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Mandarin Chinese Language Opportunities Ref. 969

Languages
Cheltenham, London
£25,000 - £30,000 plus language allowance

Your knowledge of Mandarin could open up a fascinating career in intelligence. By joining MI5, MI6 or GCHQ you can play a key role in protecting the UK.

The roles

The UK’s intelligence agencies are looking for expert linguists but these roles go well beyond translation and transcription.

You’ll be using your language skills to provide intelligence insights and you’ll deliver clear analysis and presentations. Your insights will then feed directly into ongoing planning and decision-making. Playing an active role in directing projects and driving forward investigations, you’ll get to work at the heart of intelligence investigations. The challenge is to make material accessible and understandable to others as you seek out vital clues in Mandarin language material. It’s genuinely interesting work which will test your judgement, people skills and linguistic ability every step of the way.

The agencies

There are openings for Mandarin specialists at all three of the UK’s intelligence agencies. MI5 is responsible for the domestic security of the UK – the work of linguists helps to identify and counter threats to the UK from terrorism, espionage and proliferation. MI6 works overseas to gather intelligence that helps protect the nation and its interests. GCHQ is focussed on technology and cyber, collecting foreign intelligence which linguists translate and analyse to protect the UK from terrorism, hackers, espionage and organised crime.


Grow and develop

You’ll be working alongside like-minded people from a variety of backgrounds – in a culture with a strong focus on learning and development. You’ll be supported to enhance your linguistic skills further, for example by ongoing language maintenance classes. You will also receive training on non language aspects of the job.

Your language skills could come from growing up in a multilingual family or you may have studied Mandarin to a high level.  You certainly need a passion for the language and an ability to translate its nuances into clear, well drafted English.

Our Mandarin practice test will enable you to assess your suitability for a role using this language in the SIA.  The test does not reflect the full complexity of the challenges offered by our Mandarin specialist roles but is indicative of the type of skills successful candidates should be comfortable using on a routine basis.

Your linguistic skills need to be complemented by a good knowledge of China’s cultural affairs, history, politics, ideology and economy. You also need to combine an analytical, enquiring mind with strong powers of judgement and good people skills.

How to apply

We will ask you to complete our pre-screening questions to see if you meet our initial eligibility criteria. We will then ask you to begin an application for which you need to create an on line login. You need to provide your full name, email address and a memorable password. Once you have successfully created a personal account, you are ready to complete the on line application form. You will be asked to provide background about your education and employment history as well as details of your Mandarin language skills and any other language(s) you have learned and your motivation for using Mandarin in a role in intelligence.


On the application form you can specify whether you wish to be considered for Mandarin vacancies in London or Cheltenham.We cannot guarantee which agency you will join. However, if you are successful, we will explore this with you in the latter phases of the recruitment process and any other language skills you have will be taken into account at this stage.

Please note that if you have applied for a Mandarin vacancy at MI5, MI6 or GCHQ in the last 12 months and have been unsuccessful at the language test stage, you will not be eligible to reapply for this role at this time.

Our recruitment team will complete an application sift to assess how far you meet the job specification. Successful applicants will be invited to attend a Mandarin language test in London and this will assess your Mandarin language ability across a range of tasks including listening, reading comprehension and translation. If you are successful, you will be asked to attend an assessment centre which may be in London or Cheltenham. This will include a face-to-face interview and other exercises.

Guaranteed Interview Scheme

As part of our commitment to the "Positive About Disabled People" scheme we offer an interview to all candidates with a disability who meet our minimum criteria for the job vacancy for which they are applying. This is known as the Guaranteed Interview Scheme (GIS).

Along with the standard eligibility requirements for this post, your application will be assessed on how far you meet the job specification based on your application and your Mandarin language ability. On successful completion of this stage, you will be invited to the Mandarin language test, which is our guaranteed interview.

Please note that if you are unsuccessful at the language testing stage of your application, you will not be eligible to reapply for Mandarin language vacancies at MI5, MI6 or GCHQ within a 12-month period.


Eligibility and discretion

To be able to apply, you must meet our residency criteria. You must be a born or naturalised British citizen and one of your parents must be a British citizen or have substantial ties to the UK.

Candidates must normally have been resident in the UK for eight out of the last ten years prior to application. This is particularly important if you were born outside the UK. You will nonetheless be considered if you have, for example, served overseas with HM Forces or in some other official capacity as a representative of Her Majesty’s Government, studied abroad or lived overseas with your parents.

Due to vetting requirements you will need to be 18 years old, or above, to apply. Your application may take around nine months to process.

Discretion is vital. You should not discuss your application, other than with your partner or a close family member, providing that they are British. You should also make them aware of the importance of discretion. You should not post on social media sites about your application or discuss it with anyone else at this stage. You will receive further guidance during the recruitment process.

We are committed to reflecting both equal opportunities and the society we protect.