MI5 - Security Service

Mandarin Chinese Language Vacancies

  1. ROLE
  4. APPLY


Ref:RV Mandarin Joint Mar 14


Salary:£30,000 including language allowance

Closing date:25 April 2014

The roles

MI5 Mandarin Intelligence Analyst

As a Mandarin intelligence analyst at MI5, you’ll be a core member of the investigative team. Your work will involve translating a wide variety of challenging audio and textual material from Mandarin Chinese into English. You’ll listen to Mandarin Chinese language telephone calls and work with written documents intercepted under warrant, and your translations and analysis will feed directly into the team’s investigations. Your linguistic skills will enable us to make the right choices to help safeguard national security.

This role will stretch you like no other and you’ll develop not only your Mandarin Chinese but also a range of other workplace skills in a supportive environment that is both friendly and informal. Every day you’ll be exposed to new subtleties and nuances in the Mandarin Chinese language, new terminology, new political, cultural and social differences.

Using your specialist Mandarin Chinese language skills and your knowledge of China’s cultural affairs, history, politics, ideology and economy, you will add real understanding to the intelligence that has been gathered and deliver clear analysis in a variety of ways. Your work will enable us to take a well-informed view of potential threats to national security, including terrorism and espionage.

As your experience grows and following relevant training and development you should have the opportunity to become more directly involved in investigations, working closely with colleagues from across the wider UK intelligence community and presenting on your work to other departments or agencies.

Your linguistic skills and cultural awareness will be invaluable as you’II be asked to contribute to team discussions on how to progress investigations. You also may be involved in providing interpreting support for agent meetings or assisting with delivering realistic training for our agent runners, all of which will enable you to gain a deeper understanding of what is fascinating work.

If you would like to develop as a Mandarin Chinese investigator, then a few years down the line you’ll have the opportunity to take our internal investigative assessment centre. If you are successful, you could go on to develop as an investigative officer within the team, drawing upon your Mandarin Chinese language skills and wider knowledge of Chinese culture and current affairs. You’ll help piece together intelligence and make informed decisions on a daily basis that will help to protect national security.

Later in your career you could also have the opportunity to take further assessments and training to undertake operational work such as agent running.

MI6 Mandarin Language Specialist

As a Mandarin linguist in the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6), your language skills will make a key contribution to the work of the operational team you’ll be embedded in. The work is both fascinating and rewarding: fascinating as you will be working with subject matters that lie at the heart of world events; and rewarding as you will be the person making intelligence accessible to people throughout the Service.

As well as translating from both written and spoken sources, which will initially be the core of your work, you will have the opportunity to get involved in interpreting, language training, open source research, and using your expertise to help other government agencies. You will also have opportunity to take on more direct operational work if you have the desire and aptitude and, although the larger part of your career is likely to be spent in London, there are opportunities to work overseas.

The skills

Whether you developed your Mandarin Chinese language skills at home as you were growing up, whilst living or working abroad or through academic study, you have a genuine passion for languages. You’ll thrive on the challenge of applying your Mandarin Chinese language skills on a daily basis to provide expert support to investigative officers.

The language tests on our website are indicative of the level of Mandarin Chinese you will need to be successful as a Mandarin Chinese linguist at MI5 or MI6. Your language ability will enable you, for example, to comfortably read newspaper articles and understand news broadcasts in Mandarin Chinese.

You’ll be able to translate from Mandarin Chinese into clear, well-drafted and balanced written reports in English, drawing out the relevant points from sometimes lengthy pieces of material. You’ll also be confident verbally briefing investigative and operational teams and other colleagues across the intelligence agencies.

Enthusiasm, flexibility and team-working are all important. You’Il have an analytical and enquiring mindset, sound judgment and good attention to detail. We will support your learning and development at every opportunity, through both internal and external Mandarin Chinese language training.

Recruitment process

First, we strongly advise you to check your suitability for the role. We have developed a test that reflects the nature of the work of Mandarin Chinese linguists at MI5 and MI6. The challenge will enable you to check your Mandarin Chinese language comprehension skills and ability to recall detail.

If you then wish to apply, the first thing we will ask you to do is complete our pre-screening questions to see if you meet our initial eligibility criteria. lf you do, we will then ask you to begin an application. You’ll need to create an online login. You can do this by providing your full name, email address and a memorable password. Once you have successfully created a personal account, you will be required to complete an online application form.

As well as basic biographical details and your education and employment history to date, you will need to provide details of your Mandarin Chinese language skills and any other languages you have learned. You will be asked how you learned the language, how you currently use your language skills and to what standard you can speak, read and write these languages and dialects. You will also be asked about your interest in the Mandarin Chinese language and culture and what appeals to you about using Mandarin Chinese in your work.

On the application form you will be able to specify whether you wish to be considered for Mandarin Chinese vacancies at MI5, MI6 or both agencies. At this stage, we cannot guarantee which agency you would join if you were to be successful, however we will explore this with you in the latter phases of the recruitment process and any other language skills you have may be taken into account at this stage.

Please note that if you have applied for a Mandarin Chinese vacancy at MI5, MI6 or GCHQ within the last 12 months and been unsuccessful at the language test stage, you will not be eligible to reapply for this role at this time.

Our recruitment team will complete an application sift to assess how far you meet the job specification. Successful applicants will be invited to attend a Mandarin Chinese language test to check whether or not you have the skills required to work as a Mandarin Chinese linguist within the intelligence agencies.

At the language test, we will assess your Mandarin Chinese language ability across a range of tasks. There is an emphasis on listening and reading comprehension.

Assuming you pass the Mandarin Chinese language test, you will then be invited to complete a short telephone interview to further explore your skills. You will then be asked to attend an assessment centre, which will include a face-to-face interview and other exercises. lf you pass the assessment centre, you will have a security interview with a vetting officer at a later date and then a final selection interview. You will also need to complete a hearing test.

Guaranteed Interview Scheme

As part of our commitment to the "Positive About Disabled People scheme" we offer an interview to all candidates with a disability who meet our minimum criteria for the job vacancy for which they are applying. This is known as the Guaranteed Interview Scheme (GIS).

Along with the standard eligibility requirements for this post, your application will be assessed on how far you meet the job specification based on your application and your Mandarin Chinese language ability. On successful completion of this stage, you will be invited to the Mandarin Chinese language test, which is our guaranteed interview.

Our partners

MI5 and MI6 work closely with the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). You may also wish to visit their website to find out about their Mandarin Chinese vacancies.

Please note, you may apply for more than one Mandarin Chinese role within the intelligence agencies simultaneously. You should be aware, however, that the three agencies use the same language tests for Mandarin Chinese language vacancies. Therefore, if you are invited to language testing, your test results will be shared amongst the three agencies. You will only take one test.

Please note that if you are unsuccessful at the language testing stage of your application to one of the three agencies, you will not be eligible to reapply for Mandarin Chinese language vacancies at SIS, GCHQ or MI5 within a 12-month period.


To be able to apply, you must meet our residency criteria. You must be a born or naturalised British citizen and one of your parents must be a British citizen or have substantial ties to the UK.

Candidates must normally have been resident in the UK for eight out of the last ten years prior to application. This is particularly important if you were born outside the UK. You will nonetheless be considered if you have, for example, served overseas with HM Forces or in some other official capacity as a representative of Her Majesty’s Government, studied abroad or lived overseas with your parents.

Due to vetting requirements you will need to be 18 years old, or above, to apply. Your application may take around nine months to process.

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.

We are committed to reflecting both equal opportunities and the society we protect.

A day in the life

  • Language Unit

    Sara, a member of the Language Unit, describes what her work involves.

  • Foreign Language Analyst

    Nadia talks about her role as a Foreign Language Analyst within the Regional Language Unit

Advice for applicants

Owing to the sensitivity of our work, we do not publicly disclose the identities of our staff. Discretion is vital. You should not discuss your application, other than with your partner or a close family member, providing that they are British. You should also make them aware of the importance of discretion.