The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is the national (domestic) security service in Australia and is comparable to the UK's MI5 or the USA's FBI. It should not be confused with the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) as the ASIS is concerned with foreign security - like the UK's MI6.
Around 2000 employees are based mainly in the ASIO's Canberra offices.
Careers in the ASIO
A variety of careers are offered in the ASIO including entry-level and graduate jobs across a number of departments that include technology, surveillance, intelligence, trades, corporate services, language specialists and more. ASIO employs a wide and diverse workforce that also includes later career moves from professions including teaching, engineering, science and music. ASIO has also hired former athletes, tradies, geologists, philosophers, lawyers, journalists and a wide range of STEM specialists.
Types of ASIO jobs
A number of types of jobs are on offer including ASIO's Technologist Graduate Program, and Corporate Graduate Program, both for graduates; the Information Technology and Information Management Traineeships for those that did not go to university, as well as a huge variety of individual roles across various departments. These range from Surveillance Officer to Software Engineer.
How to get a job in the ASIO
All successful candidates for jobs in the ASIO will be subject to obtaining a security clearance and the selection process may take as long as 12 months from application to an employment offer. The application process covers many stages, and applicants must both be Australian Citizens as well as be located in Australia for all parts of the application process to comply with application requirements.
Candidates must be able to address the selection criteria (relating to the six core capabilities) in order to be shortlisted by the selection panel.
ASIO application process stages
Recruitment for vacant ASIO positions varies according to the role applied but applicants can generally expect to encounter most of the following stages:
- Written application
- Written test
- Psychological testing
- Online assessment
- Participation in an interview or assessment centre, and
- Security assessment.
Being a security service, ASIO offers little specific information online or in the public domain about the recruitment process. As with all roles in the Australian Public Service, the process can be long and time-consuming but successful candidates can enjoy a long career.
Recruitment for all vacant ASIO positions begins in the same way by using an online recruitment system for online applications.
The first test for candidates is accessing and completing the online form, which is not as straightforward as other online applications might be. Candidates must remember the login for the application form, which once set cannot be reset, or risk losing all previous information entered.
Further hurdles to overcome include the system timeout which is triggered by just 15 minutes of inactivity, after which all unsaved information is lost, and, the online application system uses encryption, meaning once entered, the text is unable to be reviewed, or recalled. Candidates must therefore prepare all draft text in another program and enter into the application form efficiently and without copying in other coding. On-screen notification of the application is provided, but no email.
All applications are assessed, first against the role requirements, and then compared to other candidates to compile a shortlist of suitable candidates to interview. Successfully shortlisted candidates will then face either video interviews, additional screening, and then are likely to spend a good deal of time taking part in various psychological tests.
Psychological testing allows the ASIO recruitment panel to assess a candidate's suitability for a role in the security services, where the candidate needs to demonstrate that they are not just capable of carrying out the job role in question but meet the additional demanding requirements of working for Australian national security and likely being unable to talk about this outside the workplace.
Personality tests are not assessing specific role-related knowledge but how the candidate's mind works and how they might behave in a situation, be that work, or otherwise, particularly one that may be outside of the candidate's comfort zone or in a situation they might be uneasy or unsure or under extreme pressure. The tests are designed to understand how a person thinks or reacts instinctively. They can take the form of questions, games, or both.
Spatial reasoning tests a candidate's ability to consider and manipulate shapes and objects in two and three dimensions. It tests the ability to find logic and patterns, which indicates the ability to assess and assimilate new information.
Logical reasoning tests assess a candidate's ability to problem solve, to use the information and to apply that logic to draw accurate conclusions. It can be multiple choice, or free-form, and uses rules and information to allow the candidate to draw conclusions which can then be applied to find answers.
Abstract reasoning is considering the hypothetical. Measuring lateral thinking an abstract reasoning test uses things like patterns and shapes to understand how a candidate thinks.
Used more often for technical roles, mechanical reasoning tests consider a candidate's ability to understand mechanical scenarios involving concepts such as friction, forces, acceleration, gravity, pressure and so on, usually in a pictorial form. A candidate might have to select which diagram is the next in a sequence of events, or the missing piece to achieve something etc.
This kind of test will depend on the specific role applied for but may test specific role-based skills required, for example, coding, or specific numerical skills not tested elsewhere.
Numerical reasoning tests a candidate's numerical aptitude and assesses ability in interpreting, analysing and then reaching conclusions using the information provided, usually in sets of data. This might take the form of tables, graphs or other pictorial data and then solve a written sum or problem. Candidates may be required to demonstrate basic maths skills such as fractions or ratios.
SJTs or situational judgement tests are essentially work-based scenarios and will likely vary depending on role and requirements. Scenarios are presented, either in written or visual form and then often a list of multiple choice answers from which candidates are invited to select which is the most or least likely action. With no outright correct answers, this allows recruiters to understand how candidates might apply ethics or other thinking to making decisions.
Diagrammatic reasoning tests are very specific skills tests used only in some job roles and require logical and abstract reasoning to demonstrate suitability for complex and technical roles. Questions are often built on each other, so candidates have to correctly solve a series of puzzles to reach a correct conclusion.
In-depth background enquiries
Crucial to a role in the security services is passing the in-depth background enquiries. Expect all social media and the online presence of both the candidate and immediate family to be scrutinised along with past records and job history.
Tips To Get Hired
Practice psychological tests
Although there is no specific knowledge to be learnt, candidates should be familiar with the types of tests that are likely to be taken and make sure that they have revised basic numeracy skills. Practice reading unfamiliar text, drawing conclusions, as well as logic puzzles, sequences and interpreting data - and make sure that it can be done fast and efficiently.
Don't tell anyone
Discretion is key here and the ASIO will need to be confident that candidates are able to act within the parameters of the security services. If a candidate can't even keep an application to themselves, they probably won't fare well in the role itself.
Do Your Research
Make sure that you thoroughly research the role, the selection criteria and all available open-source material about the organisation. Ensure that you have relevant examples to hand to demonstrate your suitability and that you have the facts or data or outcome to back up your examples. Thorough research and preparation is key.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
What are the requirements to join ASIO?
To be considered for a role you must meet the following ASIO requirements before applying:
- Be an Australian citizen
- Hold and maintain top-secret clearance
- Be willing to relocate
- Meet specific role requirements
How long does an ASIO application take?
The recruitment vetting processes vary but typically take up to 12 months.