Tips for IC Job Seekers

Take Your Time; After All You Are Exploring Your Future

Visit individual Intelligence Community (IC) member sites to apply for jobs. Intelligence jobs are numerous and varied. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the specific qualifications each agency and position requires. This will help you discover where you will best fit within the IC. Visit www.intelligence.gov to find a list of IC agency employment websites. 

We also recommend you visit www.usajobs.gov, the official job site of the U.S. Federal Government. Start by entering "intelligence" into the search window, and then narrow your search from there. Trying different search combinations–including terms dealing with job title, job description, and agency name–will help you focus in on the available jobs that would be right for your skill set and interests. You can always contact a recruiter at any of the IC member agencies if you have questions regarding a particular position or where you might fit.

Things to do, and not do, when applying for Internships and Jobs

The mission of the University of New Mexico (UNM) National Security Studies Program is to ensure that interested students develop the knowledge, skills and relationships necessary to successfully compete for Intelligence Community and related national security careers.  Internships may jump start a career by opening doors to the agencies and the people who select candidates for job interviews and hiring.  This is written to help you, the NSSP scholar, in prepared as a guide to assist you in preparing for internship and job applications and interviews.

Things to Do

Cover letters are extremely important
 A good cover letter will help move you along to the next step, which is selection as an intern or interviewee.  The cover letter conveys your skills, interests and personality to the reader.  Below are some items to consider when writing the letter.

Style
Your cover letter should be in standard letter form.  It must be clear and concise, with a well-defined transition between each sentence and paragraph.  It is usually best to keep it to one page, using a 12 font with a line spacing of 1.5, and 1” margins around the body of the letter. Do not use slang, and very rarely are metaphors appropriate.  If using acronyms, spell them out the first time they are incorporated into the letter. Terms that are regularly used by the agency are acceptable, but ensure they are used in the proper context.  Use active voice when writing statements. Active voice is more direct and empowers the tone of each sentence. (If you are not sure, perform an internet search: ‘Active versus Passive Voice.’  Several good documents will appear.)  The style of the letter is a representation of your judgment, writing skill and thought process.

Keywords
Read the internship/job opening description carefully. Take notes on the language that it uses to describe the internship/job and the agency. Especially be aware of any minimum qualifications.  Mark any key words, and then try and work them into your letter.  An example would be a preferred qualification related to analysis of social media.  In your cover letter, you will write: “I have extensive experience with social media analysis, having attended NSSP seminars, and performed internet self-examine to ensure I do not post anything that keeps me from receiving a security clearance.” This is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to keep in mind throughout your job searches throughout your career.  Often time what you did specific to the requirement is not anywhere as important as using the key word. Many times a Human Resources person sorting through applications and will have very little knowledge of what the job or internship entails: their sole function at that time is to identify whether you meet the qualification, and they do that through the keywords.

Subject line
Always use a subject line to inform the reader what is in the cover letter.  If there is a job description and number, it should be placed in the subject line.

Opening paragraph
Write an opening paragraph that explains why you are applying for the internship/job. Include the position title, where you saw the posting and why you are a good fit for the position. This will help the Human Resources department evaluate your application accurately.

Tones and Words
Action words are critical. Employers look for short and succinct statements about the applicant's ability and skills. Common action words include: "managed," "communicated," "researched," "reduced" and "increased." Give examples of how your skills, experience and education match what the employer is looking for. Demonstrate these strengths with concrete evidence rather than just stating that you possess a particular skill.

List your qualifications, and stand out
Concentrate on specific and rare qualifications, credentials and accomplishments that will set you apart from others. . List scholar activities and note that UNM is an Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence.  Don't assume you will have an opportunity later to explain your qualifications if you don't list them in your letter, or that your resume alone is enough to earn an interview opportunity.

Proofread, proofread, proofread…and then proofread again
A careful review of your cover letter and application for grammar and spelling errors is critical. Some employers automatically disqualify a candidate whose job application cover letter contains errors. After you have finished proofing, slowly read it aloud, preferably to a listener.  The NSSP will be glad to proof read your letter and offer constructive feedback.

Agency contacts
Notify any contacts you might have in the agency that you are applying for an internship or job opening. They may be able to put in a good word for you so your application is read.

Things NOT to Do

Don’t be negative
Do not write anything negative. Keep a positive tone.

Don't lie
Don't lie in your cover letter or resume. Details can be checked at a later stage and the offer will be subject to your application being correct and honest.

Don't exaggerate
Don't exaggerate on the application form as whatever you write about you will be expected to talk about in an interview.

Don’t use standard copy and paste letters
Do not recycle the same cover letter with just changed names/position titles. Tailoring your cover letter and resume to the employer’s need may set you apart.

Interview Preparation

Do your research
Gather information about the organization and the position available. Try to specifically relate your experience to the duties the job opportunity entails.

Look at LinkedIn
You can learn a lot from LinkedIn, not only about a company, but also about the person who's interviewing you. If you know ahead of time who your interviewer will be, look her up on LinkedIn. Knowing a little bit about her can help you guide the conversation and show you did your homework.

Follow the organization's news
If the human resources manager mentions the organization's recent move and you stare at her blankly, she might consider you less deserving of the role than another candidate who has read up on the (major) organizational news and can speak on it intelligently. It pays to read the company's News tab, and certainly makes you look smarter.

Bring extra copies of your resume
Sometimes you'll be interviewed by more than one person, so having extra copies can ensure everyone sees your skills firsthand.

Practice general interview questions
Research and compile a list of general questions. Enlist a friend or a group of friends and colleagues to ask you sample questions and general queries. Here are some common ones:

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • Describe a situation when you took a leadership role during a difficult situation (Demonstrates leadership).
  • Describe a difficult problem that you tried to solve. How did you identify the problem? How did you go about trying to solve it? (Demonstrates problem solving)
  • Describe a time when you tried to persuade another person to do something that they were not very willing to do. (Demonstrates leadership)
  • Describe a time when you decided on your own that something needed to be done, and you took on the task to get it done. (Demonstrates initiative)
  • Describe a situation in which you didn’t meet your stated goal, how did you handle it? (Demonstrates character)

Handle logistics early
Have your clothes, resume, and directions to the interview site ready ahead of time. Arrive 10 minutes before the interview.

Be nice and respectful to everyone you meet
From the parking attendant to the receptionist and the secretary, you never know who might have influence with the hiring manager. The last thing you want getting back to her is how you snapped at the receptionist upon arriving for your interview.

Dress and accessories
Dress in clean, pressed clothes.  Do not wear sandals, denim pants, loud colors, strong perfume or distracting accessories or make up. Men should wear a tie.  Always carry a copy of your resume, a notepad and a pen with you (preferably in a folder). Carry some clean napkins/handkerchief and a small bottle of water in your handbag/office bag. Some cell phones buzz when put on silent mode, make sure to turn your cell phone off.  Tattoos are popular among people of the day, but they can be distracting. Dress accordingly. 

Conduct
Make sure to address your answers to each and every interviewer, and not just to the one who asked the question. Pay attention to everything that’s being said. Never look bored if one of the interviewers goes on talking for a while. Do not interrupt anyone. Always look positive, interested, and confident. When leaving, shake everyone’s hand. Make your hand shake firm but not bone crushing.

Pay attention to your body language and verbal presentation
Eliminate extra movements and verbal fillers, like “uh,” and “um.”  Do not use the word ‘like’ unless you intend to.  For example: “It was, like, a really difficult assignment, but, like, I was able to do it in, like, fifteen minutes.”  Make eye contact.

Ask questions during the interview
Being prepared and asking great questions about the internship/position and the agency shows your interest during the interview. Some of the common questions are –

  • What do you like best about working at _____?
  • What results are expected?
  • What specific problems are you hoping to solve during the internship period?
  • What communication style do you prefer?
  • Where are your previous interns placed now?

Have your own ideas coming in
They may not be that great, or ever acted upon, but look at the work that is undertaken and be prepared to have an intelligent conversation on different components that you would reflect upon, and why you would reflect upon them.  It is called taking the initiative.

Follow up by email and snail mail
We're so accustomed to instant communications, so either the same day or the day after your interview, send a quick email to your interviewer thanking her. This is also your opportunity to ask any questions you didn't ask in the interview. You should also consider sending a snail mail thank-you card. These are rare these days, so they are always positively received.

Good luck and remember to enjoy it.  When you enjoy things, they usually go better!