GCHQ Are Using Stencils To Try And Recruit Spies

by : Tom Percival on : 23 Nov 2015 16:54

Move over James Bond, there’s a new generation of spies coming through, and they listened to your favourite band before they became so mainstream.


GCHQ, who spy on enemy communications and does its best to protect sensitive British secrets, have begun a strange new recruitment drive.

Last Monday the streets of various British cities were sprayed with the enigmatic message: “GCH-Who? Technical Opportunities gchq-careers.co.uk”.


The words appeared on pavements in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Wolverhampton and Shoreditch and aren’t sprayed in paint, but instead jet washed into the dirty pavements.


Shoreditch is an interesting choice to begin spy recruitment, because it’s part of “The Silicon Roundabout” the UK’s, slightly less glamourous, equivalent of Silicon Valley and home to the most tech start-ups in the country.


Shoreditch was also the centre of British hipsterism, and shows what intelligence agencies are up against these days, not just baddies from Bond films, but also cooler employers with better job prospects.

You see being a spy requires a certain set of particular skills and one of the most important is that you have to be clever, very clever. Most spies are less Daniel Craig jumping between buildings and more Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, doing complicated maths and advanced programming.

This makes recruiting spies difficult, but even worse now there’s a brain drain out of spying an into more attractive careers where people can make more money and be less secretive about what they do.

sheldon coopersheldon cooperCBS

It may seem weird for Britain to be recruiting spies through stencils but clearly they want to put some mystique back into the idea of spying. Previously they’ve published special puzzles that only those with the right skills could decode.

GCHQ’s official line is:


We are always looking to widen our recruitment focus to reach the people we would like to recruit and therefore we use a range of innovative channels for our advertising.

The Guardian asked a number of Londoners whether they’d consider putting on a tux and becoming an international person of mystery, here are a few of their reactions.

Alex, an interior designer, said:

I love interior design and architecture I would stay where I am. It is, we agree, a big leap from interior design to counter-terrorism.

Jamie, didn’t think much of his chances, saying:

God no. I’m an actor.

So the idea doesn’t seem to have caught on in Shoreditch but it’s possible they’ll have more luck in other cities.

The GCHQ have  refuse to comment on why they’ve targeted hipsters, maybe Britain’s enemies have a fear of vintage clothing and Polaroid cameras? Maybe it’s because hipsters love knowing whats going on before anyone else?

Tom Percival

More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism. Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV. He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.

Topics: News


The Guardian
  1. The Guardian

    Shoreditch spies: why does GCHQ want to hire hipsters?