Careers In The ASIS
The Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) operates to collect and distribute foreign intelligence to help protect Australia's security, and promote Australia's interests.
Working in a similar way to ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Operation), which works internally in Australia, ASIS was established in complete secrecy in 1952. In fact, it wasn't until 1975 that ASIS was even mentioned in Parliament, and it wasn't officially acknowledged until 1977.
Since the 2001 Intelligence Services Act introduced a legislative framework for ASIS and made public both the functions and the limits of the service, it has become a destination career for those who are interested in espionage and intelligence.
Types Of ASIS Jobs
Working for ASIS isn't quite what you might have seen in the movies or in popular culture. Keeping staff safe while collecting and collating so-called 'human intelligence' from around the world means looking for employees who are passionate and motivated, all while keeping their role completely secret.
There is more to the staff at ASIS than spies (known as Intelligence Officers). Roles can be as diverse as:
- Intelligence Operations Support like desk support and linguistics
- Technologists. This career area includes software development, project management, analysis, machinists, engineering and cyber security
- Corporate Specialists include the 'normal' head office roles like administration, finance, HR, communications, legal, security and organizational psychology.
Graduates can take advantage of the ACTIVATE Program which combines on-the-job experience and training, taking graduates on as permanent employees on a rotational scheme. Graduates can choose to focus on becoming a generalist, working in the intelligence support area, or choose a technical or finance stream.
How To Get A Job In The ASIS
If you want to apply for a role in ASIS, the first thing that you need to remember is that you need to keep your application a secret. Maintaining a high level of secrecy is important for any member of the ASIS team, as it protects the intelligence community and the individual employees themselves.
Although ASIS operates as a secret organisation, they have some clear values, including:
- 'Our strength is our people; united in purpose'
- 'Considered in our actions; undaunted by new horizons'
- 'Respect is our foundation; integrity is our compass'
Throughout the lengthy application process, whatever role you are applying for, bear these values in mind and seek to demonstrate them as much as you can.
ASIS Application Process
If you think you have what it takes to be an Intelligence Officer - or any other pivotal role in ASIS - then you need to be prepared for a long and detailed application process.
All staff have to undertake strict background checks to be awarded high levels of security clearance, and making sure that every applicant has what it takes is not something that only takes a few weeks. In fact, you can expect it to take as much as a year from your initial application before you are offered a role.
ASIS Virtual Reality Test
This isn't an official part of the application process, but the virtual reality test that is on the first page of the careers section of the ASIS website is a great place to start. This is a Virtual Reality test that takes you through some of the skills you might need to be an Intelligence Officer, and it serves as a good introduction to some of the other parts of the assessment that you will need to know.
ASIS Written application
This could be considered one of the most important parts of the application process, and it is the section that is used to disqualify most of the applicants.
To start with, you need to create an online account. This is a very secure process, needing a username and a password as well as a key to access. You need to remember these details - if you get locked out of your account you will have to create a new one - the details are not saved.
Although the application form does ask questions based on the information that would usually be found in your resume or cover letter, there are some other questions that need to be answered - and this will take you about 45-60 minutes to complete.
You need to demonstrate that you meet the basic requirements for a role at ASIS. These include:
- Proof of Australian Citizenship
- Current drivers licence
- Tertiary degree (or significant work experience - unless applying for a graduate role and then you should be working towards a degree).
- Any overseas experience (desirable)
You will also need to provide biographical information including a recent passport-style photograph, details of your spouse, and other relationship details.
There is also space for you to share any extra-curricular activities you take part in that might help your application - including voluntary work and any awards you have won.
One of the most important parts of your application - and the one that might take the longest to verify - is the details of any time that you have spent abroad. Including holidays, working holidays, and any other travel, you need to share all the information about where you have been that isn't in Australia.
ASIS Written test
As part of the initial application, there is an 'extended response' section that is based on the skills and competencies needed for the position you have applied for.
You will need to use this space to answer questions that address the selection criteria of the advertised position - and to do this successfully, you will need to give concise examples that demonstrate your capability.
For example, if you are applying for the Graduate Program, you can expect to answer questions like:
- 'Why do you want to be a part of our Graduate Program and what makes you a good candidate?'
- Describe a time when you've been required to work in a team to complete a project.'
- 'Describe a time where you have researched and solved a complex issue at work or university'.
Each of these questions will have a 250-word limit so you need to be precise about the detail you are giving.
When you submit your initial application, you will get a notification to let you know that it has been received.
You will only be contacted by ASIS if you have been selected to move further in the process.
The interview process will vary depending on the role you have applied for, as will the content of the questions that you will face.
Whether you are invited to a phone interview, a video interview, or a face-to-face interview, you need to be prepared with research, intimate knowledge of your resume, especially education and work history, and be ready to answer questions based on your skills, competencies, experience, and motivation.
Interviews can be challenging, but you can make the best impression by knowing what you are talking about. This means understanding the role you have applied for, ASIS as a service, and the wider industry of intelligence gathering - and then demonstrating how you are a good fit.
Use the job description to find out what they want from a candidate, and pick examples from your experience to fit those competencies. Ask thoughtful questions when you are invited to - about ASIS, about intelligence, or even about something that has been in the news recently regarding the service.
ASIS Psychological Tests
Being an Intelligence Officer, or working anywhere in ASIS needs a high level of security clearance, and the right frame of mind.
With different challenges needing to be met every day, ASIS uses a battery of online psychometric and psychological testing to understand the way a candidate thinks, what their aptitudes are, and how emotionally intelligent they are.
Most of these assessments need no prior knowledge - they are not about learned information, but about how you approach problems, your critical thinking, and the logic you use to reach a conclusion.
ASIS Personality Assessment
Personality tests can come in many forms, but they are all looking for the same sort of information.
In a personality test, you are usually presented with different statements, and you have to select how much you agree or disagree with them - or how well you think they describe your behaviour at work.
Personality tests are often untimed and require you to be honest in your answers - there are no 'right' or 'wrong' answers, but ASIS will have a list of desired responses that demonstrate the right personality for the role.
ASIS Spatial Reasoning Test
Spatial reasoning assessments are designed to test the way you visualise things. They are a type of logic test that is usually based on shapes in both 2D and 3D.
You will usually be presented with a shape or image, and will have to mentally move it to create a 3D image - perhaps it is a shape that is unfolded and you need to put it together in your mind to find the right answer.
There might be questions about mirroring, or which shape matches an outline.
These tests are usually timed, and the answers are presented as multiple-choice options.
ASIS Logical Reasoning Test
Logic is a highly sought after skill in the workplace for a number of roles, and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service is no different.
Logical reasoningassessments are designed to test your ability to use step-by-step deductions to come to a rational conclusion. They can be framed in a number of ways - from word problems that ask you to deduct whether a conclusion follows a statement, to image-based questions that are more like abstract reasoning.
Like most aptitude tests, you will find that a logical reasoning assessment has multiple choice answers and is timed.
ASIS Abstract Reasoning Test
Abstract reasoning is a skill that helps you make logical decisions based on limited information. To achieve this, the test will provide a series of shapes or images, with one missing.
You will need to quickly analyse the sequence to find the rule or pattern that governs it so that you can select the right answer from the multiple-choice options.
Sometimes the rule might be a simple numerical change, other times it might involve mirroring, size, colour, or any combination of changes from one image to the next.
ASIS Mechanical Concepts Test
Knowledge of mechanical concepts is important in several roles at ASIS, and you are likely to face some sort of mechanical reasoning assessment if you are applying for a technical role like engineer or machinist.
In a mechanical reasoning assessment, you are being tested on your knowledge of physics and mechanics - including things like force, gears and pulleys, electricity, and acceleration.
Each question is based on a diagram - these are usually using common household objects, so you don't need in-depth mechanical knowledge to answer. The answers are presented as multiple-choice, and as long as you are confident in your basic science knowledge, you should find the content reasonably simple to grasp.
ASIS Skill Test
There are a number of possible skill tests that you might need to take for a role in ASIS, depending on the type of job you are applying for.
You can expect a skill test for a role with a specified level of proficiency in a certain subject. This might include a programming test if you are applying for a software developer role, or a typing test if you are looking to work in administration.
A skill test in a foreign language is likely to come up if you have mentioned proficiency - this is to assess whether you need further language training, especially as an Intelligence Officer.
Skills tests are a type of aptitude test that is about more than natural talent, and they are used to ensure that the candidate has the required experience, education, or developed skill in that area.
ASIS Numerical Reasoning Test
Numerical reasoning assessments test your ability to quickly read, understand and analyse numerical data. Although you will usually need to complete basic mathematical operations to answer the questions, it is not a math test - it is about using and manipulating data in a logical way.
The questions are based on data in a table or graph, and the answers are usually multiple choice. You may be asked to complete an operation (adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing) to find the answer, and you will usually need good knowledge of working with ratios, percentages, and fractions.
ASIS Situational Judgement Test
Understanding how you make decisions under pressure and what type of person you are at work can be a difficult thing to assess, but in the situational judgement test, you are given a number of realistic yet fictional work-based scenarios to work through.
Each scenario will be described in detail, and there will be a number of possible courses of action that you can take to deal with the problem described.
In some tests, you will need to pick the best and the worst option, while in others just the course of action that you would take.
This assessment is another that doesn't necessarily have a 'right' answer, and in fact, all the given courses of action could be considered correct - but it does demonstrate your work behaviour and personality according to the answer that you choose.
ASIS Verbal Reasoning Test
Extensive knowledge of English and the ability to quickly read, understand and analyse
information presented as text is what is being tested in a verbal reasoning assessment.
You will be given a paragraph or a passage of text, and asked a question about it afterwards. Usually, this is a statement, and you have to decide if the statement is true, false, or there isn't enough information to tell based on the passage.
These passages are often written in quite formal, businesslike language, so you need to have a good working knowledge of both the English language and grammar.
ASIS Medical and Background Checks
To be a successful Intelligence Officer, you need to be in good physical health - and that means that your application will be subject to medical checks. You can expect your health history to be examined, and relevant tests are taken - like blood and urine.
This is to ensure that you have no underlying serious health conditions, and to ensure that you are not taking any illicit drugs.
One of the most important facets of intelligence work is the need for the highest security clearance. To be given this clearance, a deep dive into your background is completed by ASIS. Everything from your former employment to foreign travel, relationships, siblings and other familial connections - all are examined thoroughly to ensure that you can get the highest security clearance that allows you to work with ASIS.
Along with the initial application, the background check is one of the steps of the application process that can take the longest to complete.
Tips To Get Hired At ASIS
Prepare for the recruitment process
Being recruited by ASIS is not a quick process - and depending on the role you have applied for, there can be many stages to face before you are hired.
Make sure you are prepared by having all the necessary information to hand - and check your emails and SMS messages regularly so you don't miss any important communications.
Although the extent and content of the recruitment process is a closely guarded secret - which you would expect from a secret service - being prepared is one way you can get ahead in the game when you apply.
Practice the tests
Testing your aptitudes is a necessary part of the application process, and you can help ensure that you score well through practice.
There are many different places online where you can practice the different kinds of psychometric tests that you could face. Take practice as seriously as you would the real thing, ensure that you are not disturbed, and use a timer so that you can get used to the pressure of completing questions against the clock.
Practice tests are also a good way to highlight any areas or subjects that you might need more revision on before you take the real thing, so that you can focus your practice for the best results.