- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 26, 2006

The CIA scrapped a ho-hum test for steering job applicants toward mysterious careers, replacing it with one that’s cloaked in jest.

Invisibility or ESP? Jet pack or amphibious sports car? Walk the Great Wall of China or sip champagne at a New York gala?

The results from the CIA’s online personality quiz are just a few clicks away. Test-takers are diagnosed as daring thrill-seekers, thoughtful observers, curious adventurers, innovative pioneers or impressive masterminds.

The CIA wants to hire them all.

The quiz (https://www.cia.gov/ careers/CIAMyths.html) was designed to encourage job applications while dispelling myths about the agency, some of them born of the James Bond stereotype.

For instance, the CIA wants applicants to know that no one who works there drives a sports car with machine guns in the tailpipes. Successful applicants will, in fact, see family and friends again.

Also, according to the quiz, “you don’t have to know karate or look good in a tuxedo to work at the CIA.”

All fun aside, the hiring push began almost immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The effort picked up steam in November 2004, when President Bush called for a 50 percent increase in the agency’s ranks of operatives and analysts.

The president wanted twice as many scientists whose research combats terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The agency hopes to meet those goals by 2011.

One in seven of the CIA’s current employees signed up in the past year, and nearly 40 percent began working after the September 11 attacks — statistics at once helpful and troubling.

“This is the youngest analytic work force in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency,” CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said at his confirmation hearings in May. “In more disappointing language, this is the least experienced analytic work force in the history of CIA.”

The CIA stumbled as it stepped out of the shadows to recruit.

The agency rolled out black-and-white ads in 2002. Its television ads last year, aired during Washington Nationals baseball games, were so unassuming that fans might have thought their cable went out for 30 seconds if they headed to the kitchen for a snack.

Officials in charge of hiring realized they needed a new plan. They hired an ad agency, TMP Worldwide.

The “Bug Spot” was born. A snooping dragonfly zooms through the ad, showing how scientists at the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology develop Bond-esque devices — “technology so advanced, it’s classified,” the ad boasts.

The ad debuted on the Discovery Channel. The agency shortly received 3,500 resumes from applicants who said they had seen the spot.

An ad for the National Clandestine Service, the agency’s secret operatives, followed.

Now, the CIA is revamping its Web site. It is buying space on airport billboards and in movie trailers. It is taking out ads in publications from the Locksmith Ledger to Women’s Wear Daily to Arab Times, seeking applicants who can crack locks, create disguises and speak polished Arabic. It is reaching out to soon-to-be retired military officers.

The CIA also created the updated personality quiz, with a disclaimer straight from the legal department: “The Myths Quiz is for educational entertainment purposes only. … This quiz will not affect your ability to get a job with the CIA.”

The lawyers have company in not taking the quiz lightly. Some of the CIA’s traditionalists fear the agency is bruising proud, exclusive roots to meet the presidential directive. They worry that the CIA quiz and ads during “MythBusters” and other cable shows are too gimmicky.

In short, the traditionalists worry that the agency is sacrificing quality to get quantity. Last year alone, the CIA received 135,000 applications — more than double the number before the September 11 attacks.

Tom McCluskey, the CIA’s chief of hiring and employee development, heard the concerns firsthand at a recent gathering of the Florida chapter of the agency’s retirees association.

“Some of the old-timers grumbled, ‘Where’s the mystique? Where is the aura of mystery around what we do?’ ” Mr. McCluskey said.

Meanwhile, Congress is watching the recruitment efforts. The incoming chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, has said one priority is investigating whether the CIA has the right workers in the right jobs and ensuring the CIA has enough employees who are fluent in Arabic and other crucial languages.

Even if Congress holds agency officials’ feet to the fire in public, odds are it could help.

“We see spikes in applicants after bad stories,” said Betsy Davis, deputy chief of the CIA’s recruitment and advertising. “We see spikes in applicants after good stories.”

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