March 2010 – The CIA Interview

I’m at work (not on travel yet), but making business travel plans for the following week.  My cell phone buzzes with an urgent email notification.  It’s from the CIA!  There are several people cc’d on the email, who I think I’ll eventually meet.  They want me to interview at the Dulles Discovery Building in Chantilly, VA, all expense paid.  The interview is for a position titled “TIO Tech Dev”, which I will find out means Technical Information Officer Technical Developer, within the Directorate of Science and Technology (DST).  Neither the position nor the group inside DST (The Engineering Development Group) that is interviewing is posted on the CIA careers website.  And the DST division wasn’t even at the career fair that I recently went to.  Strange.   I call them to confirm, chat with the recruiter, and get a second email with all the details and some forms to fill out and sign.  This would be a foreshadowing of many more detailed forms that I would be filling out in this and other processes.  The interview is schedule for next week.  Wow, talk about last minute!  Luckily, the interview date will be the day after my company business travel so there should be no travel conflict.  I tell my supervisor that I want to change my flight dates for personal reasons, which is at no cost to the company, and I make the arrangements.  Perfect!  Like the Brainbench tests, I never find out if this interview is the result of my online application, or from me spamming my resume to CIA recruiters.  I will later find out that the position that I’m being interviewed for is not one of the positions I selected when I applied online (they let you apply up to 4 positions at a time when applying online).  Maybe someone saw that my background was a better fit for another position? 

After my business travel, I head straight to the CIA building in Chantilly, VA and settle in my hotel.  I go over my interview questions and answers and feel well prepared, but I’m nervous as hell!  I reserve a cab and have to direct them to the interview site because it isn’t on a map and not many people know about it.  I do this to the best of my ability without slipping up and saying “CIA” at any time, thinking that the foreign cab driver may pull out his AK-47 and assassinate me on the spot.  There sure are a lot of foreigners in the Northern VA area.  I wonder if any of them are spies or terrorists.  I arrive at my interview site, check in, and head up to the waiting area.  As I check in, I notice there are spaces on the sign-in sheet to select things like “medical”, “polygraph”, and other appointments.  This must be where the security processing also takes place.  When signing in, applicants are instructed to print their first name and last initial only.  I notice that whoever signed in above me entered his or her full name.  This person deserves to get the ax instantly for not following these simple directions.

The recruiter who emailed me the interview details is the one who calls my name in the waiting area and escorts me back for my interview.  I get to put a face with a name, cool.  Little do I know that I will never see her again.  The interview room is nice, I don’t spot a hidden camera (if I did, that would defeat the purpose of a “hidden” camera), and consists of 3 people who will be grilling me: a hiring manager and two employees who look younger than me, but I’ll find out later that they are much older than me.  What’s also interesting is that the employees are in jeans and dingy shirts and I’m in my best suit!

I’m asked several administrative questions about my citizenship, security clearance history, and the like.  Then we get down to the interview.  Standard questions for only about 30 minutes.  Have you ever done this, been in that situation, and describe your experiences with blah?  I’m asked about why I want to work for CIA.  I’m asked about leadership experience, how I dealt with certain situations, about my technical skills in programming and such.  Then they ask if I have any questions for them. Of course I do!  I have them all typed up in my notebook and I begin to ask and take down notes.  This job sounds very exciting and I would love to work here.  They seem like nice people appear to like me.  I leave feeling like I nailed the interview, though I stumbled on one or two questions that they asked.  I check out, receive my reimbursement, and prepare to head home.  The very next day I send a thank-you email to all of the email addresses that were on my interview emails.  The email addresses are strange and don’t really give the names of the people associated with them, but I’m sure they know who I am.

Unlike college students who interview at school and career professionals who apply, I never had an “Information Session”.  I read about these things online and they seem to come hand-in-hand with an interview, but I didn’t get one.  Maybe my position is too secretive to be discussed in a public info session?  After all, it isn’t posted online.  For the next month I will be sitting around waiting to hear the status of my interview.  I’m a bit worried that I’ll be rejected yet again and doubt starts to fill my head.

One thing I should mention now is that, I’m black.  This isn’t a big deal right?  Well, the CIA seems to have a diversity initiative now that is prevalent.   My recruiter, hiring manager in my interview, and one of the employees were all white females.  The other employee in my interview was a Middle Eastern male.  The career fair recruiters were black females.  I have yet to meet a white guy in this process, which is odd given the demographics of corporate America.  Coincidence?  Maybe….

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