What are the advantages and disadvantages of the FBI using a multiple hurdles approach to select special agents?

8/18/2018 Vitalsource: Strategic Staffing

https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9780133578256/cfi/6/34!/4/2/8/8/4/2/2/2/2@0:100 6/8

Case Study

Hiring FBI Agents

The FBI is one of the six bureaus of the U.S. Department of Justice and the primary criminal investigative agency of the federal government. The special agents who work for the FBI investigate people and organizations who violate federal statutes. These violations can be related to organized crime, white-collar crime, financial crime, civil rights violations, bank robberies, kidnapping, terrorism, foreign counterintelligence, and fugitive and drug trafficking matters. Special agents also work with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The work performed by special agents has a daily impact on the country’s security and the quality of life of all U.S. citizens.

The FBI has validated a series of assessment methods for its special agent positions. To effectively utilize the assessments, it uses a combination of multiple hurdles and cut scores to make its hiring decisions:

1. Online Application for the Special Agent Position: A preliminary online application submitted through an FBI Field Office is used to determine if applicants meet the minimum qualifications of the position, including citizenship, age, education, work experience, and geographic mobility.

2. Phase I Testing: Applicants passing the second hurdle are given three tests: A biodata inventory, a logical reasoning test, and a situational judgment test. Candidates whose scores exceed a predetermined cut score advance to the next phase.

3. Phase II Testing: Only the most competitive applicants, based on the hiring needs of the FBI, are scheduled for Phase II Testing. Candidates’ performance on a structured interview and a written exercise are compared to a cut score. If the applicant’s score is at or higher than the cut score, he or she passes Phase II. Candidates who pass this hurdle are sent a letter informing them that they passed and that they might also receive a conditional letter of appointment, based on the determination of their competitiveness and the needs of the FBI. The final offer of employment is contingent upon successfully completing the physical fitness test, background investigation, and medical examination.

4. Physical Fitness Test: To pass the physical fitness test candidates must perform a maximum number of sit-ups in one minute, perform a timed 300-meter sprint, perform a maximum number of push-ups, and perform a timed 1½ mile run. Candidates have a total of three opportunities to pass the physical fitness test.

5. FBI Background Investigation: Candidates receiving a conditional letter of employment are subjected to a background investigation including a polygraph test, credit and arrest checks, interviews with associates as well as personal and business








8/18/2018 Vitalsource: Strategic Staffing

https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9780133578256/cfi/6/34!/4/2/8/8/4/2/2/2/2@0:100 7/8

references and past employers, and verification of educational achievements. Receiving an FBI Top Secret security clearance is necessary to be eligible for a FBI Special Agent position.

6. Medical Examination: A thorough medical examination is given to assess whether any medical issue could negatively affect the candidate’s ability to perform basic Special Agent job functions. Candidates passing all phases of the hiring process are scheduled for a Special Agent class at the FBI Academy.


1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the FBI using a multiple hurdles approach to select special agents?

2. Would such a lengthy selection process appeal to you or turn you off to working at the FBI?

3. What might the FBI do to increase the chances that the applicants it wants to hire accept the job offers extended to them?