At Safer Edge, we regularly work with a group of security consultants. Consultants provide us with a breadth of linguistic, security specialism and country experience which would be impossible to retain in house. These are likely the same reasons why your organisation is looking to retain one as well.
For us, the key to finding and retaining the right consultants is about true ‘partnership’. This means taking the time to find and work with people we like – and who like us. Not all consultants are right for us and neither will every security consultant who submits a CV be right for you. Each organisation has a specific mission, vision, ethos and way of working with which not everyone will fit with. That’s ok. Finding people who fit with the organisation at the outset is critical to everything else.
We’ve helped a number of organisations recruit and retain the services of external security consultants and we've learned some helpful lessons along the way. Here’s our top five:
1. Be very clear about what you want
Why are you hiring a consultant? Is it to supplement the security capacity of the organisation? To provide specific, specialist advice that the organisation needs (e.g. kidnap or interrogation)? Is it to conduct an independent audit of the organisation’s security system and identify gaps and areas for improvement? Whatever the reason it should be clearly written in the Scope of Work so the proposals you receive can be successfully compared and contrasted against each other. If you put out a vague Scope of Work you’re going to get back vague responses.
2. Give enough time to propose
Good security consultants are always busy. They are often travelling and working with other clients. Ensure you give at least two-three weeks for the consultants, or security organisations, to give you a good proposal. You don’t just want to hear from people who are sitting around at home.
3. Make sure the consultant’s proposal gives you clear deliverables
A consultancy is a short, distinct piece of work or support. You’re not hiring an employee so don’t just cut and paste someone else’s job description. Ensure that you are clear about what products you expect to see (e.g. a review report, an audit, an improved system, etc.) and by what date.
4. Carefully weigh experience
Not all security consultants are created equal and there still remains a bias toward believing that simply because someone has military experience, or was a security officer with another organisation, that they are a security expert. However, there are lots of jobs in the military which provide a person with zero ability to manage security within an organisation. There are lots of security jobs in other organisations that don't provide the person with the experience you need. Ask consultants to list specifically, and separately, the work they have done with organisations similar in size, scope and mission to yours.
5. Check references
We've all had the experience of hiring, or working with, someone who looks good on paper but then turns out to be extremely difficult to work with. Doing good reference checks limits the ability of someone to ‘get away with’ simply appearing good on paper. Lots of terrible security consultants assume that you won’t check their references and often, they’re right! When you’re speaking to references make sure to ask for the consultant, or consultant company’s strengths and weaknesses.
Finally, all good security consultants will build the organisation’s capacity to manage security themselves. This might be over several years or over several weeks. But, if the consultant leaves without the organisation you having a better understanding of security risk management or how they accomplished their work then it was a waste. Good security consultants will be transparent about how they went about the work and will be open to working with you to build your own security capacity.
Security consultants can provide organisations with a great resource and huge amounts of experience and expertise needed only for a short time. Just make sure that you’re taking a few steps at the outset to ensure that you establish a good foundation for working together.
Need to know more about working with security consultants? Or, would you like help in recruiting or reviewing consultants? We're happy to have a chat and see if we can help. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org