The CIA recruits came to campus

Published: December 4, 2011

The CIA has polygraph experts who can, at most times, accurately determine whether a person is lying or telling the truth. PHOTO: REUTERS

Two members of America’s spy nest, the National Clandestine Service (NCS) of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) visited the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh today to attract potential recruits into the spy agency. The NCS, formerly known as the Directorate of Operations (DO), is where agency trains spies in secret trade-craft for clandestine activities.

The briefing lasted a little over an hour, followed by questions about the application process. The two presenters themselves were career spies. The male speaker was a Russian expert with extensive experience in the Middle East. He had military experience prior to joining the CIA. The female speaker was also a clandestine officer with expertise in counter-terrorism. Efficiently trained in human deception, manipulation and paramilitary operations, they spoke persuasively and enlightened the students with the benefits of being part of the community at the CIA. Their highest accomplishment was that they served their country.

It would come as a surprise to many that for being an intelligence agency, the CIA is very transparent in their recruiting process. Except for the director of the CIA, who is a political appointee, all employees have to go through the same employment process. People who are interested in working with the agency have to go through the application process online, where they are provided with a temporary username and id. The entire employment process could take between 12 to 18 months. The process is very rigorous, with the agency’s human resource team conducting extensive background checks, vetting accepted applicants for any criminal records, and conducting a thorough investigation before the applicant can be pushed through the time-consuming process of obtaining a security clearance.

Once applicants apply through the CIA website, which could take as long as three days, applicants of interest receive a phone call from the agency. After a 30 minute phone interview, if the applicant still interests the recruiter, he or she is invited for a three-day in-house interview, where the applicant, on the CIA’s expense, spends time at agency headquarters in Langley, VA. If one passes through this interview, they are offered conditional employment. An excellent part of this process is that the CIA looks at potential vulnerabilities in a person that could turn them against one’s country. For instance, you may be disqualified if you have substantial amounts of unnecessary credit card debt because you could be easily bribed by a foreign intelligence service. In addition, the agency checks if you have consumed any illegal drugs or substance in the past 12 months. Applicants are required to remain drug-free for at least 12 months to qualify for employment with the CIA. Even though one needs to have a strong allegiance to America and be willing to go to all possible extents to protect it, those with dual-nationality are also eligible for employment. It benefits the agency due to the ease of sending officers in countries of high value and importance.

Accepted applicants are also polygraphed—a lie detector. The CIA has polygraph experts who can, at most times, accurately determine whether a person is lying or telling the truth.

“We’re gonna interview the heck out of you” is the standard operating procedure.

The CIA also has a student internship program and applicants have to go through the same application process due to the sensitivity of the work they are assigned. Internees also have to obtain a security clearance before they can be offered employment because they have access to sensitive buildings and materials that could pose potential national security threats to the country if misused or if they fall into the wrong hands.

The CIA is an equal opportunity provider. Applicants are required to have at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree with a grade point average of 3.0. The CIA as an intellectual workforce, with clandestine officers holding either a master’s degree or a PhD. It has one of the best computer genius’ in the country, in addition to professional from all sorts of discipline.  Psychologists, doctors, artists, wardrobe specialist—disguise experts, computer scientists and top engineers, all make up the fabric of America’s premier spy agency. They pay well; provide good compensation for government service, and equal opportunity for career advancement.

It is the work of a nation, and they are the centre of intelligence.

Shahzeb Shaikha

Shahzeb Shaikha

A staffer at The Express Tribune who is a graduate in the field of Security Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. He tweets @shahzebshaikha (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Khurram Mansoor

    Which campus are you talking about. Is it some where in Pakistan.Recommend

  • EoH

    too rosy to be truth!Recommend

  • Abdullah Abdullah

    How is this relevant to PK? ET should remove .PK from their web addressRecommend

  • TLW

    Where did this even happen? You haven’t mentioned the university where it takes place.Recommend

  • Asfandyar Gilani

    University of PittsburghRecommend

  • sami

    took place at University of Pittsburgh, USA

    lol you guys actually thought that this happened in LUMS/SZABIST/IBA type uni INSIDE pakistan? LMAO! when ISI isn’t hiring their own people, then why would a foreign intelligence agency do that? Recommend

  • Anon

    and your point?Recommend

  • Rehan

    Very thorough information about the CIA recruitment purpose. But I cant get a point of publishing this article on ET, a Pakistani blog……Recommend

  • Taimoor

    toh me kia karoon?!Recommend


    We have IB and ISI.
    IB is through PSC and ISI through mil career.
    IB has been politicized and We are after ISI and blame it for all the evils. While we talk about CIA recruitment. All major countries have Agencies and they will serve only “THEIR” nation. Recommend

  • Parvez

    If one reads this carefully you realise that the author has written a lot without saying much.Recommend

  • Mughal

    ISI must also be active in such things. I personally like ISI, have always fascinated about it but unfortunately can’t find a way to get in, requirements and all that. They are too packed that I haven’t even seen their headquarters building yet though I was living in Islamabad for quite a long time (Where their headquarter is), haven’t seen their logo anywhere, they are too secretive.. Its not good for an organisation.. I haven’t seen any documentary, drama series or a film on them… whereas there are hundreds of films on CIA..Recommend

  • jaleibi

    Shahzeb Shaikha, mubarak ho bhai aap ko …

    very informative piece … but equally (if not more) useless.

    if time is money, clearly ur very rich.Recommend

  • Ooookay.

    And what the hell is the point of this blog? Really creepy, suspicious and fishy.Recommend

  • sana

    It says clearly in the opening paragraph that the author is talking about the University of Pittsburgh guys!Recommend

  • Umar

    Seriously, how does this have anything to do with Pakistan? What was the point of it? Couldn’t you have something important and better to write about that actually might have benefited readers?Recommend

  • FAZ

    You make it sound like its a big MNC offering wonderful benefits for you and your family.
    Equal opportunity employer! My God!!
    Equal opportunity killer should be right!Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel

    so did the author sign up? Recommend

  • Salman Lali

    beside this argument that if it has any relevance to us to be posted here, I like the professionalism of CIA. even their National security agency has the same kind of procedure, they pick the best brains of their country to serve in that as code breakers and makers. Recommend

  • Umair Waheed Sheikh, Khayban e Hafiz,Karachi

    I applied to CIA but was rejected even with a 3.4 GPA from IBA. It seems they have different standards for people from Pakistan.Recommend

  • Anoop

    No wonder they found out Osama living under the wings of the Military establishment. Recommend

  • antony

    @Anoop, What prowess about CIA are you highlighting !. CIA found OSAMA after 10 years after a simple mistake of slipping out from dragnet operation in tora bora.. Looking at the investment and the long war CIA had been here , this result is pathetic .Recommend

  • essequemodeia

    You don’t pick the agency. The agency picks you.

    And they’ll have picked you years before you even know.Recommend

  • Solomon2

    “Except for the director of the CIA, who is a political appointee, all employees have to go through the same employment process. ”

    That used to be the case but is not any more. Since 1989 the CIA’s Inspector Generals have been appointed by the president subject to confirmation by the Senate: link. In his book A Spy’s Journey: A CIA Memoir by retired senior CIA executive Floyd Paseman, he stated that doing so empowered the IGs and made for a much more accountable CIA since lower-ranking officers could usefully appeal to the IG whereas before he was just another member of the old-boy network.
    This is in accordance with the American tradition, stretching back to pre-Independence days, that Inspector Generals are accountable to the legislatures which fund the armed forces, not armed forces commanders.Recommend

  • bangash

    No big deal, CIA recruiters go to every university campus in the US.Recommend

  • Yasir Mehmood

    You watched the recruit starring El Paccino?Recommend

  • Custard Pie Chucker

    How dare the author try to educate us about the CIA? We in Pakistan know more about the workings of the CIA than Americans themselves. Does he really think that we simply pluck all these conspiracy theories out of thin air??Recommend

  • Vigilant

    So what the Point???…….for writing this blog
    1- Should we join CIA?
    2- CIA is an organization of best brains in US?
    3- Should ISI adopt the same procedures?
    4- CIA is more than killer drones, encouraging revolutions, toppling governments, conspiracies…..etc?Recommend

  • Tabi

    I think CIA is looking for recruits in Pakistan that’s why this article.Recommend

  • rabbahs

    this article is more like an Advertisement. I wasted my time reading this.
    may be the author is interested that some one counter provide and article about the recruiting procedure in Pakistan spy agencies (u know what I mean)

    anyways, visit the link and see the rating of different intelligence agencies around the world … and be proud as a Pakistan :)

  • Naveed

    excellent write up ….relevant and to the point..thumbs up bro! forgive the tools ..they dnt know wat have you writtenRecommend

  • http://none Pakistani- Londoner

    I have lost 10 minutes of my life i am never getting back….

    A random blog on Pakistani news website, related to CIA’s recruitment along with links and plenty of praise for their work ethics LOL … do i need to say more ?Recommend