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MI5 recruitment: Wanted... the man with the golden (staple) gun


It’s ’elf ’n’ safety gone, well,  a bit 007. MI5 has offered a new, partial glimpse of what recruitment looks like when your business is state secrecy. A job ad on its website seeks a new head of health and safety. The salary: £60,000. But don’t expect to learn much else.

Splitting the following into separate, punchy lines, the ad starts: “We can’t show you the buildings. We can’t talk about the people you’ll work with. We can’t tell you much about the job. We can’t give you  the exact locations. We  can’t mention the kind of technology involved. Is it  still a risk worth taking?”  For 60 grand? I’d say yes, but while the above sounds intriguing, the rest of the ad paints a picture that’s more  hi-vis and risk assessments than martinis and Walther PPKs (unless, of course, it’s written in spy code rather than the sort of recruitment jargon James Bond never had to deal with): “You’ll also liaise with internal and external stakeholders...  You must be CMIOSH”.

CM-what? It’s boring: a chartered member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health). The Security Service increasingly struggles to sell itself to would-be 007s in a real world of grey offices and spreadsheets.

When you’re the Bond people, do you embrace a glamorous association and risk alienating people who aren’t into guns and baccarat, or keep it real? Last year, MI5 launched a recruitment campaign designed to tackle the image of MI5 portrayed in Spooks, the BBC series known for its far-fetched plots. An online test presented a humdrum scenario and a list of options. Those who picked the right ones were sent a list of vacancies.

In the case of the health  and safety job, the message  is as confused as it is vague. What it suggests above all  else is that HR at MI5 has already filled the role of Job Descriptions Writer (background in public relations/ spy novels favourable).