CIA recruitment campaign plays on spy stereotypes

WASHINGTON: The US Central Intelligence Agency's post-9-11 recruiting campaign has begun taking a more lighthearted approach that plays on popular conceptions of what a career in intelligence is like.

WASHINGTON: The US Central Intelligence Agency's post-9-11 recruiting campaign has begun taking a more lighthearted approach that plays on popular conceptions of what a career in intelligence is like.

Playing on "myths" about the CIA - that, for example, new recruits never see friends or family again and drive sports cars with machine guns in the tailpipes - the agency's Web site now features a "personality quiz" illustrated with cartoon characters traveling by jet, carrying sheaves of passports, and otherwise engaged in stereotypical spy-like behavior.

While asking participants how, for instance, they prefer to travel - by submarine or jetpack, etc. - the quiz and the career section overall emphasize the generally prosaic nature of CIA work, which includes jobs such as IT manager and data analyst, and seek to reassure visitors that background checks may be rigorous "but don't worry. Getting caught smoking in high school isn't enough to disqualify you."

The goal with the recruitment drive, which was expanded in 2004 as a result of President Bush's mandate to increase the CIA's workforce by 50%, is to demystify the agency and appeal to a new generation of recruit attracted to and familiar with Internet media.

Because popular films account in no small part for the creation of stereotypes about the CIA, an employee at the agency, Tommy Lee Jones' brother, has served as a liaison to Hollywood filmmakers and television producers for the past eight years, providing advice for TV shows like Alias and the Mission: Impossible films, though many projects, such as the new film The Good Shepherd, are made without CIA participation.

"The media we're using have become quite varied," CIA media spokesperson Michelle Neff said. "We need so many types of skills for the people that come to work here, so we're trying to reach as broad a swathe we can possibly throw our net to."

A new ad campaign managed by TMP Worldwide, includes movies trailers in major metropolitan areas, commercials running on the Discovery channels, and airport posters, with a similarly humorous approach to spy stereotypes.

In addition, the CIA now holds more than 1,000 college campus recruitment events annually and is looking at using blogs and other forms of Internet media to encourage potential job applicants, Neff said.

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