Careers At MI6
MI6 is the British Government's Secret Intelligence Service. They exist to stop terrorism, disrupt activity in hostile states, and give the UK an advantage in cybersecurity.
MI6 operates on a global level, with many employees working around the world using technology and espionage to keep the UK safe, however, a number also work at their headquarters in Vauxhall, London.
MI6 occasionally offers apprenticeships and internships, but mainly recruits experienced staff for specific roles.
Types Of MI6 Jobs
MI6 welcome applicants from all walks of life, and recruit in six main areas:
- Intelligence and security
- Business services
- Corporate services, including change management, law, and accountancy
- Science and technology
- Trades and services
- Language specialists
A quick look at the current openings page of their careers site will give you an overview of the wide range of careers available at MI6, as well as the high salary ranges and level of commitment to the work they require.
What MI6 Look For In Applicants
Whilst MI6 recruits an extremely broad range of professionals, they are committed to seeking out candidates who demonstrate three main characteristics.
Integrity, courage, and respect are central to MI6's values. MI6 recruits trustworthy candidates who can handle sensitive information, and enter into challenging and sometimes dangerous situations to obtain it.
MI6 encourages and admires differences. Diversity in skills, experience and points of view is essential to solving any problem, and MI6 employees must be able to collaborate with a team with a broad range of skills and insight to stay one step ahead of national security threats.
Finally, MI6 has a strict policy around drug misuse and medical wellbeing. From the point of application, MI6 requires that candidates are not using illegal substances, or misusing legal or prescribed ones. They are upfront on their website about this, stating that even if you have misused substances in the past, it is essential that you are honest and open about this.
Your medical history will be tested as part of the initial online application and assessments, and again in the final phase of the application, in which candidates will have to undergo the highest level of government security vetting.
MI6 Application Process Stages
Securing a job at MI6 can take up to 6 months, from the point of application to a formal offer. Progressing to each next stage of the application is dependent on you passing the former stage.
There are several Phases of the MI6 application process.
- Registration and Eligibility
- Online Application And Assessments
- Competency-Based Tests
- Assessment Centres
- Competency-Based Interview
- Security Checks, Medical, and Vetting
Registration And Eligibility
To begin an application to MI6, first, you must register online and complete an assessment of your eligibility criteria.
To be considered for a role at MI6 you must be a British citizen and have been resident in the United Kingdom for at least seven of the last ten years.
There are some exceptions to this rule, including if you have studied abroad, been posted overseas with the armed forces, or living with your parents overseas, however, in any case at least one of your parents must have British citizenship.
If you hold dual nationality, you may be required to relinquish your second passport if you are offered a job with MI6.
Online Application And Assessments
The online application uses Cubiks verbal reasoning tests. These are quick-fire online tests that can be taken at home on a digital device.
They examine how a candidate processes and reasons with different kinds of information. Although some websites state that MI6 uses Cubiks verbal reasoning assessments, MI6 does not make it clear what these tests will contain from their website. Nor do they encourage practice for them, therefore it is best to prepare for verbal reasoningtests, situational judgment tests and competency-based tests.
Cubiks Verbal Reasoning Tests
The advanced Cubik's verbal reasoning tests take 20 minutes and have 30 questions. Each question has a paragraph, diagram, or table containing verbal information which is relatively complex. Following each question are multiple-choice answers.
These questions evaluate how a candidate can wrangle with complex information under a strict time constraint. Marks will likely be subtracted for incorrect answers, and once a question has been answered, it cannot be returned.
Situational Judgement Tests
The situational judgment tests present candidates with a series of varied decision-making scenarios.
There are two types of questions on the situational judgment tests. The first asks you to rate how effective a certain response to a situation would be, and the second asks you to rank a series of responses in order of most effective to least effective.
Cubik's example site does not explain how many questions are on this test, or how long they might take.
If you are successful in completing the online assessments, you will be invited to fill in a more detailed online application which will include some competency-based testing.
These are cognitive ability tests designed to evaluate overall IQ.
The competency-based tests examine how you process and reason with verbal, numerical, logical, and abstract information quickly. The test takes 12 minutes, with four minutes per section, and there are 50 questions. This means questions have to be answered very quickly, with just under 15 seconds for each.
As well as this, this is the time where you will detail your academic and work history, and achievements.
Following the online application, if you are selected you will be invited to an initial half-day assessment centre. This is an opportunity for the team at MI6 to assess how you work alone and with other applicants under pressure, how well you fit into the environment, and how well you present yourself in person.
The half-day assessment center comprises participating in a mock work-based scenario, and more cognitive testing.
At the end of the half-day, candidates who meet the recruitment criteria will be invited to a competency-based interview.
The competency-based interview is an in-person interview during which candidates must answer competency questions in conversation with an interview panel.
The competencies that are evaluated are similar to those evaluated in the previous tests, however, candidates are answering questions in front of an audience.
If candidates are successful, they will be invited to a much more challenging two-day assessment centre.
Security Checks, Medical, And Vetting
Candidates who succeed in all these steps will be given a conditional job offer. After this, candidates undergo a thorough background check.
There are four levels of government security clearance:
- Basic check
- Counter-terrorism check
- Security check
- Developed Vetting
Most roles at MI6 will require candidates to pass the developed vetting process. Because of this, it is extremely important that you are fully honest throughout your application process, and spend time in advance of applying considering how your previous behaviour may impact your chances of securing a role in the secret intelligence service.
Tips To Get Hired At MI6
1. Meet The Eligibility Requirements
MI6 is upfront about its requirements on its website. There is no point in applying for a role if you do not meet them. You must be a British citizen and hold a British passport, have not lived overseas for more than three of the last ten years, have at least one British parent, and have a clean medical and criminal record, with no evidence of substance misuse.
2. Prepare A List Of Employment And Education References
MI6 is likely to ask for references from all of your previous employers, universities, and schools as part of your background check.
If you are applying to MI6 as an experienced candidate, you must gather these in advance, so you can complete the online application accurately within the timeframe allowed.
3. Practice Cubiks Verbal Reasoning Tests
Unlike many online psychometric testing providers, Cubiks provide very clear example questions for each type of their tests. It is important to familiarise yourself with the format and content of these questions. If you feel you need further practice for verbal reasoning tests, you can seek out practice questions that are similar in style to Cubik's questions, and then practice against the clock.
4. Be Adaptable
The MI6 website makes very little clear about the content of the application process, assessment days, and testing. Depending on the role you apply for, the skills required will vary, however, all MI6s roles will require a level of emotional detachment and adaptability, as they respond to quickly changing security threats. Be ready to demonstrate that you can apply a broad range of skills under pressure to a variety of tasks and situations.
5. Expect The Unexpected
Arrive in the application process for MI6 with an open mind. MI6 famously recruits some of the brightest minds in the country to approach highly complex problems with a diverse range of skills.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Difference Between MI5, MI6, And MI7?
MI5 is the UK's secret service, and MI6 is the Secret Intelligence Service. MI5 exists to tackle security risks from within the UK, and MI6 works overseas to glean information from other intelligence and security threats and protect the country from global infiltration.
MI7 no longer exists. They were a part of the press and propaganda sections of the national security service during the second world war.
Crucially, MI5 and MI6 have completely different application processes. When applying for MI6, you will not be transferred to MI5 if your skills are more suitable for a role in their organisation. They work separately.
How Do I Become an MI6 Spy?
Not all roles at MI6 involve espionage. In fact, most roles at MI6 are business functions such as accounting, HR or law.
If you are specifically interested in working in an intelligence or espionage role, check their jobs listings website regularly. It may be that you need to work in an intelligence apprenticeship or internship before you can apply for a role with MI6's intelligence team.
Is It Dangerous To Work For MI6?
It can be. As part of the application process for MI6, you will be placed in work-based scenarios, and, at MI6, this can involve obtaining information from dangerous individuals or entering conflict zones or hostile states.
If you are working in the business divisions of MI6, your work is less likely to endanger you or your family.
Can MI6 Agents Tell Their Family?
MI6 agents are allowed to disclose to their immediate family that they are working for MI6 but are not allowed to discuss the nature of their work.
As many MI6 agents may be expected to take their family overseas, their families must be aware of their role, but not privy to sensitive information.
From the point of application, you are not allowed to disclose your intention to work for MI6 to anyone except your immediate family. There is no point. MI6 has access to all of your information. They will know if you have disclosed information, and your application will be terminated.
Is It Difficult To Get Hired At MI6?
Yes. Salaries for all MI6 roles are well above the average. MI6 famously headhunts at the UK's most competitive universities and looks for flexible, reliable, and highly motivated individuals who can be trusted to carry out challenging work under pressure.