At Heathrow, around 200,000 passengers pass through our terminals every single day. Whether they’re returning from overseas or flying out to destinations all around the world, their safety is crucial to us. As you can imagine, ensuring their security is no simple matter. It takes a dedicated team with a host of different skills and backgrounds. And, there’s a lot more to being a Security Officer at Heathrow than you might think. It’s about offering the kind of first-class service that gets every journey off to a flying start. That means giving each passenger a warm welcome – and a great send off. Treating them with empathy and understanding. And doing everything possible to help them pass through the airport safely and smoothly.
A day in the life of a Security Officer
Jordan Rowe, Terminal 2 Security Officer
“On a typical day, I’ll be working in either Central Search, Flight Connections or Staff Search Areas. I’m responsible for x-ray screening, as well as searching bags and passengers as they travel through.
My favourite parts of the job are delivering customer service in the busy environment of the airport. I’m a people person, so I love being able to interact with passengers and have fun with the team.
During my four years at Heathrow I’ve been able to take part in several projects, including completing the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award: my best achievement to date. It was five gruelling days of trekking and camping at the Lake District, but it was amazing knowing we’d completed it as a team. The whole experience really helped me with my confidence – and that’s all down to working at Heathrow.
That’s the thing about Heathrow, it provides so many different opportunities and places to progress to. You can move on to become a Security Trainer, Security Manager, Passenger Experience Manager or even something based in our head office.
That support isn’t just available when you’re looking to advance, it’s there when you’re being welcomed to the team too. I’ve really enjoyed being involved in inducting new starters, helping them to feel at ease and answering any questions they might have.
I’m definitely proud to tell people I work at Heathrow. It’s a great platform for people with ambition – there are so many opportunities.”
Awil Yusuf, Terminal 4
“I’m currently on my secondment as a Making Every Journey Better (MEJB) Officer in the Continuous Improvement team. My role means I’m looking for ways to improve aspects of the security operation and engaging with front-line colleagues to turn their ideas into viable projects.
To help me understand how we can be a more effective team and business, I’ve completed Lean Six Sigma Tools training. I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learnt to keep people safe and enhance the security process, for both passengers and colleagues.
My favourite thing about Heathrow is that every shift is interesting and no two days are the same. Our team gets to meet so many different people from all walks of life, all over the globe – you don’t get that anywhere else.
Working here is an incredible experience that I’ve learned so much from, especially because the support and opportunities at Heathrow seem endless. My line manager has been my mentor, helping me to develop all the skills I need to make the most of the excellent career progression here.
To succeed and enjoy your time at Heathrow, you need a great work ethic and good people skills to interact with the wide variety of passengers we meet every day. With those qualities, you can go far at Heathrow.”
1: Application stage
This is where you’ll provide your personal details and answer a set of questions, to show you meet our eligibility requirements. Your answers will be screened after you complete your situational judgement test (see below).
We’ll be looking for a lot of things in your application, but particularly important is a passion for customer service – after all, you’ll be joining a company which aims to deliver the best airport service in the world.
After you submit your application, we’ll then give you a number of opportunities to really show us you’ve got what it takes. The overall recruitment process usually takes around two months, but we’ll keep you posted as we go along.
Situational Judgement Test
For the first stage of assessment, you’ll receive an email with a link to a test, and instructions on how to complete it. Designed to take around 40 minutes to complete, the test involves some realistic scenarios that you may encounter in the role of a Security Officer at Heathrow – and gives you the chance to show how you’d respond. There’s also an exercise to check your attention to detail, which you’ll obviously need when screen-reading in your role.
If your Situation Judgement Test is successful, you’ll receive another email inviting you to select a date and time for your telephone interview. This should last around 30 minutes, and will be your first opportunity to show us your motivation, what you know about Heathrow, and what you can bring to the role. It’s really important to prepare for this just as you would a face-to-face interview; think about what’s motivated you to apply for the role, and pick out any past experience which may be relevant to a Security Officer role.
Additional information on referencing
If your telephone interview goes well, you’ll be asked to provide some additional detail around your referencing history and right to work in the UK. We ask for this at this stage so we can speed up the pre-employment screening process.
So now you’ve successfully passed the initial stages of the assessment process, it’s time for the assessment centre. This generally lasts around three hours, and you’ll get involved in a number of exercises designed to bring out your strengths:
- Competency based interview
This is a structured form of interview which collects behavioural evidence in core areas that are key to success in the Security Officer role. We’ll ask you a set of questions about how you’ve dealt with specific situations in the past.
- Group exercise
A key part of the Security Officer role is the ability to work well in a team. We see this part of the assessment day as a useful tool to help us see how you relate to one another when you work as a team.
We’ll give your group a topic to discuss in a given time scale, and our assessors will observe you all for the duration of the exercise. They’ll take notes throughout, but don’t let that put you off!
- Role play
Role play gives us an insight into how you might handle certain challenges as a Security Officer. You’ll be given a scenario that could potentially happen, and some time to prepare. You’ll be assessed on how you deal with the situation in the role play.
Offer / pre-employment screening
If you’re successful at the assessment centre, a member of our team will call you to discuss a conditional offer. You’ll be able to choose from a selection of set start dates (which will be in accordance with any notice period you may have) – and this is also where you can mention any pre-planned holidays and other personal circumstances. You’ll also find out how many references we need to get from you.
As part of your offer, you’ll need to pass our pre-placement medical. The regulations set by the Department for Transport (and enforced by the Civil Aviation Authority) require anyone who carries out security duties to have good general health, reasonable strength and no physical incapacity which would prevent you from undertaking the normal range of aviation security duties.
As well as the above, the assessment will check you can:
- Correctly read a vehicle number plate at 23 metres distance with or without spectacles or contact lenses. You must also be able to read labels on bottles of spirits and aerosols at a distance.
- Perceive colour well enough to use colour x-ray equipment, and to check passes with colour codes.
- Hear radio and telephone communications, audio signals emitted by security equipment with or without an aid – and an average conversational human voice at a distance of 2.5 metres in a quiet room.
It will also test for any dependence on alcohol or illegal substances. If you’re taking prescribed drugs, you’ll be considered on an individual basis to ensure your ability to carry out duties would not be adversely affected.
When we contact you to verbally offer you the role, we’ll arrange an appropriate medical appointment for you. It’s really important that you attend the medical, as you won’t be able to start your new role without passing the assessment.
If for any reason you can’t attend, let us know as soon as possible so we can arrange another appointment. However, as they’re usually booked up several weeks in advance, it may not always be possible to give you an alternative in time, so your start date may be affected.
Vetting / Referencing
A role in Aviation Security provides you with access to sensitive information. And you’ll be working at the forefront of security, keeping Heathrow and the UK safe. As such, we need to know that all our team members will operate with absolute integrity – so we need to spend some time understanding your background and the type of person you are.
We do this in two ways: Vetting and Referencing:
We’ll carry out formal vetting as early as possible in the process, because your application can’t proceed without it. We can only vet you if you’ve been resident in the UK for the past three years. Holidays are fine, but extended or multiple trips abroad would mean we can’t complete the Vetting process – and as such could not offer you employment. Vetting will consist of:
- Criminal Record Check (CRC)
As soon as we’ve confirmed your success at the Assessment Centre, we’ll be in touch to request you disclose detailed information about any unspent criminal convictions or cautions you’ve received.
- Counter Terrorism Check (CTC)
We’ll also send you a link to an online form which requests information about you, your immediate family and people you’ve had relationships with. This information will go onto a secure online portal and be processed by UK Security Vetting (UKSV), a Government agency.
Throughout the vetting it’s important that you’re open and honest, and disclose all the required detail; a failure to disclose information or to attempt to mislead any agency is a serious offence, and will be uncovered through the checks that are in place. This would result in a job offer being withdrawn.
We’ll also need to understand your work history, so we require references to cover all of the past five years. Whether you’ve been in employment, further education, or unemployed, we’ll need to confirm your full history over this time period.
Using the information you provide, our Referencing team will gather your references well ahead of your allocated start date. Once we’ve got them, a separate team will then verify all the information given. This may include checking with Government Departments to confirm your HMRC history, or a period for which you have been claiming benefits. We’ll also make contact with individual referees to clarify the information they’ve provided.
All this can take time, and we usually allow a period of up to 14 weeks from the point of job offer until you join us in Heathrow Security. During that time our Referencing team will stay in touch with you, updating you on progress and making sure you know your start date, location and what to expect.
Your first day
Congratulations, you’ve successfully completed the pre-employment screening process, and you’re now ready to start as a Security Officer. Your role will be critical to our operation, and it’s key that we set you up for success from the outset. That’s why we have a four-week training period – so you can be confident you’re fully prepared.
It’s important you arrive on time, because there will be a lot to get through. Your first few days are focused on welcoming you to Heathrow, and will involve:
- An outline of Heathrow’s history, our purpose and values. You’ll also learn about the structure of the airport, and find out about key regulations.
- A tour of the Airport Operations Centre, where an Airport Operations Manager will explain what it’s all about, and why it’s important.
- A bus tour of Airside, showing you the terminals and key operational areas.
- An engaging session on Health and Safety, providing you with an insight into the regulation and health and wellbeing strategy of the airport.
- A day in our customers’ shoes, to give you an understanding of the airport from a passenger’s perspective. This is an enjoyable activity where you’ll spend a whole day going through the airport completing tasks as four different personas (for example, going through security as a leisure traveller, or buying lunch as a business traveller).
During your first few days, you’ll also attend an ID appointment at the ID Centre to obtain your airside pass.
Your first two weeks will be on a 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday schedule, based at our head office at the airport, followed by two weeks on a training shift pattern to learn the role in our operation. Once you’ve completed your training, you’ll begin working the part-time or full-time shift pattern you’ve applied for. See an example roster of what shift pattern you could work.