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. 

Our Vetting Process

National Security

We recruit British citizens of all backgrounds, but the nature of our work means that nationality, residency and security requirements are more tightly defined than those of other Civil Service departments. For example, if you apply to join us we ask that, if you discuss your application with anyone, you restrict it to close family, and that you don’t post any details online or on social media.

You'll go through a rigorous, but fair, vetting process that will look into your background, character, family history and personal circumstances. You must be over 18 to go through this process. Once this phase of your application begins, it normally takes around three months to complete – though this can vary depending on the complexities of each case.


We’ll assess your risk of being put in a compromising position due to conscience or undue influence, and our security process includes a criminal records check as well as a drugs test. You'll also need to complete a number of questionnaires covering your medical record and to ensure you meet our Developed Vetting requirements. Developed Vetting is the highest level of security clearance in the UK.

We have a strict no drugs policy which prohibits the use, possession or supply of illegal drugs, psychoactive substances or legal highs. 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medication or any other substance is also incompatible with holding security clearance which can be refused or withdrawn if this policy is not observed, so you should adhere to our policy from the point of application onwards.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. It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the government guidance on drugs. Further information about drugs is available at

We also might not consider you if you:

    • Are currently being treated for an addiction (e.g. alcohol, gambling, etc.) or have received such treatment in the last year
    • Have ever suffered from bi-polar disorder or a psychotic illness
    • Are currently bankrupt or the subject of an Individual Voluntary Agreement (IVA)


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 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’ll need references for the time you lived abroad and details of the countries you lived in.

Equal Opportunities

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, dedicated to providing guaranteed interviews to all disabled candidates who meet our minimum criteria.  

Departments and Roles at GCHQ