MI6 to revert to old-fashioned ways of recruitment, says director

Alex YoungerBritain’s primary external-intelligence agency will revert to old-fashioned ways of recruiting employees, including the co-called “tap on the shoulder” method, according to its director. Known informally as MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) was founded in 1908 to protect Britain’s national security by collecting intelligence from foreign sources. However, the agency has had difficulty recruiting a diverse group of people, and many still view it as a professional destination for a small wealthy elite, drawn primarily from Britain’s most prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge.

MI6 is now trying to diversify the makeup of its employees, according to its director, Alex Younger. Younger, who is known at MI6 as ‘C’, gave an interview to British newspaper The Guardian on Thursday. He did so as the agency he leads prepares to increase its personnel numbers by 40 percent in the next four years. Last year, the British government announced that MI6’s personnel strength would grow from its current size of 2,500 employees to approximately 3,500 by 2020. The reason for the increase, said Younger, is that Britain is facing “more threats than ever before […] from terrorist groups and hostile states”. As a result, “the demands on our services [and] capabilities are on the up”, Younger told The Guardian in his first-ever interview with a national newspaper.

But MI6 would function more efficiently and achieve better results it if had a “more diverse workforce”, said Younger. Therefore, he said, the agency must go out of its way to “draw in a new cadre of black and Asian officers”. In doing so, the spy service would need to reach out to minority communities who are “selecting themselves out” of working for the British intelligence community. Useful in this process are what Younger called “old recruitment techniques”, such as the so-called “tap on the shoulder”. The term refers to the deliberate recruitment of individuals who will be approached by MI6 without having applied for employment with the agency. “We have to go to people that would not have thought of being recruited to MI6”, said Younger, adding that the “tap on the shoulder” method can be redeployed in order to increase diversity among MI6’s workforce and “reflect the society we live in”.

The spy agency is preparing to launch an aggressive recruitment campaign next week, aiming at bringing its overall size to 3,500 —a historic high, according to intelligence observers.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 March 2017 | Permalink

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One Response to MI6 to revert to old-fashioned ways of recruitment, says director

  1. jones says:

    The “tap on the shoulder” technique requires skillful execution. Agents would need to decide which approach is best in “per-qualifying” potential recruits. Various approaches based on MICE or RASCLS, etc., may be executed depending on potential target for recruitment. Either way, given increased global threats, recruiting from a more diverse pool in combination with those with good language skills must be pursued. Technology is great, but it’s all about accessing people.

    True, some minority groups, closed communities or those without Ivy League educations may not realize – or even be attracted to – available career opportunities serving their country via working in intelligence. Intel organization, as portrayed, do seem like elitist club – on surface. Perhaps agency should work with Hollywood and produce movies or series portraying more minorities working in the intelligence field. Would hazard to guess many people’s interpretation of intelligence (spy craft) is based on James Bond or “The Good Shepherd”, etc., type movies which unfortunately have no minorities portrayed in positive leading roles. The internet is a good recruitment tool – mastered by our adversaries. However, nothing can replace a good old fashion “block buster” movie or hot TV series to reach a larger audience.

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