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DJ Here's How the CIA Is Trying to Attract More Diverse Millennial and Gen-Z Talent

· 02/04/2021 14:54
By WSJ Noted.

The Central Intelligence Agency is using public tools such as social media outreach, video advertisements and LinkedIn in its efforts to woo younger recruits, but it faces obstacles to attracting millennials and Gen-Zers. Meanwhile, candidates who do pursue jobs with the agency should prepare for a rigorous vetting process, which could take a year or longer.


1. Younger generations are more skeptical of the CIA than older ones, polling shows.

Some people who grew up amid the post-9/11 War on Terror might have a less rosy picture of the CIA than older generations. Richard Solomon, a 24-year-old graduate of Indiana University who majored in international relations, said: "This sexy image I had as a child, of undercover CIA agents kind of saving the world, slowly eroded and was replaced by knowledge of torture chambers." The CIA operated secret prisons known as black sites to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists after 9/11. The Senate Intelligence Committee said some of the interrogation techniques used there amounted to torture in a 2014 report. According to a 2014 Pew survey of 1,001 American adults, 44% of respondents under 30 believed that the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation practices were justified, compared with 60% of those over 50. The CIA declined to comment on the prisons. In 2014, then-director John Brennan declined to label any of the techniques as "torture," but described some unauthorized interrogation methods as "abhorrent."

2. The agency faces competition from the private sector.

Sheronda Dorsey, the CIA's deputy associate director for talent, says STEM talent is a hiring priority. "We know that we have deep competition for talent in the STEM field, and especially where they can offer higher compensation packages." The CIA uses the government's standardized General Schedule pay scale. Messaging is also a challenge: In the past, the agency may have been able to rely on a single unifying mission -- such as fighting al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks -- to recruit candidates, but today's foreign policy arena is more diffuse. Additionally, recruiters can't tell candidates specifically what they accomplish because of the confidential nature of the agency's work.

3. The CIA is seeking to diversify its workforce.

Dorsey says the agency is seeking to attract candidates of more diverse backgrounds. While there are no specific benchmarks, she says the agency hopes to increase racial, cultural, disability, sexual orientation and gender diversity so that its workforce is "reflective of America." An internal demographic survey of those employed in the intelligence community, which comprises 17 bodies including the CIA, found that 26.5% of them were minorities in the fiscal year 2019. Douglas London, who retired from the CIA in 2019 after 34 years and sat on CIA promotion and hiring panels throughout his career, says getting hired was one thing, but continuing to work there as a minority could present challenges. He says that in the clandestine Directorate of Operations where he worked, there was resistance to matching nonwhite officers to certain assignments. "It was not uncommon to hear an assertion like, 'You can't send a Black officer to Paris or Riyadh,' whereas there was no hesitation assigning a white officer to Baghdad," he says. But he doesn't believe these norms to be insurmountable obstacles and maintains that the CIA is a "sensational place to work." The CIA declined to respond to London's comments.

Read the original article by Krithika Varagur here.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 04, 2021 14:54 ET (19:54 GMT)

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