Can I really become a spy?
Yes, you really can. Working for MI6 starts a lot like any other job. You’ll have to go through a recruitment phase and if you have the right qualities and experience, you’re in. The MI6 website lists a number of different job opportunities currently open. The main categories you’ll have to choose from are:
Identify, cultivate, recruit people who can share secrets.
Science & Technology
Be at the heart of everything we do.
Business Support Officers
Support our operations, our business or both.
Trades and Services
Keep our facilities running efficiently and effectively.
From HR to finance, legal to procurement, provide valuable support.
Use your language skills in a variety of ways.
Do you have what it takes?
Well, as you can imagine being a spy isn’t quite like any other job. It’s a high stakes game and not everyone is cut out for it. That’s why a few years ago MI6 released a quiz to test how well suited you’d be. The Telegraph went through some of the answers you had to get right to make it through to the end. 007 definitely would not have passed the test.
Starting with the most basic of questions, “Do you want to protect this country?”, those who answer in the affirmative are then asked: “By any possible means?”. If you answer yes to this question you are politely told, “Thank you for your time” while those who suggest they would not unquestioningly protect Britain progress to the next question.
This is followed by another question clearly aimed at filtering out those who have read too much Ian Fleming: “Is MI6 all guns and fast cars?” Answering yes to this question also leads to a polite dismissal.
As the Telegraph notes, the quiz seeks to highlight that gender, ethnicity and sexuality do not matter when applying to MI6 while an ability to get on with diverse people and trustworthiness are vital. Speaking a foreign language is highlighted as “an asset, but not vital” while “instinctive curiosity” is a must.
If you’re calm and collected and not a xenophobic nutter you might be just what MI6 are looking for.
Hear from a spy
We found this snippet from an interview in the Guardian a few years ago, where the head of recruitment at MI6 offers some wisdom.
“The nature of our work is difficult. We need to protect staff identities to a far greater degree than the other agencies. I don’t just work in the UK. It means that I am more exposed. We have to be more careful. [Our agents] are not racing around on roofs with guns, but espionage is still espionage.
“Most of the people here don’t have that background [a degree in PPE from Oxford]. I don’t have that background. The number of graduates [at MI6] is a lower proportion than the people with job experience.”
So you might be the perfect person for the job. It seems there’s no clear way to know. Well apart from trying your luck and actually applying.