How to be a spy

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With MI6 advertising for recruits for the first time in its 97-year-history, how easy is it to become a spy? Ed Loveday (not his real name), who once interviewed for the secret service, gives his tips

  • How to be a spy

    The worst job interview Harry Palmer ever had (The Ipcress File)

  • I nearly didn’t make it through the door. No, literally. The doors in the place where I was interviewed (I’d love to tell you its name, but I had to sign the Official Secrets Act promising not to) were tall glass cylinders, and one half slid gracefully into the other – allowing you in – then clicked inscrutably back into place behind you so you were trapped inside. I still have no idea what kind of scanning took place for the ten seconds I remained in the transparent tube, but eventually the other half whispered open, and, disoriented, I walked into a security man. Luckily, the interview is much easier.

    DON’T

    be surprised by Mr Halliday‘Hello, I’m Mr Halliday,’ you may be told by your interviewer, ‘and these are my colleagues, Mr Halliday and Mr Halliday.’ Coincidence? A particularly bald-faced form of nepotism? None of the above. MI6 interviewers rarely reveal their real identities, so certain stock names are used by anyone involved in the selection process (Halliday is a favourite). The important thing is not to scream ‘impostor!’ and try to tear your interviewer’s face off like in ‘Mission: Impossible’ because he doesn’t look like the bloke who was introduced by the same name last time.

    DO

    have some stories up your sleeveI was asked for examples of times I had persuaded people to do things that they believed were wrong. In an effort to impress Mr Halliday, I made up something suave and worldly about talking my way past Nicaraguan border guards without a visa during my year off. Halliday asked me what country I was entering Nicaragua from, and I realised I had no idea which countries shared its borders (‘Um… the Philippines?’).

    DON’T

    admit to having told everyoneThere’s only one real reason people want to join the secret service: to pick up boys if you’re a girl, to pick up girls if you’re a boy, and to pick up boys if you’re a boy who went to public school (many in MI6 are). Halliday said that ‘even at this stage’ (this stage, presumably, being laughable fantasy) I shouldn’t tell anyone I’d been talking to the Secret Intelligence Service. The correct ‘cover’ (he actually used that word!) was to say I was applying for a job at the MoD – which is pretty stupid as it’s likely to attract nearly as much interest as MI6. I suppose not even the interests of national security can persuade spies to say they work for DEFRA.

    DO

    choose your referees carefullyUnlike other employers, MI6 actually checks. If it’s interested, it’ll ask for eight referees, who between them can cover your entire life. It’ll ask your colleagues about your alcohol consumption, your university friends about membership of political groups, your bank manager about your finances, your partner about drug use, and your schoolfriends whether they ever suspected you might be a sexual deviant. No real friend will be able to resist the temptation to say (for ‘a laugh’) that you’re a debt-ridden, cross-dressing, coke-snorting, revolutionary alcoholic. So best choose those you’re not actually that close to.

    DON’T

    mention the ‘B’ wordThey asked me why I wanted to work for the Service. I said, ‘Would it sound stupid if I said I sort of wanted to be like James Bond?’ They said yes it would. There was an uncomfortable silence. I didn’t get offered a job.

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Users say

7 comments
syd
syd

Maybe you're just stupid. You obviously don't have the smarts and intellegence to be a spy. So, why even look up how to be a spy if you're too lame to be one?

jake
jake

hi im 9 years old and i am an a spy and give tips just bcome one

japhet
japhet

I too have always dreamed of becoming a spy and the dream is still on.PLEASE SEND ME A GOOD REPLY.

jason mraz
jason mraz

check out my new song also my new girlfriend

Brooke
Brooke

hi want to b a spy but needs help douse any 1 know where i can find out facts !

shianne
shianne

im ten years old and i want to be a spy

MIss.noone
MIss.noone

these tips are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo stuipid