A Beginners Guide to CIA Internships

Believe it or not, you don’t have to “break into” the CIA to know what goes on inside. There is a better and a legal way to get a flavor of the inner workings of the Agency. And that can be through an internship.

While there may be a number of things still secretive about the Agency, at least this is no secret anymore that CIA only hires qualified professionals as interns.

Ten Facts about interning with the CIA:

1. Internships and Co-ops - CIA offers internships and co-op programs to not only undergraduates but also graduate students.

2. Paid Internship - The internship is paid. CIA not only pays its interns, but may also pay for transportation, and relocation in the Washington, DC area. You will have to move to the nation's capital or its adjoining areas to intern with the Agency. Sorry, no exceptions.

3. Application deadline - You will need to apply online and that too on time. For example, if you are an undergrad looking to intern with the Agency for summer 2014, you will need to file your application by October 31, 2013.

4. Clandestine Service - Interns can work in CIA’s clandestine service. CIA also offers internships in its various programs like information technology, human resources, engineering, cyber security and others. But its clandestine program remains the hottest (isn’t that the reason why you came here). The deadline for the National Clandestine Service Internship is also different from others.

5. University Majors - CIA's internships are for all majors including graphic design, geography, human resources, logistics, finance, accounting, physical sciences, economics, etc.

6. Americans Only - CIA hires only US nationals. Other requirements include having a GPA of 3.0 or better. It is even better if you have lived abroad and speak a language or two other than English. Once you have applied and the Agency has shown interest in you, your background will be investigated and you will be subjected to medical/polygraph examinations.

7. Graduate Interns - If you apply as a graduate student and are selected, you will either work at centers of CIA Directorate of Intelligence or analytic offices. Your main job would be to research, analyze, write and brief on international events and developments, while working in a team. So if stuff like the Navy SEAL raid on Al-Shabaab errorists in Somalia interests you, perhaps you should think about interning with the Agency.

8. Two-Way Street - Remember what a 13th century Persian poet Rumi said: "What you seek is seeking you". While you are testing waters by way of interning, the folks at CIA are also evaluating you as a future employee; it is a two-way street. Do not take the application process for granted, it is serious stuff. Many would describe CIA jobs as less than "normal".

9. Dead End - The information above was not to freak you out. Did you know that Anderson Cooper was an intern with the CIA? Getting selected as a CIA intern does not mean that you are stuck. Even if you like being an intern and given that your employers like your work and offer you a full-time position that does not mean that you are bound. You are free to move on to better and finer things in life (no pun intended).

10. It is Cool - Interning with the CIA just sound cool, if nothing else (it’s just like having a Jaguar: car that is). Imagine your buddies from college interning for the United Nations, State Department, Brookings Institution and others. Sitting among friends and having a beer, who do you think is going to get the envious look and female attention?

So you have applied and have been short-listed for the interview, how to prepare for the interview?

How to bag that internship?

What they ask during the interview is not public knowledge or something available on the Agency’s website. But common sense suggests that the Agency’s internship interview should not be taken as a regular interview. So the following are the Top-10 recommendations to ace that prized internship:

1. Know thy Employer - Instead of location location location, for this interview it is, CIA CIA CIA. Logging onto the Agency’s website is free and legal. The website is comprehensive, therefore before you walk into that room, know what you are walking into; know what the Agency does.

2. Homework - As mentioned above, the Agency hires interns for various programs. Research the position you have applied for and be ready to answer questions

3. Stick to the basics - Stick to the resume and know its contents like the back of your hand.

4. Say it like you mean it - Always put your case forward rather than letting the recruiter do the thinking for you. If you want them to know something about you, say it, do not imply.

5. Be organized – Make more than one copy of your resume and other supporting documents and put them neatly in a folder. Being clean-shaven and wearing wrinkle-free clothes is fine, but you need to be organized otherwise as well.

6. Good manners - A greeting with a smile, firm handshake, and eye-contact, will definitely get you some brownie points.

7. Body language - Do not slouch. Sit up straight. Be attentive and listen to the recruiter(s).

8. Be yourself – Do not try to be someone else. Remember you are being interviewed by pros and you never know what is going on in an interviewers mind. So just be honest!

9. Follow up – By writing a thank you note. It is better if you mail the note. But as an alternative, emailing may be a good option too.

10. Be punctual, but do not arrive too early – Pretty commonsensical like the rest of the list, isn’t it?

Watching James Bond and Jason Bourne movies is easy, becoming one is hard, really hard some would say. Apart from the fact that getting employed by the likes of CIA is hard, what many applicants fail to realize is that the job may not be for them in the first place. Therefore get your foot in the door by first interning with the Agency, then deciding if it’s for you.

A small note: Just like other employers, CIA also keeps a close eye online. So make sure your comments are smart, you never know you might impress “someone”.


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