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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
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    Atlanta, GA
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    What Agencies Are Secretly Looking For

    One of the things that happens around here is a generational change. As cycles go through, we see new members coming in and starting the process. I've noted that questions reappear that haven't come up in a while. It's one of the reasons we almost always wind up advising folks to hit the search function before asking their question.

    However, I've noticed several lately that run in the vein of will this or that experience or training or activity help or hurt me with Agency X, Y, Z. I thought I would post on that topic and if my fellow mods and members want to add to it they can and then we can make it a sticky where it is up front for everyone. I'm not talking about frowned upon crystal ball questions, such as what should I major in to become Director of the FBI one day. Beats us. Nothing we did has gotten us there.

    The questions I am thinking of tend to be in the line of I have a particular specialty or interest, maybe somewhat out of the norm, and wonder whether that makes me more or less desirable. I call these questions "things the agency secretly wants but doesn't say" questions. Over the years, I and others have answered in numerous threads, so maybe it would be helpful to put it in one place.

    First, the answer is that the agencies are not secretly looking for anything. Or if they are they are doing it in secret and it is not going to help you as an applicant. Maybe once in a while you may see a strange announcement for a higher level position with very specific criteria, and an agency may in fact be looking for a particular individual. Not sure why some agencies do it that way since there are other mechanisms for that. If you do and meet the criteria and want the job, you should apply. Don't get high hopes, but no sin in giving it a try.

    Beyond that the agencies are very clear in their announcements and on their websites about what they want in applicants and generally as clear about issues they frown upon.
    First order of business is to have what they are seeking clearly and without any need for interpretation and bargaining. If it says CPA with x years of experience there is no substituting two years of undergraduate accounting. Nor are they really looking for X+2 years. X+2 may be good, but so marginally good that to not apply at x but to wait the "secret" +2 would be silly. Maybe the best answer here is that before anybody wonders about "secret" things they better have the public things in spades. Agencies have a fixed menu, no substitutions.

    Reverse is true with what they don't want. "I ran away with the circus for 2 years" is interesting, even odd and attention getting. You can count on someone like me, seeing your application, saying "As if we don't have enough clowns around here." And then processing you on the merits. Might have judgments on prohibited activity you engaged in during the 2 years, but got nothing against the circus.

    So you have everything the agency wants and are clear that you are within all the guidelines. Then comes the "will this certificate, this extra degree, this experience make me a more competitive applicant?" It very well could or could not. I can assure you the agency does not have a secret box of gold stars that it puts on these or gives extra points for. It will be up to you to answer the secret mystery question: Why should we care? You can earn extra credit in a competitive process to the extent you can articulate how the getting of it, the experience with it or the skills augment your abilities in the things that were publicly asked about. Got nothing for you having IT certifications that were not asked for. Got maybe a little something for your ability to inform me why that is worth anything in relation what we asked for or are doing. Lot of applicants make a fatal error with this, proudly list a litany of degrees and certifications beyond what they needed to show to sustain an application or for consideration of an entry grade level. And then leave it to the agency to figure out what the heck it is and to guess about what it might have to do with price of tomatoes. Not guessing, not checking the web, got no list with secret points for it. Up to you. And clearly, pursue whatever you want - but if you are motivated, better to spend the time on those things that are required than those that might be nice.

    Nowhere is that mythology more prevalent than with law enforcement experience. Others may disagree, and you can weigh it for yourself, but in my view a lot of prior State and local LE wind up in the Feds not because of a secret bias for that experience by the agencies so much as that experience is so directly useful in being interviewed and being comfortable in the process and so directly relates to the job that they are wired to be successful in the process. Experienced LE folks don't get a gold star, they just have a cleaner path to earning one in the process. And they flood the process with a very clear determination of the business being a career and knowledge of the agencies. Lets call this a matter of it being really no secret to a reasonably thoughtful person that a prior cop ought to do well in a law enforcement hiring situation. However, if not sought explicitly, very, very foolish to pass by an application you qualify for because you perceive someone "secretly" really wants LE experience that you need to go off and get.

    What is not a myth, but also not a secret, is that veterans get preference. This is another twist on the "secret" stuff. Is there a secret way around it? Simple answer is no. At least not in the kinds of numbers that would affect a large number of applicants. I have no interest in arguing the issue and will cull that if it breaks out. Nor would I join a service as a career step in LE. But I have to note for the many, many folks who ask some version of the question how this or that might make me more competitive than others and what can I do, here it is. No secret at all. Except, that like with the other "secret" things, it only helps if you have the published requirements down pat.
    ret.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    737
    I'm not a deeply experienced LEO, and only went through the process a few years ago, but I can tell you that I learned there are no real secrets to the process. The announcement lays out what they want to hire, and that's what they go out and get.

    The biggest thing I think I learned that was not listed in the instructions is the be prepared to be prompt. Think through the process and figure out what you are going to need. Have medical problems that you think might need to be addressed? Get the paperwork together months before the physical. Need a security clearance? Start figuring out all your old addresses immediately. Clean up your credit report now, not next year when they find the old unpaid bill that you resolved 5 years ago that never got deleted. Think about how you would handle things if you were the Applicant Coordinator (AC). If you sent an e-mail asking for some piece of information from two applicants, and one sent the info in within 24 hours and the other took a week or more, who is getting their packet advanced first? Who is going to impress the AC that they are organized enough to handle the Academy and not get sent home for something stupid? Who is going to help the AC meet his deadlines imposed by headquarters? This stuff should be no secret, but I have spoken with more than one person in the process who said something like, "my AC asked for a self-PFT last week, so I need to find a time to do that." If your identical-qualification-twin just sent in his high self-PFT score the day after it was requested, you might have just missed a window while he takes "your" slot for the next step.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    Like Irish, I certainly don't have the breadth of experience like some of the mods, but I have been an 1811 for a few years with two separate agencies. I concur with ATF SAC that there aren't really any secrets. The announcement is the announcement, and you are either qualified or you are not. Accordingly, I decided to take a bit different slant on ATF SAC's question and do an informal mental calculation of the resumes of my coworkers, both present and past and at both agencies, and develop a rough "average resume." I recognize that this is fraught with pitfalls and there are always exceptions, special circumstances, and caveats. I have also thrown in a couple of helpful things people told me throughout the process and that seem to be consistent in successful applicants. Hopefully this will help answer some of the questions we have been seeing. That said, here goes:

    1. Don't use drugs. I don't care who you are, a once in a lifetime experimentation with acid is a permanent disqualifier. Regardless of an agency's policy on marijuana, if your applicant twin has never used marijuana, and you've used it 3x, you can bet the agency will choose him over you every time.

    2. Don't get arrested for dumb things, or at all for that matter. We were probably all drunk in public in college and its just not that big a deal. However, if your same applicant twin has no criminal history, the agency will pick him again.

    3. Get at least a bachelors degree, and get it in a field you are willing to work in should you never get hired as an 1811. Regardless of the minimum requirements, the vast majority of successful applicants have at least a BA/BS. Computer Science, relevant languages, and accounting are bonus, but no guarantee.

    4. Get some life experience. The overwhelming majority of my coworkers got this experience in the military or local law enforcement, and often both. Keep in mind that the rough average age of a new 1811 is 27-30. The decision to enter either field should be made on its own merits and not as a stepping stone.

    5. Prepare for the process and be prepared for rejection at least once. Suck at interviewing? Practice. Overweight? Lose it before your interview and required PT test (this includes being able to pass the PT test. I've seen skinny people fail a PT test).

    6. Know the agency to which you are applying. Understand their mission and be able to show that you have done your homework on what its about.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    159

    What Agencies Are Secretly Looking For

    Well said, all of you.

  5. #5
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    May 2004
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    New York
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    Knowing the SAC/ADIC's daughter doesn't hurt ...

  6. #6
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    Henderson, NV
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    Eloquently put by all posters.

    If I may, a pet peeve that comes up at least quarterly in my PMs and relates to the list that WHATCHAGOT posted. My specific issues are arrests, drugs and LE employment.

    If you're in college, and in a CJ program and have been arrested for a felony or have a history of halluncinogenic drug use, find another career path! You will not qualify for a law enforcement position no matter what Prof. X tells you. I've heard the stories spewn to these students about waivers, potential changes in agency recruiting regs, etc.

    Sorry if you think I'm raining on your parade, I apologize. But I'm honestly shocked at the lack of candor displayed by some CJ schools (and well known ones at that) about career opportunities in LE with this type of baggage. Don't post here that you've changed your ways and should be given a chance, etc., etc.

    The recruitment secret is to have a clean record, live healthy, study hard and READ those job announcements you're applying to! And be PREPARED for the interviews, PRACTICE basic interview questions (Google them, they're thousands) and FOLLOW-UP with the interviewers. Remember to document, document, document. WHO did you talk to, WHEN (date/time) and follow up on any 'commitments' by the agency. (We'll call you back tomorrow/You'll hear next week/etc.)

    We're here to help, but we can't change the past for applicants. Best of luck!
    Last edited by dmclark; 09-20-2012 at 09:45.
    Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!
    Hunter S. Thompson

  7. #7
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    Chaser199, can't think of a plus that is more dangerous . Although the agencies don't publish it, members and guests here also have access to key information that is in no way secret. Ever scan through Success Stories or agency threads and identify posters who announce they have been selected? Then search up all their posts? What paths did they follow? Which of those is realistically close to your story. If its fluent in Mandarin and knowledge of Chinese culture, probably not something you are going to get to with 6 months on Rosetta Stone. But there are paths to success that could give you a model. This even comes close to answering crystal ball questions. Find someone much like you who has been successful and focus on the things they did that you could accomplish.

    As others noted very wisely, responsive, prepared , on the ball and not full of excuses just sort of goes with it.

    DMClark hits on a pet peeve of mine as well. In a competitive hiring process expect very, very little "understanding" and for the standards to be applied with exceptional rigor. An old public affairs aphorism of mine applies here, "If you are in the second paragraph of your explanation; you are losing."
    Last edited by ATF SAC; 09-20-2012 at 10:24.
    ret.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    New York State
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    As ATFSAC mentioned above, make sure you meet the requirements and follow the instructions. And ONLY provide what is required. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten 6-10 page resumes for an entry-level position. If you can't highlight the necessary requirements (as listed in the announcement) in 2 pages, then you are wasting the panel's time. We are unlikely to read a manuscript and if you are given an opportunity for an oral interview, the applicant who writes a book will likely respond to questions the same way. At that point, you are not helping yourself; just wasting the panel's time. The details matter. The application process is a little like offering testimony. Give complete answers to all questions asked or requirements listed. DON"T volunteeer EXTRA information. There are usually hundreds of applicants for every position. The agency will use anything it can to winnow that pile down.

    P.S. Promotion boards, and especially senior management or SES level positions are an entirely different animal. There is a reason consultants get paid big bucks to help those folks through the process.
    "There is no second place winner"-- Bill Jordan

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    East Coast
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    Whatchagot, if I could "like" your post more than once, I would. Like you, I'm just a few years into my career as an 1811. But I have 11 years in law enforcement in total. I am asked on occasion to assist with recruitment and job fair type events at local colleges/universities and my biggest complaint BY FAR is that college students in CJ majors say they want to be federal agents but have no interest in local or state law enforcement. This thought process boggles my mind.

    Readers who are students: My most sincere advice is to major/study whatever it is that you find interesting and with which you can see yourself doing for the first 5-10 years of your career. Whether it's local/state LE, accounting, military MP or intel, law, healthcare, business, social work, marketing, etc., does not matter per se. You will be wise to spend your higher education monies on a degree you will actually use. That work and life experience is what will make you more competitive in a future 1811 hiring process. 1811 spots are extemely competitive, with tens of thousands of applicants per announcement. Folks applying have 10 years of military service AND a degree AND local LE experience. I'm not trying to say shatter any dreams. I love seeing hard working people succeed. 1811 jobs are obtainable, but they are rarely someone's entry level job out of school.

    Once you decide to apply, be committed to it. Be thoughtful in preparing. Go to the agency's website and learn about their program areas. Read up on the cases making the news so you get an understanding for what their work product is like. Go to OPM and start pre-filling a SF-50. Start thinking and writing about how you would answer questions related to life and work experiences. Once the announcement comes out, do not fly by the seat of your pants filling out the application. You'll inherently make errors and your answers will look typed like you were in a hurry rather than having prepared answers you can edit to fit the question better then copy/paste. You might be the most squared away detective/federal task force officer in the world, but if you can't articulate it well in the application, you won't get asked to test and interview.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    In the office, questioning my life choices
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gracie Hart View Post
    Folks applying have 10 years of military service AND a degree AND local LE experience.
    This is one of the things that I think is often terribly misunderstood by the people who ask me "How do I get your job?". Most people know that 1811 jobs are competitive, but they don't really understand why. It is very, very difficult for someone less than 3 years out of college to compete with a resume like the one Gracie outlines. More staggeringly to many applicants might be the number of people out there with exactly that resume.

    We have been a military at war since 2001, and that means that plenty of applicants have more than one COMBAT tour. Your average combat arms soldier with 4 years active duty has spent 2 of that deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. We're talking about people who participated in and led real live gunfights for a living: EVERYDAY OF THEIR LIVES FOR A YEAR OR MORE! Then they got out, spent 5-8 years as a local cop, and went to night school to get their BA, or in more and more cases, their MA. When that person walks into an interview, they have an incredible breadth of experience that a recent graduate simply cannot match.

    That said, it is certainly possible to get hired without all the combat time, etc. But you do have to have SOME life experience. Agencies don't want offices full of identical resumes, and life experience in corporate America or other parts of the legal system can get you there. Just remember that it doesn't matter to most agencies that you were top of your class at University of X last year. That helps, but that other applicant probably beats you 99/100 times.

  11. #11
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    Feb 2002
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    Atlanta, GA
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    Again, no secrets here, but very important information. It's not a question of what the agency secretly wants as the answer to a better question. Year over year, who do the agencies hire the most? Or, put another way, given the standards, who competes well?
    ret.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    60
    In the past eight years my small OIG agency has hired 10 agents with the following backgrounds based solely on the discretion of the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) at that specific time:

    2-prior military (one with additional federal government employment, one without)
    7-prior government employees
    1-former drug counselor with no prior military, LE or government employment
    Of these, three were also Spanish speakers.
    All had a minimum of a BS/BA (most were hired under the former "outstanding scholar program") and two had J.D.'s.

    Read an agency's website and if they are an OIG, read their last 2-3 Semi-Annual Report to Congress (SAR). Study what interest you in college because the truth is you are more likely to find yourself working in that field than to become an 1811.

    Volunteer in areas that you want to serve...i.e a battered woman's shelters, habitat for humanity, the local food bank, student center or homeless shelter. These roles will give you real life experience and will show you the people you will be serving in an 1811 job if you get hired by an OIG. HHS-OIG works with medicaid/medicare recipients; HUD-OIG works with Section 8 recipients and housing programs; VA-OIG works with veterans; ED-OIG works with schools and students; USDA-OIG works with food providers in schools and farming communities; EPA-OIG works with "green" organizations and with conservation groups; SSA-OIG works with disabled persons and persons in retirement; etc, etc, etc. If you are passionate about the things you want to investigate it comes through in your resume and during the interview.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
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    Thanks to my old outfit which has always posted this information in an easy to find way. Below are the minimum qualifications for consideration for the entry grade levels of most 1811 positions. While minimum consideration can be given without a BA/BS, it is also no secret that minimum considerations isn't going to get anyone very far. For a dollar you can get minimum consideration to win millions in the lottery. The odds are better in the lottery. Folks looking for a way around it would be far better served to spend that time working on some credit hours.



    QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED:
    MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS: To be eligible for this position, you must possess the qualifying specialized
    experience and/or education as described in the OPM occupational requirements.
    GL-05
    To qualify at the GL-05 level, you must meet ONE of the following:
    Education: Applicants must have completed a 4-year course of study leading to a bachelor's degree in
    any field of study or possess a bachelor's degree in any field of study.
    -OR Experience: Applicants must have three years of experience of progressively responsible experience, 1
    year of which was equivalent to at least GL-4, that demonstrates the ability to work in criminal
    investigative or law enforcement fields that require knowledge and application of laws relating to
    criminal violations.
    -OR Combination of Education and Experience: Experience and education can be combined to meet the
    minimum qualification requirements. Experience and education should be computed as percentages of
    the overall requirements and must equal 100% when combined. Example: For 3 years of general
    experience, 18 months general experience (50% of the required experience) plus 2 years of
    undergraduate course work (50% of the required education) is qualifying for the GS-5 level.

    GL 7
    To qualify at the GL-07 level, you must meet ONE of the following:
    Specialized Experience: Applicants must have at least one full-time year (12-months) of specialized
    work experience equivalent to the GL-05 level in the Federal service. Specialized experience is
    experience in or related to investigations of criminal violations that provided the specific knowledge,
    skills, and abilities to successfully perform the duties of the position. Qualifying specialized experience
    includes:
    Utilizing basic investigative techniques while participating in criminal investigations;
    Assisting in gathering and analyzing evidence through investigative leads, execution of search
    and arrest warrants and a variety of other means;
    preparing portions of criminal investigative case reports;
    participating in witness and suspect interviews;
    and testifying for the government regarding investigations in court or before grand juries.
    -OR Superior Academic Achievement (SAA): SAA at the baccalaureate level is fully qualifying for the GL-07
    grade level. To qualify for SAA, you must have completed all requirements for a bachelor's degree in
    Criminal Justice, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science or a field of study directly related to this
    position, and meet ONE of the following:
    1. A grade point average of "B" (a GPA of 2.95 or higher out of a possible 4.0) for all completed
    undergraduate courses, or those completed in the last two years of undergraduate study.
    2. A grade point average of "B+" (a GPA of 3.45 or higher out of a possible 4.0) for all courses in the
    applicant's major field of study, or those courses in the applicant's major completed in the last
    two years of undergraduate study.
    3. Rank in the upper one-third of the applicant's class in the college, university, or major
    subdivision.
    4. Membership in a national honor society (other than freshman honor societies) recognized by
    the Association of College Honor Societies. (Must include transcripts to verify eligibility)
    -OREducation: Applicants must have one full year of graduate level study, or possess a master's or higher
    degree, e.g., LL.B., J.D., LL.M., Ph.D, in Criminal Justice, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science or a field
    of study directly related to this position. (Must include transcripts to verify eligibility)
    -OR Combination of Education and Experience: Experience and education can be combined to meet the
    minimum qualification requirements. Experience and education should be computed as percentages of
    the overall requirements and must equal 100% when combined. Example: For 6 months of specialized
    experience (50% of the required experience) plus 1 semester of graduate course work (50% of the
    required education) is qualifying for the GL-07 level. Note: You must include a copy of your transcripts
    if qualifying based on education.


    GL 09
    To qualify at the GL-09 level, you must meet ONE of the following:Specialized Experience: Applicants must have at least one full-time year (12-months) of specialized work
    experience equivalent to the GL-07 grade level in the Federal service. Specialized experience is
    experience in or related to investigations of criminal violations that provided the specific knowledge,
    skills, and abilities to successfully perform the duties of the position. Qualifying specialized experience
    includes:
    Analyzing raw investigative data and preparing comprehensive written investigative reports;
    Investigating claims involving suspected crimes or alleged fraud;
    Investigating criminal cases requiring the use of recognized investigative methods that may have
    included presenting evidence in court;
    Conducting interviews that involved eliciting evidence, data or surveillance information;
    Conducting criminal investigations requiring the use of surveillance, undercover or other
    criminal detection methods;
    And investigating computerized businesses and/or accounting systems to form conclusions as to
    related criminal business practices and compliance with federal laws and regulations.
    -OR Education: Applicants must have a master's or equivalent graduate degree or 2 full years of
    progressively higher level graduate education leading to such a degree or LL. B or J.D., in Criminal
    Justice, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science or in a field of study directly related to this position..
    (Must include transcripts to verify eligibility)


    -OR- Combination of Education and Experience: Applicants must possess a combination of graduate level
    education and specialized experience totaling 100% of the stated minimum qualifications for this
    position. Only graduate education in excess of one year (i.e., 18 semester hours) may be combined with
    experience under this standard. Note: You must include a copy of your transcripts if qualifying based
    on education.

    Nothing hidden here either, but you may want to do some math. The hiring window for most people selected as agents is as posted earlier. In terms of successful applications, there is currently about a 10 year window from about 24 to 34 (you can be considered until 37, but if you are not in a process by about 34 you have a high risk of aging out). In one sense depending on where in that decade you decide, you actually have time to accomplish quite a lot to be competitive. Consider the life changes you went through from age 10 to 20. At the same time, you can burn it up in a hurry. Depending on where you are in regard to that decade you may well need to get a move on.

    Also, to hijack a thread I started. I frequently notice that we often have hundreds of guests reviewing threads like this. We hope you find the information useful, and site visits are good, but really, too much trouble to register and support us with your free membership? How about just signing on an posting that you have found the information helpful?
    Last edited by ATF SAC; 09-22-2012 at 10:23.
    ret.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Posts
    6,371
    My hope was that this sticky would accumulate information that gets repeated periodically and make it more accessible than in agency specific or threads that eventually get old and go to archives. In that vein, another area where I think posters think there is a secret code or word that will help them is resumes. Whatchagot brought this to mind in a post in another thread. My advice is to search up SF86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions.

    You can get it here: Office of Personnel Management. Make sure you have to hand accurate answers for all that (although be aware that some agencies may require that you cover longer periods of time than requested in the form when you actually have to submit it.)

    Then use the resume builder on USAjobs: https://my.usajobs.gov/Account/Login...me/ListResumes. Yes, you can sometimes submit alternatives, but isn't that a bit like paying your cable bill with penny rolls? You can do a lot of things, but simple, straightforward and familiar to the recipients seems the way to go. Again, is it a secret that we are all bureaucrats who like our forms neat and the way we like them? Plus as IrishGrunt wisely advised earlier, having it ready to go really helps when you hear the bugle to saddle up. Don't want to be the one with excuses.
    ret.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    321
    I agree with all of the advice above. One other piece of advice: don't narrow your search to 1 or 2 major agencies. I see a lot of posts saying, "I want to work for agency XYZ only". There are MANY agencies out there with 1811s and a large majority of them all go through the same training. Their missions may differ slightly, but at the end of the day, they all focus on prosecuting criminals for violating federal laws.

    If you limit your search to one agency, you greatly reduce your chances of being hired into Federal LE. No agency is "better" than any other, they all just focus on different things.

    -OT


 

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