Careers at MI5
MI5 is the United Kingdom's security service, protecting against threats to national security such as terrorism, espionage, and cyber attacks. MI5 currently employs around 4,400 people, based at their headquarters in London, as well as across the UK and several overseas countries.
MI5 provides excellent training and development, giving employees the opportunity to gain a wide range of skills and continue to develop throughout their careers. The MI5 internal academy offers training in areas such as IT, communication skills, and leadership.
Working at MI5 comes with an attractive salary and pension, and also plenty of benefits which make positions at MI5 highly sought-after.
Types of MI5 Jobs
Positions at MI5 are varied and span a range of different areas such as intelligence, technology, and languages. Roles are available to a variety of experience levels, including school leavers, students, graduates and experienced professionals.
School leaver programmes and apprenticeships allow young people to gain hands-on work experience, whilst also learning and gaining qualifications.
Internship programmes are offered to students in the summer after their penultimate year at university. Two programs are available, the technical internship, and the summer diversity intelligence internship. Both are 11 weeks in length, where students get stuck into meaningful work, allowing them to gain valuable insight into how the organisation protects the country. At the end of the internship, they may also be offered a full time position at MI5.
Graduate development programmes are also offered in a range of areas, allowing graduates to develop their skills in an interesting and rewarding organisation. MI5 receives approximately 10,000 applicants for only 60 places, so competition is fierce.
How does MI5 recruit?
MI5 seeks to recruit people from all over the UK, from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures. A common misconception is that you can't apply to work at MI5, and need to wait for a 'tap on the shoulder'. While this may have been true many years ago, now you can apply to MI5 on their careers website, much like any other job.
To be eligible to work at MI5, you must have British citizenship, and one of your parents must also be a British citizen or have good ties to the UK.
MI5 Application Process Stages
Working at MI5 will involve working with intelligence where the safety of the country could be in your hands. It is, therefore, no surprise that the recruitment process is rigorous and thorough, consisting of multiple stages, including initial questionnaires, vetting, psychometric tests, assessment centres, and interviews. This process typically lasts 6 to 9 months.
The first thing you will be asked to do is complete a series of pre-screening questions. MI5 uses this to determine if you meet the initial criteria. If you are eligible, you will be able to start your application.
Online Application Form
The first stage of your application is to upload your CV and complete an application form. Make sure you tailor your CV to the position you are applying for, using it as an opportunity to showcase why you are a good fit. The application form will also require you to answer some basic questions about yourself.
If your application meets the requirements for the position, you will be asked to complete a detailed security questionnaire, as part of the MI5 vetting process. Due to the sensitive nature of MI5's work, candidates must pass the highest government security clearance, called Developed Vetting (DV). The purpose of the questionnaire is to understand the individuals' behaviours, characteristics and circumstances to ensure they can be trusted to deal with sensitive government information or assets.
MI5 Psychometric Tests
MI5 will then review your application, and if you are successful you may be invited via email to complete a series of online psychometric assessments. MI5 uses situational judgement tests, verbal reasoning tests, and e-tray exercises.
Situational Judgement Test
The situational judgement test involves a series of hypothetical workplace-based scenarios which are related to the position you are applying to. You will then need to select from a set of multiple-choice responses which you feel is most appropriate for the situation. MI5 uses this test as an indication of your judgement and character traits.
Verbal Reasoning Test
The verbal reasoning test measures your ability to read, understand, and pull key pieces of information from an unseen passage of text. You will be given a series of statements, and be required to determine if the statement is true, false or cannot say based on the information in the text. This test is under timed conditions, so the challenge often comes with working quickly, but also accurately.
MI5 E-Tray exercise
In the MI5 E-Tray exercise you will be presented with an email inbox that is intended to simulate the workload and problems you may be presented with on a typical day. You are required to read and respond to tasks and requests in your inbox. MI5 uses this to determine how good you are at planning and organising, your ability to make decisions and prioritise, and how you communicate with colleagues.
If you are successful in the psychometric tests you will be invited to the assessment centre. This will involve a mix of individual and group activities to assess attributes like your communication skills, analytical ability, and problem-solving skills. The tasks you face throughout the day will vary depending on the position you are applying to, however, below you can find out more about some of the exercises you may come across.
For the written report, you will need to read, analyse, and evaluate a large information pack. Then, you must sift through and prioritise the key bits of information to write a response using the information you have been given. This is an individual task and will be under timed and exam conditions.
The group exercise will typically involve a small team of three to seven candidates, who will have to work together to complete a joint activity. The task will usually involve solving a problem or having a debate on an issue relevant to the role you are applying to. Throughout the group exercise, you will be observed by the hiring managers, who will be assessing you on both your own ideas, and your ability to work collaboratively as a team.
The final stage of the application process is a competency/panel interview with between two and four MI5 employees. During the interview, you will typically be asked technical and behavioural questions, which is where you should bring in relevant examples from your previous work experience or education. You may also be asked some questions relating to the vetting process.
How to Get Hired at MI5
Discretion Is Vital
When applying for a position at MI5 you must only discuss your application with a partner or close family member, who must be made aware of how important it is to remain discreet. Sharing anything about your application over social media or discussing it with anyone else could end your chances of being successful.
It's Not Easy
Working at MI5 will mean you are contributing to the safety and security of the country, therefore, it comes as no surprise that the application process is rigorous and thorough. MI5 requires you to pass the highest level of vetting in the UK (Developed Vetting), which involves extensive background checks and interviews, so you must be prepared for this if you want to make it into MI5.
Practice The Assessment Tests
Unsurprisingly, the best way you can prepare for the MI5 psychometric tests is to practice sample tests. Make sure to take each practice test under timed conditions to get used to the pace at which you will need to answer the questions. After completing a practice test, review your answers so you know what areas to focus on.
Expect The Unexpected
Being such a top security organisation, MI5 limits the amount they disclose about the hiring process. Therefore, you should expect the unexpected when applying to MI5.
In MI5, people generally change roles every two to three years, so be prepared to be adaptable to change, both in learning new skills and knowledge, and working with new people.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are People Allowed To Know You Work at MI5?
When working at MI5 you can only reveal your employer to your immediate family and are advised to limit the number of people you tell.
How Much Do MI5 Agents Earn?
The starting salary for the Intelligence Officer Development Programme is around £31,000, rising to around £34,000 after the first year. You can expect salaries to reach around £40,000 after five to ten year's service.
Is It Dangerous to Work For MI5?
Although MI5 protects the UK against threats to national security, typically working for MI5 is safe. However, you can put yourself and others at risk if you are careless, for example, exposing yourself as an employee, or disclosing sensitive information.
How Long Does The MI5 Recruitment Process Take?
The length of the recruitment process varies according to the role, but you can typically expect the process to take between 6 and 9 months.