How to Apply
Applying for a job at GCHQ can be a fairly lengthy process. So we want to let you know why it takes a little longer than usual and exactly what to expect. Plus, we can offer you some fantastic support during the recruitment process. If you have a disability or neurodivergent condition and would benefit from any reasonable adjustments (like extra time), please contact our recruitment team. And, if you’re not sure how we can help, we’d still encourage you to get in touch. There may be other ways we can support you.
Before you apply, we advise you to consider setting up a separate email address for your contact with us, to ensure your personal and application correspondence remain separate. Try to avoid having identifying features in your email address, such as your first and/or surname and date of birth. This is good practice and will help you to manage your application with us more discretely.
While you can begin your application from a mobile, we recommend using a desktop or a laptop. It’s a thorough form and you’ll need to provide attachments.
You’ll need to register on our website and let us know a little more about your skills, experience and immediate family.
Then we’ll ask you to complete an online application form and you could be asked to complete an online test.
If you meet our requirements, you’ll be invited to attend an interview or assessment centre. If successful, we’ll then make you a conditional offer.
We’ll then start our security checks. During this stage, you’ll meet your Vetting Officer and we’ll contact your referees. On completion, you’ll receive your start date.
As Disability Confident leaders, we want you to feel comfortable and supported throughout the recruitment process. It’s why we make reasonable adjustments to ensure those with disabilities and long-term health or neurodivergent conditions can perform at their best. Our aim is to provide a level playing field; reasonable adjustments can reduce or remove any disability-related barriers or disadvantages that you might otherwise face during the process. These adjustments can take many different forms but often include things like: changing the colour of printed documents, allocating extra time for tests, adjusting room set-up or changing venues.
You might not know if/when you need adjustments, so we’ll provide prompts at stages throughout the process to ensure you have the help and support you need, when you need it. Simply let us know, and we’ll support you. Should you be offered a role with GCHQ, we’ll make sure to confirm with you any requirements you may need in the workplace, so that it becomes an environment where you can excel – and where your only focus will be the mission.
At GCHQ, we measure the aptitude of our staff and candidates against three key competency themes. We also have varying level requirements which depend on the role you are applying for. The competencies focus on behaviours rather than skills, knowledge or abilities. You can expect to be asked competency based questions at interview to ensure you are at the required level. A little more information about each of our competencies can be found below:
Seeing the big picture
I understand how my goals support and align with other teams and organisational objectives. I recognise wider priorities and ensure work is in the national interest.
Driving innovation and change
I seek out opportunities for experimentation and suggest ideas for change and improvement. I review and adapt ways of working to prepare for the future, including seeking and providing feedback.
I prioritise continuous learning and development for myself, others and the organisation. I recognise different contributions and embrace all learning, even when things do not go as planned.
Communicating and influencing
I engage and listen to the perspectives of others, respecting their needs, responses and opinions. I make sure I understand others and am prepared to adapt. I communicate purposefully with clarity, integrity and empathy.
I develop effective partnerships and relationships internally and externally, seeking out a range of diverse perspectives, sharing information, resources and support generously.
I show pride in my organisation’s work and role model our values. I create, engage and empower others to deliver a shared vision. I value equality, diversity and inclusion, ensuring fairness and opportunity for all.
Making effective decisions
I use data, evidence and knowledge to support advice and transparent decision making, taking account of compliance standards. I consider alternative options and consult others. I recognise bias and the implications and risks of decisions.
I take responsibility for delivering timely and high-quality results with agility, focus and drive. I plan, review and adapt my approach to meet priorities.
Providing customer value
I form an understanding of customers and manage their requirements. I deliver with professional excellence, expertise and efficiency, taking account of diverse needs and expectations.
What is vetting?
As you’ll have access to sensitive government information you will require the highest level of security clearance. This is known as Developed Vetting (DV). The DV process can be lengthy, but it’s our way of understanding whether it’s appropriate for you to have access to classified information and it ensures that we minimise any risks to you or us.
Advice to candidates
It’s really important that you’re discreet about your application. You should not post about your vetting application on social media and you should strictly limit who you tell. You should also only launch your application from within the UK. If you are based overseas and wish to apply, please contact our recruitment team.
Drugs and criminal activity
We have a strict no drugs policy. We don’t accept the use, possession or supply of illegal drugs, (including use of drugs that are illegal in the UK but are legal in other countries) or misuse of prescribed medication. You must adhere to our policy from the moment you submit your application form. You’ll also be required to undergo a drug test as part of your application. Having a criminal record isn’t necessarily a blocker to getting DV (working for our organisation), and each case will be assessed on an individual basis.
You’ll usually need to have been a resident in the UK for seven out of the last ten years before applying for a role with us. This is particularly important if you were born outside the UK. But we do assess each case individually. There are some common exceptions like studying abroad, living overseas with parents or serving with HM Forces. We’ll just need references for the time you lived abroad.
To be eligible to apply, you must be a British Citizen. If you hold dual nationality, of which one component is British, your application will still be considered.
You can apply at the age of 17 years. If successful, you will not be offered a start date prior to your 18th birthday.
About our vetting process
What does the process involve?
You’ll need to complete detailed questionnaires, agree referees and have an interview with a Vetting Officer.
The vetting interview is designed to ensure that the Vetting Officer can fully understand you and your life experiences. In the vetting interview you and the Vetting Officer will discuss your personal, professional and online life to date. The Vetting Officer will ask you to cover topics including, but not limited to, your family, friends, finances, health, relationships and lifestyle.
Your Vetting Officer will explore if there are any risks to you holding Developed Vetting and will work with you to mitigate those risks where appropriate. Some of the questions you will be asked will be personal in nature. Whilst some of these questions may be uncomfortable for you to speak about, please be assured that Vetting Officers are trained in how make the environment safe for you to have these conversations.
The Vetting team is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion and our promise is to treat you with respect throughout the vetting process. Any information that is obtained during the vetting process is treated in strict confidence and in line with our statutory obligations. Your vetting information is held separately from recruitment information.
Honesty is the most important part of the vetting process, so please be aware that deliberately withholding or minimising information about yourself might mean your clearance is refused.
What about referees?
Some of your referees may be contacted and spoken to either face to face or by telephone. We may also write to others. We won’t contact any of your referees before gaining your permission. If you are finding it difficult to identify a referee, don’t worry, you will have the option to talk it through with your Vetting Officer.
How do you make a decision?
We can’t go into details on how we make vetting decisions for national security reasons. However, each vetting case is put through an established and rigorous process before a decision is made on whether to grant or refuse Developed Vetting.
Will I get feedback on the vetting?
Unfortunately, we do not offer feedback on vetting applications due to considerations of national security. If your DV clearance application is refused you will not have the right to appeal the decision. However, you may appeal the vetting process itself if you think that something has gone wrong or if you feel that there were procedural issues. If your DV is granted, you’ll be given an unconditional offer of employment.
Do I have to maintain my DV?
Yes. Once you are granted DV clearance, it becomes your responsibility to maintain it. Our vetting team will be on hand to help you do this. You will have an ongoing relationship with vetting and your clearance will be reviewed at regular intervals during your career with us.
Our secrets are safe with you
Watch our video all about the vetting process, and learn more about how this helps ensure our secrets are safe with you.
Here at GCHQ, diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission. To protect the UK, we need a truly diverse workforce that reflects the society we serve. This includes diversity in every sense of the word: those with different backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, ways of thinking and those with disabilities or neurodivergent conditions. We therefore welcome and encourage applications from everyone, including those from groups that are under-represented in our workforce.
We’re also a Disability Confident employer, which means we aim to ensure that a fair and proportionate number of disabled applicants that meet the minimum criteria for a role will be offered an interview where practicable. You can also request reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process.
It was a really reassuring process.
I was quite anxious about the whole recruitment process. But the team understand that and help as much as possible. They’ve been through the same thing, so they know the kind of things that’ll cross your mind. And when you get to the vetting stage, your Vetting Officer will become a key contact. I was made to feel like there’s no such thing as a silly question. (Really!) So, to be honest, the whole process wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And when you remember where you’ll be working and what you’ll be doing, it’s worth the wait.