What makes a good spy? How can you differentiate between the traits between that would make you mediocre or succeed in espionage?

Serving in a clandestine role can be a great way to serve your country and will be intellectually stimulating, challenging, and thrilling. Some prerequisites that can help you attain a position of this sorts include military experience, language, experience abroad, higher education, or unique life experiences.

So why are some of the most famous spies already, well…famous?

The obvious qualifications include:

Military Background. National security agencies put great value on military experience and in any spy agency, the folks hiring for these spy roles place emphasis on candidates who have experience in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Language Capablities. Speaking a foreign language is not a requirement to get hired, but it puts you a leg up. It makes you more valuable as you can communicate with potential assets in their own language.

Experience Overseas. Since spy agencies focus on events and developments abroad, it makes sense they would prefer its employees to have experience living overseas. It shows that a candidate is comfortable living outside their comfort zone.

Higher Education: A bachelor’s degree in foreign affairs or international politics is not required, though can be helpful

Life Struggle or Experiences: How can you sympathize with a source or their struggles if haven’t lived life experiences? Espionage is handling people, which could mean being their friend or confidant that you relate to.


In addition to the above, it’s all about access, and role play. So, actresses make obvious choices for collecting classified information even though they are in the limelight or public eye. While they are naturals when it comes to embodying other identities, they also have access to other high-ranking officials whether it be just in communication or while meeting at parties.

Take one female spy during the late 30’s, for example. When France declared war on Germany in response to the invasion of Poland, French military intelligence recruited her as an “honorable correspondent”. She collected what information she could about German troop locations from officials she met at cocktail hours.

Her fame aided her to rub shoulders with those who were on a need to know basis, from officials to bureaucrats, and to report back what she heard.

It almost makes celebrities better choices than the average Joe or Jill because it’s unexpected. Why would this handsome athlete or famous entertainer be collecting information from me on intelligence matters? Let us not forget that people’s guards come down when they are infatuated.

Another American icon turned secret agent during WWII who has a very different story from the former. While he played Major League Baseball for 15 seasons, he was still only considered an average player and better known for being “the brainiest guy in baseball.” But it was his higher education and foreign language abilities that made him the perfect candidate for secret squirrel assignments.

Martin Quigley Jr.’s story is the epitome of access. While he started in film and magazine publication, his real life became is cover story to gather intelligence in Ireland during World War II. His father, Quigley Sr. offered a long line of contacts to aid Quigley Jr.’s espionage projects, in addition with having the access to travel abroad and build on that experience.

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 7+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸