interview guideline? Or how do you validate for values?
Diana: Yeah, I mean, there's several ways, like I mentioned, you can kind of embed questions that will give insight into a person's values, you can embed those questions into the interview so like I said, asking someone about a wallet. I mean, not very many people even if their values say I'm going to steal the money, not very many people are going to see that in an interview so that's a little bit tricky.
Max: It's not stealing if it's on the floor. I guess you can tell what I was gonna say if you asked me the interview question.
Diana: Yeah, you are definitely not hired. You can ask a person directly, what are your values, what do you stand for. But also I think in a lot of the questions that are embedded in like, you asked them, if you're going to be late for work, what you do or what is your process?, and you can kind of see, are they someone who kind of takes accountability. Are they someone who's like, well, I've never been late for work in my entire life or are they someone who's like, well, I feel terrible I'd call my manager right away.
Diana: Yeah you can kind of sense a person's values based on the way they respond and the way they react. But also I guess if you ask them directly. What are your values, what do you stand for, you can get a sense of get a sense of who they are.
Max: I can tell you in HR, the tendency for people who have attendance issues is to really over communicate on their medical condition.
Diana: Oh boy!
I've been a recipient of many medical reports, but.
And probably have some good stories to go with that.
I don't know, I try to forget. But you've given me and our listeners a lot of great tips on the use of situational questions to get to the psychology and the morals of someone, obviously critical for the security industry but I think applicable across many other industries. And so thank you very much, Diana, for sharing. And what's a good way for people to get in touch with you, or find out more about Paladin?
DIANA: Yeah I mean to get in touch with me, I would say LinkedIn is probably the best way you can find me on there. Paladins obviously on LinkedIn as well or the website www.paladinsecurity.com You can find out everything there.
Max: Fantastic. Thanks Diana.
Diana: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Max: That was Diana Trasolini from Paladin insecurity group. Two good lessons for me from today's discussion one, the important role in HR and talent acquisition to force everyone to follow the steps, every step of the recruitment journey to avoid making hiring mistakes. Because when you skip steps that you start making mistakes and the second one, if you want to get to the values of your candidates, instead of asking them what are your values?
Ask them. How would you react to a certain situation, but then in a situation and ask them how they would handle it and you'll get a lot more value out of it. Hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like more of the same, please subscribe and please share with your friends.
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