how to. . . join the CIA
The CIAhas new recruits in its sights: the young, restless generation. And with the help of a fun personality test and revamped website, wannabe spies are signing up in droves. katherine shrader reports
TCIA has scrapped its tedious test that steered job applicants toward mysterious careers and has devised one that is instead cloaked in jest. Invisibility or ESP? Jet pack or amphibious sports car? Walk the Great Wall of China or sip champagne at a New York gala?
The results from the CIA’s personality quiz are just a few clicks away, diagnosing test takers as daring thrillseekers, thoughtful observers, curious adventurers, innovative pioneers or impressive masterminds. The CIA wants to hire them all. The agency’s online personality test is the equivalent of a help wanted sign, posted on the closest thing the agency has to a front door — its website. The frivolous quiz is designed to encourage job applications while dispelling myths about the agency, some of them born of the James Bond stereotype.
For instance, the CIA wants Americans to know that no one who works there drives a sports car with machineguns in the tailpipes. Successful applicants will, in fact, see their family and friends again. Also, ‘you don’t have to know karate or look good in a tuxedo to work at the CIA’, the quiz says.
The hiring push began almost immediately after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and picked up steam in November 2004 when President George W. Bush called for a 50 per cent increase in the agency’s ranks of operatives and analysts.
The President wanted twice as many scientists whose research combats terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
One in seven of the CIA’s current employees joined the agency in the past year, and nearly 40 per cent of its employees began working at the agency after the September 11 attacks — statistics which are both helpful and troubling.
‘‘This is the youngest analytic work force in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency,’’ Director Michael Hayden said at his confirmation hearings this year.
‘‘In more disappointing language, this is the least experienced analytic work force in the history of CIA.’’
The CIA had some stumbles as it stepped out of the shadows to recruit.
The agency started in 2002 with black-and-white ads. Last year, the agency’s television ads during Washington Nationals baseball games were so quiet and unnoticeable that fans might have thought their cable went out for 30 seconds if they headed to the kitchen for a snack.
Officials in charge of hiring realised they needed a new plan. They hired an ad agency, TMP Worldwide, to help.
The ‘Bug Spot’ was born. A snooping dragonfly zooms through the ad, showing how scientists at the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology develop their James Bond-esque devices — ‘technology so advanced, it’s classified’, the ad boasts. The ad debuted on the Discovery Channel pay TV network and the agency got 3500 resumes.
Now, the CIA is redoing its website. It is buying space on airport billboards and in movie trailers, seeking people who can crack locks and speak Arabic. It has also created its updated personality quiz, with a special disclaimer straight from the legal department: ‘‘The Myths Quiz is for educational entertainment purposes only. . . . This quiz will not affect your ability to get a job with the CIA.’’
Some of the CIA’s traditionalists fear the agency is tarnishing its proud, exclusive roots to meet the presidential directive.
But Tom McCluskey, the CIA’s chief of hiring and employee development, has conceded it needs to target a new generation — the generation that has grown up on the web.
‘‘They were born with ear buds in their ears. They are ADD and it is contagious,’’ he said.
‘‘We need that kind of talent here.’’