6 Recruitment Tricks You Can Pinch From MI5

6 Recruitment Tricks You Can Pinch From MI5

6 Recruitment Tricks You Can Pinch From MI5

Ever daydreamed about becoming a super spy like James Bond or Black Widow? I certainly have…

Of course, the reality of spy-life is probably worlds apart from the Aston Martins and dry Martinis we see on the silver screen.

And to become a member of MI5, you have to have a certain set of skills.

So how do MI5 recruit their next 007s?  And are there some tricks you can pinch, yourself?

1. Take Your Time.

It takes MI5 up to nine months to decide on new recruits.

That’s a pretty lengthy process.

And yes, for obvious reasons, the Secret Service has a strict process, filled with a vast array of background checks and screening processes.

But the point still stands: rushed decisions are rarely good decisions.

Recruitment should take as long as it takes.

You’d rather take a couple of months to find the right person than hire the wrong one over a few days.

Make sure you’re 100% sure of someone, before hiring them.

2. Create a Pipeline of Talent.

Of course, not all of us can wait nine months.

That would be crazy and despite anything else, it would cost an absolute fortune…

So, how about having a go at building a pipeline of talent?

A group of “passive” candidates that could be tempted with the right offer and who know and are engaged with your brand?

That way, you have all the time in the world to assess their skills, their personality and you can even build a limited relationship with them in advance of any firm offer.

Social media, LinkedIn and your company blog are your best friends here.

Build a list of passive candidates, separate them out and communicate with them.

The ones that respond and engage with you are probably open to an approach.

Need some tips on recruiting passive candidates? Click here.

3. Personality counts for a lot.

MI5, inevitably, takes a deep dive into personality testing.

You might not have the fate of a nation resting on your shoulders, but you should still take the time to see if they’re a good psychological fit.

The Secret Service used to focus only on trust, confidentiality and mental strength.

Now emotional intelligence, analytics and logical reasoning are a big part of the selection process.

MI5 really has come out of the shadows in recent years and they have given us most of the secrets of their psychometric testing on the assessment centre website.

We have covered tests for the key personality features and even given you questions you can use, so you can find those here:

11 Interview Questions That Will Reveal Your Candidate’s True Personality

10 Interview Questions To Assess Emotional Intelligence

4. Creative job adverts can attract a new kind of recruit.

The Secret Service has also produced some of the most creative job adverts we’ve seen in a bid to bring a new kind of agent into the mix.

In 1991, former secret agent and eventual whistleblower David Shayler replied to an abstract job advert with a PO Box address with the title: “Godot isn’t coming.”

It was an abstract reference to a Shakespearean play and the ‘job description’, simply called for frustrated people who wanted to progress and make a difference.

In 2015, GCHQ, the analytical arm of MI6, released a series of complex puzzles.

If you could solve them, they wanted to speak to you.

What can you take from this?

A more quirky job advert could bring you different candidates, with skillsets you’ve never considered.

A specific, targeted advert like a puzzle could reveal a brilliant analytical mind.

It might be attached to a personality you would have rejected out of hand in a job interview situation.

But if you already know they have the skillset you need, then you could look at them in a whole new light.

Again, social media competitions could be a totally different recruitment trick that could find the near-perfect employee.

For some more ideas on creative recruiting, check out this blog post.

5. Focus on the details

MI5 is serious about the details.

Applicants have to list every holiday, gap in their employment history and more in writing.

Then, in the interview, the recruiter will ask them again.

They are looking for inconsistencies, the slightest sign that this person is not giving them the full story.

You don’t have to be quite that militant, but make sure you’re aware of every detail on the CV and don’t be afraid to ask them to confirm and expand on specific points.

It’s a surefire way to flush out people who haven’t been entirely honest about their work history.

If they give you a great answer, then you can trust their written CV that little bit more.

6. Really consider your needs.

MI6 and MI5 used to hire Oxbridge graduates, but those days are gone.

Now they go out of their way to attract new candidates from a wide variety of social backgrounds.

You don’t even need a degree to join the secret service these days and a lot of employers are dropping that requirement.

Real world experience can be worth a lot more to you, so think about the real essential requirements for each and every job and find the best fit.

Tailor the minimum requirements to each job, but consider dropping some of your essential requirements to open your job up to a wider pool of applicants.


The secret service has turned into one of Britain’s Top 100 Employers.

They have also produced some of the most creative jobs adverts you’re like to see.

So it’s well worth taking a page from their book.

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Good luck.

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vevo colburn
vevo colburn
2 years ago