During my last year of grad school (International Relations) at UCLA, I got a note in my mailbox one day that "Mr. Smith", a representative of the Central Intelligence Agency, was in town for a few days and staying at a local hotel. The note said that, if I was interested in discussing a possible job with his employer, I should call to set up an interview. Mostly out of curiosity, I did. The meeting lasted no more than 10 minutes. I was unshaven, hungover and wearing board shorts (I'd never really been on a job interview before and didn't know the dress code). Obviously, I wasn't taking it very seriously and "Mr. Smith" was equally relaxed and seemingly unimpressed. He asked me a few very lightweight questions including my employment experience -- bartender -- and what I liked to do in my free time -- (illegal) street racing. When he stood up and thanked me for coming in, I was pretty sure it was the last time I would be hearing from them.
It wasn't. A month later I received a letter with a Washington, DC postmark and no return address. Inside was an unsigned, generic-sounding letter on a plain sheet of paper congratulating me on my "excellent" (huh?) interview with Mr. Smith and asking me to phone the following number to arrange further discussions regarding potential employment with "our organization". That began an intense, challenging, bizarre, year-long process that culminated with me being approved for entry into the Agency's legendary training program for new operations officers -- Spy School.
I later learned that recruiters like Mr. Smith are themselves mostly semi-retired operatives who mine the colleges and universities in their assigned region (Southern California in this case) for new "talent". I also discovered that these recruiters often have unofficial sources (CIA-friendly scouts, if you will) inside the faculties of the schools they are targeting who steer them toward students who may fit the bill. To this day I'm still not certain which of my professors is the one who "spotted" me.
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