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.
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.
What is vetting?
You’ll have access to sensitive government information, so you’ll 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 suitable for you to have access to sensitive information. It also ensures that we minimize any risks to you, or us.
Advice to candidates
It’s really important that you’re discreet about your application. You shouldn’t post about your application on social media and you should strictly limit who you tell. You should also only launch your application from within the UK but 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 doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t consider you for DV as each case is judged 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. One of your parents must be a British Citizen or must have the nationality or citizenship from our approved list of countries*. If you hold dual nationality, of which one component is British, you will nonetheless be considered.
*Approved list of countries:
British Overseas Territory, British Subject, British National (Overseas), British Overseas Citizen, British Protected Person, citizenship of a country in the Commonwealth, citizenship of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA), or citizenship of the United States of America (USA).
You can apply at the age of 17 years and 6 months. 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 information you’ll need to provide will cover topics such as your family, friends, finances, views, health and lifestyle. It’s very comprehensive, but it helps us to get to know you as a person. We understand that everyone is human so all we need from you is honesty. Withholding or minimising information might mean your clearance is refused. Any information that is obtained during this process is treated in strict confidence and is held separately from recruitment information.
How do you make a decision?
We can’t go into details on how we make vetting decisions. However, when making a recommendation for DV, the Vetting Officer will take all your circumstances into account.
Will I get feedback on the vetting?
We unfortunately can’t provide feedback on the DV process in order to protect confidentiality. If your DV is granted, you’ll be given an unconditional offer.
Do I have to maintain my DV?
Yes. Your vetting will be reviewed at regular intervals during your career.
At GCHQ, we measure the aptitude of our staff and candidates against seven key competencies. We also have varying level requirements which depend on the role you are applying for. You’ll need to be able to explain how you successfully meet each of the competency requirements through your skills and experience, and 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:
Respects diversity and equality, is an effective team player and helps others develop.
This is really looking for evidence of how you interact with other people, how you use their skills effectively in getting the work done, how you value the different skills they bring and help them to develop new ones.
Adopts a business-led approach from planning to delivery, focusing on outcomes. Planning / prioritising / goal-setting, setting objectives, taking responsibility.
This is the one that relates to the effective planning and prioritising of work in order to achieve a single required outcome or, at the higher levels, outcomes on a number of tasks or projects, the requirements of which may conflict at times. It also looks at how well you identify and manage risks (eg security-related) that may affect your work.
Works closely with customers (internal and / or external) to define and meet their needs where possible and to manage their expectations
Providing service, understanding customers’ needs, managing expectations
This is about developing a good working relationship with your customers. Customers can be internal or external. Basically it is anyone to whom you provide a service. You have a responsibility to treat them with respect and to provide as a minimum the agreed level of service but also to be honest and upfront if you cannot meet their expectations and to try to sort out a mutually acceptable way forward.
Understands the importance of GCHQ’s work to the vital interests of the nation and uses. Departmental resources efficiently, effectively and legally.
This covers two elements:
- Understanding what the Department is trying to achieve and where you fit into that mission and also the legal requirements that impact upon us and the need to adhere to Departmental policy (in fact the ineffective behaviours on this one include trying to undermine policies and procedures and following one's own agenda rather than the Department's);
- Thinking about how you and others can make the most effective and efficient use of resources, including your own time and experience.
Is positive about change and innovation in developing the organisation to make it more flexible and creative. Positive response to change, better ways of working, impact on others of change.
This one is about having new ideas and working to implement them. Also being receptive to change around you and thinking about the impact that change may have on others.
Conducts appropriate analysis in order to make informed decisions quickly, effectively, and in keeping with Departmental policies. Objective, methodical approach; option / risk appraisal, uses others.
This covers two elements:
- Gathering and effective consideration of the relevant facts;
- Weighing up available options and coming up with decisions.
As your career progresses, this becomes about the complexity of the decision, its impact, and the complexity of the environment in which it’s made. It’s also about committing to actions and decisions.
Communicates information effectively and share information, knowledge and experience willingly and securely with others.
This covers two elements:
- Being able to communicate effectively, thinking about who you need to communicate with and thinking about the most effective and efficient method of communicating a given message. It is not confined to verbal communications but includes all communications paths.
- Looking for opportunities to share the knowledge you have with other people who would benefit from it and also encouraging others to communicate effectively.
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.