Case study

Border Force officer — Viv Wright

Viv has had the opportunity to focus on his goal - to work on counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering - as part of his role as a Border Force immigration officer

How did you become a Border Force officer?

I was specifically looking for a Border Force role, using the Civil Service job site. It's not a straightforward process - I applied quite a few times and attended five interviews before getting my current role, although I made it onto the reserve list several times.

What's the job like?

I generally work 12-hour shifts, and each one is very busy, but also different. I spend time interviewing people when there are concerns about illegal immigration. As my long-term interest is in counter-terrorism, I try to help my team consider all angles, such as right-wing terrorism.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy looking for behavioural indicators when people are coming through the border. Looking for clues about whether someone is behaving suspiciously or simply in a hurry keeps the job really interesting for me.

I like that there are opportunities to become an expert in certain areas. For instance I could become a liaison officer, working with other law enforcement and government security agencies.

What are the challenges?

There's quite a bit of responsibility with the role. You wear a uniform and sometimes handcuffs and you're there to enforce the law. Obviously, people coming into the UK can get emotional about being stopped or questioned. My role is to be calm, empathise with their situation and diffuse any aggression, while also using my knowledge, experience and instincts to determine whether there is a risk or not.

How relevant is your Masters to the role?

I did a Masters in leading innovation and change, which gave me a new framework within which to work in my interest areas of counter-terrorism and intelligence.

While my Masters was essentially a business-based qualification, the focus on change is really relevant to my work within the Border Force. There are constant changes - Brexit being the latest of many. Being able to support other Border Force staff in dealing with change has been really helpful.

Any advice for aspiring Border Force officers?

Read the application process carefully. It's quite complex, much more than a CV and cover letter. There are a number of stages you need to get through before you get to interview, such as online tests.

Truly understand what the Border Force does. There's a lot of information available, so make sure you're clear about what the purpose and role of the organisation is.

Think hard about your reasons for wanting to join the Border Force. Is it to wear a uniform and to feel authoritative? Or is it to help people and keep the UK safe? You need to have a real focus on treating people with empathy and kindness, and treat them in a way you would like to be treated. They all have a story. It can be emotionally hard, especially if you have to make difficult decisions - such as refusing someone entry to the country because they have the wrong documents, even if they're upset and want you to help them.

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