CIA comes to Yale in search of new recruits

I-banking just isn’t as attractive as it used to be. Some Yalies may forgo that analyst position with Goldman Sachs for an analyst position somewhere completely different — the Central Intelligence Agency.

“These days, you have to think outside the box,” CIA recruiter Bryan Peters said at an information session for students Thursday. He drew nine dots on the blackboard and then triumphantly connected the dots with haphazardly drawn lines. Thinking outside the box is exactly what the CIA is doing with recruitment these days.

Peters spoke to a crowd of about 60 prospective CIA employees, a number which represents only a small fraction of the growing amount of applicants to the agency. The increased interest, it appears, has been mutual, as the CIA has begun to step up its recruitment efforts to support the United States’ new intelligence needs since the Sept. 11 attacks.

This year, 750 Yale students — more than the CIA has seen in years — inquired about agency positions at the on-campus job fair held last month in Payne Whitney Gymnasium.

“The CIA used to be a very attractive draft dodge,” said H. Bradford Westerfield, the Damon Wells professor emeritus of international studies and political science. “It never really recovered after Vietnam, but now the CIA has the money to expand and there is a surge of patriotism in major colleges.”

Although most students do not cite patriotism as their reason for applying to the CIA, many did have their interest piqued by U.S. activity abroad.

“[In the aftermath of Sept. 11], I think the work will definitely be more exciting,” Olivia Wang ’02 said. “But I would have been interested in the job anyway.”

Although the CIA has no way of predicting student response to recruitment efforts, it is benefited by a slowing economy that has made seniors more insecure about their future and more inclined to jobs outside of the investment and consulting industries.

“It’s only getting more difficult to get a job,” Peters said. “The agency offers opportunities without the threat of being laid off.”

Representatives were vague in their requirements at the meeting, seeking to market the CIA as “every man’s corporation.” Among the desired characteristics listed were “strong interpersonal skills” and “knowing how to talk the talk.”

Behind the rhetoric lies a need to fill spots for specific skills that will help the United States gather information, and prevent information from being gathered.

“We’re going to be looking specifically for analysts and technology people,” said CIA spokeswoman Anya Meskin.

Still, officials were careful not to exclude anyone from being a potential CIA candidate, emphasizing the diverse, “family-friendly” work atmosphere of the job. Yet beyond the demolition of the box barrier and the allure of company picnics, the CIA manages to maintain its mysterious persona.

After many drawn-out sales pitches, including analogies to Ben and Jerry’s and an anagram using the word “mattress,” Peters got down to business.

The application process is complicated. After submitting a resume and being interviewed, applicants must pass background checks and polygraph tests.

“You have to bear your soul,” Peters said.

Once they are cleared by an adjudication that involves talking to friends and family of the applicant, they are potentially hired. Peters assured students that the process would be worth their while.

“The average CIA official makes $75,000 per annum,” he said. “But there are plenty who make more.”

Recruitment officials appealed to a Yalie love of academia at the meeting, emphasizing that the CIA offers constant educational opportunities. The agency will even pay for economics and computer science majors to obtain a master’s degree while they work part-time.

“We don’t want to sever your ties with academics when you come to the CIA,” Analyst Manager Chris Westbrook said. “We want people with advanced degrees and foreign language knowledge.”

Despite the benefits it tries to offer, the CIA’s recruitment success will ultimately come down to student decisions.

“I can’t predict it, and they can’t either,” Westerfield said. “If the war is a turnoff, then there won’t be patriotism, and if it isn’t, then there will be.”

Student reaction, however, appeared to be largely unaffected by world events.

“I started looking into this since junior year,” Lucien Lefcourt ’02 said. “I’ve wanted to do it for a long time because I just really like the process of investigation.”

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