Britain’s MI6 spy agency seeks evolved candidates in first TV recruitment advert

MI6 is keen cast off its macho James Bond image and recruit a more diverse workforce to the secret service. (Reuters)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Britain’s MI6 spy agency seeks evolved candidates in first TV recruitment advert

  • MI6 has reported an upsurge in interest from applicants following intrigue over the Salisbury nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, blamed by Britain on the Kremlin.
  • A senior director of the service said that bringing in a more diverse workforce would help counter the dangers of “group think.”

LONDON: Britain’s MI6 launched its first TV advertising campaign on Thursday as part of a bid to cast off its macho James Bond image and recruit a more diverse workforce to the secret service.
The brief commercial features a shark gliding through the waters of an aquarium in a shot deliberately intended to evoke the spy thriller genre.
“We are intelligence officers but we don’t do what you think. It is not keeping your cool in the shark tank, it is picking up the silent cues that matter,” a voiceover intones.
The camera then cuts to a child who steps back in fear before turning to his mother who sweeps him up in her arms.
“Understanding others. Helping them see things differently. It’s exploring the world beyond your own. And if that sounds familiar it’s because you do it every day.”
It ends: “MI6 — secretly we are just like you.”
The advert is intended to showcase the “soft” skills the service requires from new applicants and will be shown as part of MI6’s drive to recruit 800 new staff by 2021.
“The concept was to play on the Bond image but to explain very clearly that this was not James Bond,” said the agency’s head of recruitment, a mother with 20 years in the service whose name was not disclosed.
“In many respects the people we are recruiting have sets of skills that are common to many people in the population.”
She said they were looking for new intelligence officers who had a “blend of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills” combined with a “strong sense of integrity and creativity.”
Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service — the formal name for MI6 — has reported an upsurge in interest from applicants following intrigue over the Salisbury nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, blamed by Britain on the Kremlin.
However according to the latest official figures of March 2016 only 24 percent of senior staff and 38 percent of non-senior staff were women, while there were no BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) members among the senior ranks and they accounted for just seven percent of the non-senior staff.
A senior director of the service said that bringing in a more diverse workforce would help counter the dangers of “group think.”
“We are looking for people who are brave enough to speak up,” he said.


Mystical connection: The African village where crocodiles are welcome

Updated 7 min 2 sec ago
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Mystical connection: The African village where crocodiles are welcome

BAZOULE, Burkina Faso: Crocodiles may be one of the deadliest hunters in the animal kingdom, but in a small village in Burkina Faso it is not unusual to see someone sitting atop one of the fearsome reptiles.
People in Bazoule, around 30 kilometers from the capital Ouagadougou, share their pond with more than 100 of the razor-toothed creatures.
“We got used to the crocodiles when we were young, swimming in the water with them and all that,” said Pierre Kabore, just a few meters (yards) away from a crocodile feasting on chicken provided by the village.
“Now we can always approach them and sit on them — and if you have the courage, you can lie on them too. There’s no problem, they are sacred crocodiles. They don’t do anything to anyone.”
According to local legend, the startling relationship with the predators dates back to at least the 15th century.
The village was in the grip of an agonizing drought until the crocodiles led women to a hidden pond where the population could slake their thirst.
“The villagers organized a party to celebrate and thank the reptiles,” Kabore said.
A celebration known as Koom Lakre is still held every year during which villagers make sacrifices and ask the animals to grant their wishes of health, prosperity and a good harvest.
Far from being considered a threat, the crocodiles are deemed to have a mystical connection with Bazoule.
“Crocodiles are represented as the soul of our ancestors and if one of them dies, they are buried and even given a funeral as if they were human,” said Kabore.
“When a misfortune is about to happen in the village, they cry out. Elders are charged with interpreting the cries, and then make wishes to ward off bad luck.”
The unusual contact between man and croc has drawn disbelieving tourists to the village to see for themselves.
On their arrival, travelers can buy a chicken which is hung on a stick by a guide and used to entice the crocodiles out of the pond so that visitors can pose with the creatures.
“It was nice to watch from a distance but sitting on one was a bit freaky,” said Thomas Baspin, a young Frenchman who came to visit his grandparents in Burkina Faso.
“I’m glad I did it — but I’m also glad it’s over!” he quipped.
Tourism has become a big money-spinner for the impoverished villagers, but a three-year-old jihadist insurgency in Burkina Faso is taking its toll.
Ouagadougou has come under attack three times, most recently in March, when jihadists attacked the military headquarters and French embassy.
“We could have more than 10,000 visitors per year but at the moment, there’s no more than 4,000 or 5,000,” said Raphael Kabore, one of the guides.
Global warming is also believed to be having an impact. Rainfall levels are down each year, and the famous pond that is the crocodiles’ home is shrinking. When it disappears, will the reptiles once more guide their human friends to a new watery home?