Could You Pass the Interview to Work at the FBI?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: South_agency/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has fascinated the public almost since its inception. A famous (and infamous) FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, courted Hollywood on the Bureau's behalf, acting as a consultant to a movie and a TV series about the FBI and encouraging tales of upright "G-men" catching the bad guys. Since then, Hollywood's take on the Bureau has gotten more complex, and so has the public's. But through it all, the job of "special agent" has remained a coveted one, and many people fantasize about becoming one.

Perhaps you're one of them. Maybe you feel that you know what it'd take to get into the FBI, to train at the famous academy at Quantico, and to do the real work that follows. If so, we've got a quiz for you!

OK, we can't give you a background check, an in-person interview, or a physical-fitness exam like the Bureau would. But we will throw you some problem-solving tasks like you might find on the FBI's exam, and some ethical dilemmas to work through. We'll also ask a few personality questions, to gauge whether you've got the right character to work for the FBI. All in all, we're going to put you through a mental wringer - just like the FBI's exam would do. Would you make the cut? Find out now!



Which of these LEAST describes the FBI's role?

The FBI is generally not called on to keep the peace in riots, civil unrest or the like. That is the job of other agencies, including local and state police.

Which of these terms best describes the FBI's jurisdiction?

The FBI calls itself America's domestic law-enforcement and security agency. This is largely in contrast to the CIA, whose role is international intelligence gathering.

What is the name for an FBI office in an American city?

The FBI has more than 50 field offices domestically. They sometimes also maintain a presence within smaller jurisdictions - for example, a posting of a single agent - that doesn't rise to the level of being a field office.

What are FBI offices overseas called?

The name is commonly shortened to "legat." The FBI has presences overseas to protect Americans abroad and develop cooperative relationships with the law-enforcement agencies of other countries. These offices exist with the permission of host countries.

What is the name of the FBI headquarters in Washington?

Hoover was the FBI director who brought the Bureau into the 20th century in many ways, in terms of its size, duties and methods. But the Hoover name is a double-edged sword, as the director's reputation has slowly been tarnished after his death. (He was evidently paranoid, keeping "enemies files" and using Bureau resources to keep tabs on those he didn't like).

If you are accepted, you'll train at the FBI Academy. What is its informal name?

Quantico is a Marine base in Virginia. The FBI has its training facility there, and other agencies come to train as well.

Which of these weapons would an FBI agent be most likely to carry?

FBI agents carry the least visible and obtrusive of these guns because, generally speaking, weapons aren't a big part of the job. Some candidates for agenthood actually withdraw from the Academy because they are uncomfortable with the gun-carrying part of the job.

True or false: FBI agents have to read the Miranda rights at time of arrest, like patrol officers do.

Civil rights are universal. FBI agents are required to read suspects their rights, just like any other arresting officer.

True or false: Does the FBI have its own police force?

Though the FBI is not a "national police force," as some people believe, it does maintain a small force of its own. This is to provide security for its buildings or for vulnerable witnesses.

What is the name of the obstacle course that agent trainees run?

The Yellow Brick Road is a grueling obstacle course at Quantico. You can see Clarice Starling running it in the opening sequence of "The Silence of the Lambs."

What is Hogan's Alley?

Hogan's Alley is where agent trainees practice, among other things, shoot/don't shoot decisions. Though in movies it's often depicted as having pop-up figures - for example, a man in a burglar mask or a nun - nowadays trainees use paintball guns and volunteers play the town's bad guys and its innocent bystanders.

A lie detector is more formally known as a what?

The name "polygraph," from the Latin for "much writing," is based on its multiple needle/pens, which track several body functions (like heart rate). The polygraph is one of the more controversial pieces of law-enforcement equipment of modern times.

Which of these agencies would the FBI be most likely to work cooperatively with?

The FBI works cooperatively with all sorts of law-enforcement bodies -- federal, state or local. If there's a particular rivalry with another agency, it seems to be pretty well hidden.

How many people are on the FBI's Most Wanted list?

The Most Wanted list was an innovation of J. Edgar Hoover's days. It can often be found on the walls of a post office.

True or false: Osama bin Laden was #1 on the Most Wanted list for much of the 2000s.

Surprised? It's because the list is not ranked. There's never been a #1, contrary to popular belief.

Which of these do you not need to apply to the FBI?

Contrary to what many people believe, the FBI does not recruit actively from law enforcement. It is more interested in what a candidate studied at university. That said, military service is highly valued.

Which of these professional fields is LEAST valuable to the FBI?

Sorry, gym rats ... but the FBI actively looks for candidates in fields that might strike the rest of us as boring ... accounting, finance and computer science among them. It really is a brain job, and the ability to follow complicated legal or financial paper trails is very useful.

Which of these does the application process NOT include?

The FBI is thorough, to be sure. But it wouldn't actually look at your genes (which might be cause for a racial-discrimination suit, at any rate).

Which of these foreign languages would be most useful to the FBI?

Many foreign languages are useful to the FBI, which employs linguists. But there's no denying that in the current climate, Arabic is particularly in demand.

How old is too old to apply to the Bureau?

Mandatory retirement age is 57, so the FBI set its maximum age at 37 to ensure that an agent would work at least 20 years. It isn't considered worthwhile to train anyone who'll be able to work less than that. On sites like Quora, you can find people asking "Will the FBI make an exception for me? I'm 38, but have so much to offer!" Sorry, that's not likely to work.

You shout for a bank-robbery suspect to "halt," but he runs away from you. Should you draw your gun and shoot?

No! Shooting a suspect in the back is not protocol, even if he might get away. OK, there are probably *really* extenuating circumstances that might justify this ... we just can't think of one.

A suspect in a crime draws a gun and aims at you. Which of these might affect your decision to shoot?

In the field, you are allowed, almost required, to protect yourself. Although an agent might have qualms about shooting at a minor, there is no automatic protection for a potential shooter under 18.

After a stressful day, which of these would you most likely do?

Part of the FBI's screening is a personality assessment. They are looking for people who handle stress in the healthiest possible way -- which doesn't mean partying, drinking or overeating.

Who oversees the FBI?

The Department of Justice oversees several federal law-enforcement agencies, of which the FBI is one. The head of the DOJ is the Attorney General.

A serious crime is committed in a small town. Does the police chief have to suspect that the criminal has crossed the state line before asking for FBI help?

Several factors will go into whether the FBI lends aid to smaller jurisdictions. Probably, one of them is as mundane as how much manpower the Bureau has at the time. It was probably harder to get aid in the months after 9/11.

The HRT is the FBI's version of what?

The Hostage Rescue Team was created in 1984, just before Los Angeles hosted the Summer Olympics. Remembering the tragedy at Munich only 10 years earlier, the FBI wanted an elite team ready to respond to a hostage crisis.

Which agency would be most likely to ask for FBI help with drug interdiction?

Customs is part of the Homeland Security Agency. They deal with border protection and shipments into the US quite a lot, and would be most likely to ask for FBI assistance with drug smuggling.

If a co-worker is falling behind at work, which of these would you be most likely to do?

The FBI is looking for people who work well with others. This means handling difficult situations diplomatically, but also without burying one's head in the sand and ignoring the problem.

Which of these does the Fourth Amendment protect?

This amendment is obviously important to FBI work. There are definitely situations when you can search without a warrant, but your evidence is at risk of being thrown out if a judge finds the reasons for the search and seizure baseless.

Which of these situations allows you to search a car without a warrant?

If someone gives you consent to search their home, car or person, that's all it takes. Other situations that don't require a warrant are when you have good reason to believe evidence is being destroyed within, the suspect has already been arrested on charges pertaining to the search or evidence is in plain view (like through a window).

You're interviewing someone who constantly shifts position or touches their face. What does this suggest to you?

Twitching and unnecessary movements tend to suggest dishonesty. However, someone very comfortable with lying will usually not exhibit these symptoms.

What does the RICO Act deal with?

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was passed in the mid-20th century. A series of congressional hearings had introduced the public -- and the more naive among members of Congress -- to the idea that organized crime was everywhere in the US, influencing public safety, prices of goods, and so on.

Which of these agree/disagree statements is unlikely to be part of your personality assessment?

While the FBI is likely to learn your family's and culture's religion as part of the background check, it won't ask a question about how religion might affect your work. That would be considered discriminatory.

Which of these is a "white-collar" crime?

White-collar crime is nonviolent crime with a financial motive, usually committed in the setting of a business or corporation. Tax evasion counts, though it has to be large in scope for the FBI to get involved.

What do the Rules of Engagement control?

You'll hear this term more often in relation to the military. But it became important in the standoff at Ruby Ridge, in which a shootout killed Vicki Weaver and her son Sammy Weaver, who was 14 years old.

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