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FBI Swamped With High-Quality Applicants
L O S A N G E L E S , Feb. 4 — The FBI has been receiving numerous high-quality applications as it rushes to meet a nationwide goal of hiring more than 900 agents in the next eight months. One of the toughest challenges facing the agency is sorting through the thousands of applications received since the terrorist attacks. "It's busier than I've ever seen it," said Jan Caldwell, an FBI spokeswoman in San Diego and agent for 27 years. "And the quality of the applicants is just incredible. We are literally getting rocket scientists applying." Several doctors, a tax lawyer and applicants with degrees in philosophy, electrical engineering and computer science have applied, she said. The FBI has about 11,000 agents worldwide and typically receives 25,000 applications a year, Caldwell estimated. "In the past, the spikes in people applying to be agents came from television or the movies," Caldwell said. "First came Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s FBI series. Then there was Silence of the Lambs. In the '90s, it was X Files. This time it was Sept. 11, and that obviously makes a difference." The agency's Los Angeles office was receiving about 100 job applications a day after Sept. 11, but the number has dropped off recently, said Annette Nowak, a recruiting agent for the office. The four FBI offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento annually process about 11 percent of the FBI's total of recruits nationwide. From 1996 to this year, the four primary FBI offices in California tested 4,724 applicants and 466 recruits were offered employment. When the agency announced its hiring goal last month, the FBI said its priorities are recruits with computer, engineering, science and foreign language skills, especially languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Pashtu and Urdu. Skills in other languages, including Spanish, Russian and Japanese, remain in high demand. About one-third of the 900,000 Arab-Americans in the United States live in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The high number of applicants should help the bureau meet its recruiting goals, but sorting through all the applications could slow the process down. "It cuts both ways," said San Diego's Caldwell. "But the bureau usually meets its hiring goals and we will probably meet them this year. We need them more than ever before."
—The Associated Press
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