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

Townsville Bulletin - - Savvy -

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.’’

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