By Meredith Kreigh
Retired CIA officer Steven Sherman told about some of his experiences, including expeditions in Russia, Iraq and Pakistan during Tuesday’s Leadership Forum. He also shared some tips about how to break into his former business: the Central Intelligence Agency.
Sherman conducted a Q&A with four interested students at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Directly afterward, he spoke to a group of about 30 students in the Rhea County Room.
The CIA is looking for all types of people, from all different majors, he said. The object is to get in, so applying for a number of positions is beneficial. Once hired, it is possible move around within the organization, according to Sherman
First, he outlined the process. Most of all, he said, apply. On average, the CIA hire applicants between the ages of 28 to 35, but of course there are exceptions. In order to complete the application process, there is a two-day battery of testing, accompanied by an extensive background check. Beyond that, a polygraph test will be administered, concerning any and all aspects of life.
“If you have a skeleton in your closet, this is not the kind of work you should do,” Sherman said.
In addition to the concrete aspects, Sherman outlined a few key characteristics that should be present in applicants. Above all, integrity is essential. Also, proficient speaking ability and specialized skills, especially in foreign languages, are important assets.
The CIA is looking for individuals who are cultured and have a good education, perhaps with an emphasis in history. They also look for practical job experience, not just summer jobs like college kids might be used to, Sherman said.
Sherman is currently a private investigator and is heavily involved with counter-human trafficking efforts. In December 2009, Sherman retired from the life of a CIA officer and is now CEO of Lookout Investigations, an investigation company in Chattanooga, which he founded in August 2011. He also heads up another Chattanooga-based company, HumIn2-T. HumIn2-T conducts counter-trafficking training for law enforcement, domestically and internationally.
Dennis Miller, former CIA spy in Russia and Bryan’s executive director of external communications, arranged for Sherman to speak at the forum.
“This is a secret world, so it pays to have contacts,” said Miller.
Maddie Mondell, a sophomore Politics & Government major, asked what characteristics made a good officer.
“That’s one,” said Sherman. “It is imperative that officers ask good questions.”
They also must have an innate trustworthiness and display elicitation, a term Sherman used to signify the ability to convince another that information should be told.
Miller stressed that all of these can be found in nearly every area of study.
Students took advantage of Sherman’s visit, approaching him with questions for about 15 minutes after he was done speaking.