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Agent Handlers

People from a range of different backgrounds and previous careers join MI5 as Agent Handlers (also known as Operational Intelligence Officers). This is an exciting and challenging role at the forefront of MI5’s intelligence gathering efforts. Agent Handlers (Operational Intelligence Officers) work covertly with agents who provide information critical to protecting national security. Agents are not employees of MI5, but people who have information relating to threats facing the UK, that we would not otherwise have access to. Agent Handlers work closely with these agents to gain intelligence that assists our Intelligence Officers (Investigators) with their investigations into specific threats, such as from a terrorist network or foreign spies.

The Role

Agent Handlers recruit agents and work with them covertly on an ongoing basis. Agents are from a wide variety of backgrounds and our Agent Handlers need to build productive and trusting relationships with them. Agents also often have different perspectives to our staff and working with them can be a complex and challenging task, that requires resilience. This is especially so, given that these relationships are secret. Our Agent Handlers are trained to work in this context, eliciting information and deploying persuasion and negotiation to secure, at times, life-saving intelligence.

A typical day might involve working with our Investigators to look at an individual’s pattern of life, in order to plan a recruitment approach. It could involve briefing operational teams prior to an agent meeting, ensuring you, the team and the agent are kept safe. It could involve speaking to an agent on the phone about a personal problem getting in the way or his or her work, or you might attend a meeting with a regular agent who has some new intelligence on a terrorist group.  Some days might begin by reprioritising your work based on a last-minute requirement to gain intelligence on a specific and time-sensitive threat.  Other days might be spent liaising with colleagues in the police over issues related to your work, or updating your senior management over the direction of one of your cases. Agent Handlers also spend time making sure their work complies with the laws governing our agent work and completing related paperwork.

Who we are looking for

We are not looking for a specific sort of person or background for the role, but you must have proven your ability to work with people from a wide range of backgrounds and build productive relationships with them.  You will need to show your ability to empathise with others whilst remaining robust and have the analytical skills to separate fact from comment and avoid being deceived. You will be able to solve complex problems, assess risk and make balanced judgements about people and situations.  You will also be able to work autonomously, but balance this with close team collaboration.  Your written work must also be of a high standard and you will have the drive to push forward your own work and be organised enough to manage competing requirements that can change at short notice. Working for MI5 also requires honesty, integrity and discretion.

The role also requires a flexible approach, as although it involves spending time in the office it also involves attending meetings out of the office and some travel. MI5 encourages flexible working however the role will involve occasional disruption to normal working patterns. Agent Handlers need to be contactable outside of office hours, including the evening and weekend.  Overtime is offered in such circumstances.

Upon joining MI5 you will sit our core Agent Handler Training course, which is a pass or fail course.  Successful completion of this course is a requirement for the role and if you do not pass we will not be able to offer you employment as an Agent Handler.  However, the course is taught in a supportive atmosphere and every effort is made to encourage those sitting the course to pass successfully. 

Meeting our operational fitness requirements and, as standard, passing a basic driving assessment is also required for the role.

Post Training

If you pass the course you will be posted immediately into an Agent Handler post.

In addition to the initial core Agent Handling Training we also offer on the job mentoring and a bespoke range of continuing professional development courses for Agent Handlers, as well as giving successful candidates access to the full range of MI5’s Learning and Development offer.

CASE STUDIES