Understanding Your Identity as a Loss Prevention Professional

Identity Crisis – you have one, or members of your staff have them. Here’s how to fix it.

Understanding your Identity as a Loss Prevention Professional

“So tell me a little bit about yourself.” The absolute, no doubts about it, most commonly asked question in any interview. It’s an icebreaker, it gives the recruiting or hiring manager a chance to see what you’ll try to sell them on in your first answer, and it is the question that more people struggle with than any other .  Why is it so difficult for most people to answer? You need to know exactly who you are, what experience you have, what you have accomplished, what your strengths and weaknesses are, where you are now professionally, and where you want to go in the future. You also need to be able to answer all of those things in a brief, small paragraph, sweet opening statement that doesn’t leave whoever just met you for the first time thirty seconds ago feeling like you are talking their head off.  That’s why.

So what does this have to do with your identity as a Loss Prevention professional, and what is an identity anyway?

The only way to speak to those eight topics that doesn’t leave you sounding like a philosophy professor is to understand your identity. Your identity is the distinguishing characteristics that make you who you are.  Understanding your identity is important to combat that particular interview question, but it’s also important for you as you push to develop and move on to the next level. We have asked hundreds of entry level loss prevention professionals what they feel like they need to get promoted to a lead, supervisory, or management role. The undeniable most common answer we get is, “I need someone to give me the opportunity.” To be point blank honest, that answer will continue to be more and more common as the “give me,” “hand me,” “I want instead of I need,” generation increases in number.

Wrong. Answer. If no one has told you this yet, let us be the first to say it. When it comes to putting money in the bank, there is no such thing as a “free lunch.” You can sit around and wait for the time when someone is going to recognize you for your hard work and expertise. (Get a comfortable chair and some snack packs though, because you’re going to be there a while.) Or you can do what all-of-those-people-who- are-getting-promoted- before- you-while-you’re-the-one-that-really-deserves-it are doing and, go attack the opportunities that are waiting for you. Opportunities are out there. It’s up to you to go find and seize them.   In order to do that, you need to know who you are, where you came from, where you are headed/want to head, what makes you the best, what challenges you face, and how you’re going to get to your final destination.

For those of you that supervise/manage entry level loss prevention professionals and wonder why they aren’t being as productive as you want them to be, understand this. Motivation comes from the end game. If there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, your subordinates are going to become disengaged. The absolute quickest way to get them on track is to assist them in understanding their identity and laying down a path that leads to the next step. (You might know this as the “carrot” from the Carrot/Stick Analogy.) Nothing puts “I need to get in here and bust my back,” in an entry level loss prevention associate’s head quicker than, “Hey look. You do this really well. Here are a couple of things that you need to work on, and here is how you do it. With X amount of experience and showing Y characteristics, you are on the path to “whatever the next step is.” Entry Level LP associates want feedback, they want to advance, and most importantly, they want to make more money. Just like you do. Just like everyone else does. Assist them with their identity and show them what it can do for them, and you will get results. It also shows them that you half way care about them, which is always a nice bonus considering that they are looking to you for leadership. (The “stick” we’ll cover later.)

The ELLP Flat-Common Sense Guide to Understanding your Identity, and thereby being a Champion.

Answer these questions:

What experience do you have in Retail Loss Prevention? (How many years. Retail setting. Internal. External. Roles and Responsibilities of Positions Held.)

What are your professional goals? (Where do you want to be next year? In three? Five?)

What have you accomplished in your professional experience? (Quantifiable answers. IE: “I lead my district in shoplifter apprehensions for two years. I reduced shrink in my store from 1.9% to .9%.)

What are your strongest characteristics? (I’m extremely detail oriented. I am absolutely a self starter but work well in teams as well. I have strong communication abilities.)

Where do you need to improve? (I need to develop my internal investigations skills. I need to develop better operational knowledge.)

What transferrable skills do you have from employment or experience outside of retail LP?

Why do you like loss prevention?

Then, answer these questions:

What are the most common characteristics of Retail Loss Prevention professionals? (They are detail oriented. They have the ability to display sound judgment. They pay attention to detail.)

What are uncommon characteristics of Retail LP pros that make them stand out? (They display initiative. They are adaptable and “think outside the box.”)

Final step: develop, put it together, and summarize.

“To tell you a little bit about myself, I’ve worked in Retail Loss Prevention for exactly four years. I’ve worked everything from multi-unit, to big box, to luxury retail and I love it because Loss Prevention is a constant challenge which allows me to continuously learn something new, be resourceful, and interact with a diverse range of people in a broad scope of situations. I go home with a sense of achievement every day because I excel at internal investigations, and even lead my district this year in internal case closures.”

What do you notice about this opening statement? It leaves out the weaknesses and things that you need to develop, right? Don’t worry. They will come up in two other “always asked” interview questions which are “What do you feel like you need to improve on?” or “What are some of the challenges you have identified?” Different blog post, for a different day.