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How long do MI5 take to get back to you?

MI5, also known as the Security Service, is the United Kingdom’s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency. When individuals apply to work for MI5, there is understandably a lengthy vetting and screening process to ensure candidates meet the high standards required for intelligence work. However, many applicants wonder – how long does it actually take for MI5 to get back to you after you have applied?

In short, MI5 aims to get back to all candidates within 8 weeks of receiving an application, however the actual timeline can vary significantly depending on the role applied for and the stages of vetting required. Some applicants may hear back in just 4-6 weeks, while others may wait 3-4 months for a response.

MI5 Application Process Overview

To understand why timelines vary, it’s important to first understand the different steps involved in applying and being selected for a role at MI5:

– Initial Application – Candidates submit an online application via the MI5 careers portal. This includes providing information on work history, qualifications, eligibility and completing an initial screening questionnaire.

– Review of Applications – The MI5 recruitment team reviews all applications received for the advertised role within 1-2 weeks. They assess eligibility and suitability for the position.

– Online Testing – Shortlisted candidates are invited to complete a series of online tests, including verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and situational judgement tests. This stage usually takes 1-2 weeks to complete.

– Assessment Centre – Those who are successful in the online tests are invited to an assessment centre in London. This intensive day involves interviews, roleplay exercises, team challenges, and aptitude tests. The assessment centre aims to evaluate candidates’ competencies and suitability for MI5.

– Security Vetting – After the assessment centre, candidates who are offered a role must then go through rigorous security checks known as positive vetting. This includes identity checks, confirmation of employment history, financial checks, criminal record checks and reference checks. This comprehensive vetting process can take between 8-16 weeks.

Timeline for MI5 Response

With this context in mind, here is a breakdown of the typical timeframes for MI5 to respond at each stage of the recruitment process:

– Application Review – 1-2 weeks for shortlisting decisions

– Online Testing Invite – 2-4 weeks after application submitted

– Assessment Centre Invite – 2-4 weeks after online tests completed

– Provisional Offer – 4-8 weeks after assessment centre, pending security vetting

– Final Offer – 8-16 weeks after provisional offer, following completion of vetting

However, these timeframes are guidelines only. Candidates should not be concerned if they have not heard back at the 4 or 8 week mark, as there are many variables impacting timelines including:

– Volume of applications – More applications means longer review processes

– Role requirements – Specialist roles require more vetting

– Vetting workload – Peak periods mean vetting takes longer

– Interviews/tests – Available slots impact scheduling

– Reassessment – Some candidates may require retesting

So in summary, while MI5 aims to respond within 8 weeks, the full process can take 3-6 months from application to final offer for most candidates. Timeframes should shorten as candidates progress through subsequent stages.

Tips for Applicants

For those currently awaiting a response from MI5 on their application or assessment, here are some useful tips:

– Be patient – Recruitment processes for intelligence roles are lengthy by design. Avoid constantly contacting MI5.

– Check spam folders – Email invites can sometimes be flagged as spam accidentally.

– Update contact details – Proactively update MI5 if your phone number or email changes.

– Follow guidelines – Carefully follow any test instructions to avoid delays.

– Prepare thoroughly – Use any waiting period to prepare for tests or interviews.

– Avoid over-calling – Excessive contact with MI5 may count against candidates.

– Focus on other goals – Don’t pin all hopes on MI5; pursue other career options in parallel.

– Request feedback – It’s reasonable to request constructive feedback after a rejection.

With some patience and preparation, candidates can navigate MI5’s rigorous but rewarding recruitment process. Understanding the typical timeframes provides helpful guidance but delays are always a possibility with intelligence recruitment. Staying focused on the end goal of a career at MI5 is key.

Factors That May Delay Response Times

While MI5 aims to respond promptly, there are some situations that can result in much longer response times outside of the standard 4-8 week window:

– Large applicant pools – Applications may spike for certain popular roles, delaying review.

– Insufficient vetting information – Candidates who provide incomplete or false information during vetting can severely delay the process.

– Ongoing security concerns – Any red flags or issues identified during vetting will require extensive further checks.

– Requests for repeat testing – Candidates may need to retake or reschedule a missed online test or assessment centre, adding weeks to the process.

– Reassessment of suitability – After the assessment centre, MI5 may determine a role is not an applicant’s best fit and review for other options.

– Resource constraints – Staff shortages, training, leave or operational requirements can slow things down.

– Prioritisation of critical roles – Urgent roles may take priority over getting back to all applicants.

– Pending security clearances – Some roles require high level SC, DV or CTC clearances which take months to process.

– Queries about results – Applicants can request explanations of results, delaying finalisation.

– Offer rejection – If the first choice candidate rejects an offer, MI5 must restart part of the process.

So in certain circumstances, particularly during vetting, it could take 4-6 months to hear back from MI5 rather than the typical 8 week target. However, this does not necessarily mean a candidate’s application is unsuccessful.

Following Up with MI5 Recruitment

Given the lengthy timeframes involved, it can be frustrating for applicants waiting months without contact from MI5 after submitting an application or attending assessments. In these cases, it’s reasonable to make polite enquiries about progress after 8 weeks, using the following approaches:

– Email the recruitment team contact provided in any correspondence, quoting your reference number and detailing the date of your application/assessment. Explain you are checking on the status out of interest.

– If you have attended the assessment centre, email your candidate manager directly if you were provided their details on the day.

– Telephone the MI5 recruitment team, again quoting your reference details and dates. Have your diary on hand to discuss available dates if retesting is required.

– When following up, maintain a courteous and professional manner at all times – expressions of anger or frustration are counterproductive.

– Avoid repeatedly contacting MI5 more than once a month as this is unlikely to speed up the process.

– If MI5 recruitment advise continued patience, respect this guidance even if it is not the answer you hoped for.

Persistence pays off when following up, but applicants should not harass recruiters or demand answers within unreasonable timeframes. With discretion and maturity, candidates can obtain useful updates from MI5 on their progress.


In summary, MI5 aims to respond to applicants within 8 weeks but delays of 3-6 months are not uncommon for intelligence roles requiring extensive security vetting. Timeframes vary across different stages, with the vetting process taking the longest. While frustrating for applicants, extended radio silence often simply indicates thorough checks are underway. With patience and measured follow up, candidates will eventually hear back from MI5 with either good news or constructive feedback. The long duration of the recruitment process is necessary to maintain high standards and identify candidates with the integrity to serve in intelligence roles protecting national security.