NSA Hiring Process
The process to join the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is long and arduous. After submitting an application, the hiring process consists of the following steps:
- HR Prescreen Interview (approximately 1-2 weeks) – Candidates meet with Human Resources to review their applications, resumes, and basic qualifications.
- Operational Interviews and Testing (approximately 2–4 weeks) – Candidates are introduced to supervisors in their areas of expertise who assess their qualifications in detail. Candidates may also be asked to take a test. If all goes well, a conditional offer is given.
- Security and Psychological Testing (approximately 8–12 weeks) – This is a security clearance process. Candidates are asked to complete a questionnaire and meet with a background investigator. The investigator will work for several weeks to confirm the details provided in the questionnaire. Candidates may also be asked to take a psychological test and/or related interviews.
- Hiring Authority Final Approval (approximately 1–2 weeks) – After candidates successfully pass the security process, the hiring authority approves candidacy.
- Final Job Offer (approximately 1–2 weeks) – The most qualified applicants are offered a job to start a career with the NSA.
NSA Psychological Tests
The five-factor model of personality is utilized throughout NSA psychological exams. Balance is the key to succeeding on these tests. Applicants should avoid the highs and lows of each factor. Let’s take a look at the five fundamental elements of this type of exam:
- Neuroticism – This factor measures a candidate's level of emotional adjustment and stability.
- Extroversion – This factor looks at the intensity of a candidate's personal interactions.
- Openness to Experience – The items assessing this factor measure the level and quantity of a candidate's activities, along with the sense of enjoyment gained through his or her experiences.
- Agreeableness – This factor assesses a candidate's ability to connect with others while still retaining his or her sense of self.
- Conscientiousness – This factor is considered by many experts in the field of employment testing to most closely reflect future job performance. It involves a wide range of characteristics, including organizational skills, persistence, prioritizing goals, and motivation.
Keep in mind that psychologists at the NSA are searching for patterns of answers. Consistency and avoiding extremes are essential to passing National Security Agency pre-employment tests.
After submitting an application, candidates are invited to take online tests. The NSA exams come in a variety of formats—multiple-choice, true/false and fill-in-the-blank.
The types of tests applicants encounter are different depending on the positions for which they are applying. Some of the tests include number series, matrices, and English proficiency.
The test may take up to 90 minutes to complete, although it can be completed in less. Test results are valid for six months from the date the test was completed, and candidates may not retake the test during these six months.
Candidates applying to one of the STEM fields—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—will also face specific job-related cognitive tests.
Benefits of Working for the NSA
There are many benefits to working for the NSA. Benefits include 10 federal holidays, a minimum of 13 annual leave days, health and life insurance options, and retirement plan options.
Preparing for the NSA Assessment Test
Taking the time and making the effort to work on practice tests will establish your comfort with the types of questions and exam formats you will encounter on the real NSA exams.