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February 05, 2002
FBI Flooded With Applicants
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The FBI has a goal of hiring more than 900 agents in the next eight months, and judging by all the applications coming into its California offices, that should be no problem, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, one of the biggest problems facing the state's four major FBI offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento is sorting through the thousands of applications received since Sept. 11.

"It's busier than I've ever seen it," said Jan Caldwell, FBI spokeswoman in San Diego and an agent for 27 years. "And the quality of the applicants is just incredible. We are literally getting rocket scientists applying."

There are 500 applicants in the pipeline from San Diego alone, Caldwell added. "We have a tax lawyer and several doctors applying, one woman with a doctorate in philosophy, another with degrees in electrical engineering and
computer science," she said.

The FBI now has about 11,000 agents worldwide and typically gets 25,000 applications a year, Caldwell estimated for the Times.

"In the past, the spikes in people applying to be agents came from television or the movies," Caldwell said. "First came Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s FBI series. Then there was 'Silence of the Lambs.' In the '90s, it was 'X Files.' This time it was Sept. 11, and that obviously makes a difference."

Annette Nowak, recruiting agent for the Los Angeles office, told the Times that people "are thinking differently about the FBI now, I think. It's not just a law enforcement job now. It's people wanting to help America. It's a lot more personal."

In announcing the hiring goal for 2002, the FBI said its priorities are people with computer, engineering, science and foreign language skills, especially such languages as Arabic, Farsi, Pashtu and Urdu. But skills in Spanish, Russian,
Japanese and many other languages remain in high demand.

Nationwide, Nowak said, the FBI has had 19,000 job applications from people with language skills since Sept. 11. Many recruits are in the hiring pipeline, a difficult process of testing and evaluation that usually takes more than six
months.

"Without lowering our standards, we are trying to speed up the process where we can," Nowak said.

Most applicants are eliminated at the start of the process because they fail to meet basic qualifications. Agents, for example, must be at least 23.

The next step is a four-hour written test, which focuses on psychological traits as well as general knowledge. Then comes a physical exam and an FBI polygraph test, mostly on national security and drug use questions. About 20 percent of those who make it to the polygraph stage fail the test.

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