Recruitment Process

Rigorous. Detailed. Totally fair. We approach recruitment in the same way as everything else.


Our recruitment process varies from role-to-role. But generally speaking, you would go through the following stages after you've clicked on the Apply button:

  • 1 Register on our website
  • 2 Tell us about your skills and experience
  • 3 Provide details on your immediate family
  • 4 Undertake tests (online or in person)
  • 5 Attend an interview
  • 6 Receive a conditional offer
  • 7 Go through our vetting process
  • Receive an offer and start date
  • Due to the complexity of our security checks, there may be periods of time when you don’t hear from us. But this is completely normal, and nothing to worry about. 


What is vetting

Owing to the sensitive nature of our work, we must be satisfied as to the honesty and integrity of our staff. We must also be satisfied that there are no significant vulnerabilities to the people who work here or to the organisation itself.

Our members of staff are likely to have access to sensitive information relevant to national security. Candidates are therefore required to obtain the highest form of security clearance required for government positions, Developed Vetting (DV).

The aim of vetting is to ensure that the character and personal circumstances of an individual are such that they can be trusted with sensitive government information or assets. We look at candidates very carefully before making a decision about their suitability to hold DV status.

Information provided and obtained during the vetting process will be treated in strict confidence and is held separately from recruitment information.


Advice to candidates

Discretion is vital. You should not discuss your application, other than with your partner or a close family member, providing they are British. You should also make them aware of the importance of discretion. You should not post on social media sites about your application or discuss it with anyone else at this stage. You will receive further guidance during the recruitment process.

Please note, you should only launch your application from within the UK. If you are based overseas, you should wait until you visit the UK to launch an application.


Vetting process

The vetting process involves completing detailed questionnaires, discussing these with a Vetting Officer and agreeing references for interview. It is important that you provide full and accurate information as any omissions can cause a delay to your application. If you are not sure how much detail to provide then more is preferable. You can use the various continuation sheets to help explain your position further.

Giving misleading information or omitting or concealing information during the recruitment and vetting process is viewed very seriously and would be seen as evidence of untrustworthiness. In such circumstances, your vetting clearance may well be refused, even though what you were seeking to conceal may not in itself have caused a problem. Your vetting clearance could be removed at a later date if the misleading information or omission subsequently comes to light.

Some initial vetting questions are included in the application stage and should be answered accurately, honestly and in full. Later on in the process, you will be asked to provide details about yourself, family, partner, friends and associates. You have to provide financial information and there will be a check with a credit reference agency. You will also have to provide information relating to your health and lifestyle which can seem intrusive, but it is necessary and the Vetting Officer will address this as sensitively as possible.

The information you provide is carefully considered in deciding whether you should proceed through the process. Vetting Officers are not employed to make moral judgements – they expect that people will have had varied life experiences and they will take a realistic view of modern life and its pressures. They are aware that life can be complicated and any difficulties that you have experienced will be carefully considered.

Vetting Officers deal with hundreds of cases each year and are trained to deal with any issues arising during the process. Each case is treated individually and great care is taken in coming to each decision.

Candidates undergoing security vetting are treated impartially and consistently irrespective of any disability they may have, or of their gender, marital status, age, ethnicity, religious affiliation or sexual orientation. GCHQ is an inclusive organisation and values having a neuro-diverse workforce and the vetting process reflects this.

We appreciate that many people will have experienced mental health difficulties at some point in their lives. No mental health condition will be an automatic bar to holding a DV, however, mental health difficulties will need to be fully explored. This could include an assessment by an appropriately qualified mental health professional, e.g. Clinical Psychologist.

Successful candidates will be given an unconditional offer of employment when their DV has been granted. For national security reasons, or in order to protect the confidentiality of independent sources, we will be unable to provide feedback on your application.



Yes. Your vetting will be reviewed at regular intervals during your career.


Drugs and criminal convictions

We have a strict no drugs policy which prohibits use, possession or supply of illegal drugs, including use of drugs that are illegal in the UK but are legal in some other countries. Misuse or abuse of prescribed medication or any other substance is also incompatible with holding security clearance which can be refused or withdrawn if this policy is not observed, so you should adhere to our policy from the point of application onwards. The point of application is the date you submit your application form. You will be required to undergo a drug test during the application process.

A criminal record would not necessarily preclude an applicant from gaining a job here. Each case is considered on an individual basis and all relevant convictions are taken into account.





Loyalty to the UK is vital so you need to be a British citizen to join us (dual nationality is fine too, if one nationality is British). At least one of your parents is also required to be either a British citizen or hold citizenship/nationality of one of the following: British Dependent Territory, British Overseas Citizen, Commonwealth, British Protected Person, British National Overseas, EEA, USA. If you’re married to, or cohabitating with, a partner who isn’t a British citizen, we’ll judge each case on its merits, taking into account factors such as the nationality concerned and the nature and duration of the relationship.



Usually, you need to have been a resident in the UK for seven out of the last ten years before applying for a role with us (but we assess each case individually). Common exceptions to this residency requirement include if you served overseas with HM Forces or as a representative of HM Government, if you were studying abroad, or if you were living overseas with your parents. If these apply, we will need references for the time you lived abroad and details of the countries you lived in.


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:

Working with and Leading Others

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.

Contribution to Delivery

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.

Managing the Customer Relationship

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.

Corporate Vision and Efficiency

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.

Change and Innovation

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.

Analysis and Decision-Making

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 this moves from Fundamental through Intermediate and Higher and up to Advanced, the difference is largely about the complexity of the decision that needs to be made, its impact, and the complexity of the environment in which the decision has to be made, ie is all the relevant information available, are there significant time pressures, are there downsides to all available options? Particularly at the higher levels, this competency is looking for someone who is prepared to make a decision and commit to some sort of action even if a measure of uncertainty remains.

Communications and Knowledge Sharing

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, we’re fully committed to equality and diversity. We welcome applications from everyone – regardless of age, experience, cultural background or sexual orientation. However, you do need to be a British citizen and have lived in the UK for the majority of the last ten years. We’re also a Disability Confident employer, which means we’re committed to ensuring a fair and proportionate number of disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for a role will be offered an interview. You can also request reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process.


There are qualification requirements to work here at GCHQ, which vary depending on the role you are applying for. Please see the job description for each role for further details. The majority of roles also allow equivalent qualifications to those listed on the job description. A useful table outlining what an equivalent qualification looks like in each country of the UK can be found here.


Departments and Roles at GCHQ