The IC employs approximately 20,000 analysts with a wide range of talents and expertise, and it has begun to define the array of competencies that analysts will need through their careers (e.g., Director of National Intelligence, 2008). However, the IC definitions rely on “face validity” or intuitive appeal rather than on an evidence-based evaluation.

Strategic human resource management offers an objective, scientific approach to developing the best possible workforce. It is grounded in the findings that individuals differ on a wide range of psychological characteristics—such as cognitive ability, personality, and values—that predict corresponding differences in educational achievement, job performance, and career success. Some of these characteristics are relatively stable, such as cognitive ability, personality, and values, while others are more malleable, such as job knowledge, job-specific skills, attitudes, and motivational characteristics.1 Stable characteristics can influence the malleable ones. For example, it is well established that individuals with relative higher cognitive ability gain more from experience and training than those with relatively lower cognitive ability (e.g., Judge et al., 2010; Schmidt and Hunter, 2004).

To assemble and develop individuals with the optimal collection of characteristics, the IC needs to pay attention to recruiting and selecting the right people, as well as to their training, motivation, and support. Both of these efforts will be important, but recruitment and selection is especially important because the quality of the human resources pool assembled in this first step facilitates or constrains an organization’s subsequent ability to build and develop its workforce. A failure to maximize the talent pool at this step cannot be rectified by subsequent efforts.

Psychological research has identified a wide range of characteristics that differ from individual to individual and can help to identify people with the greatest potential to become successful analysts. It is important to note that the optimal qualities for IC analysts may turn out to be quite different from the current criteria. For example, current practices may undervalue raw cognitive ability (a stable characteristic) and overvalue historical or political area knowledge (a malleable characteristic). Furthermore, the IC may need to shift from proxy measures, such as having a college degree, to direct measures of cognitive ability, as there is generally substantial variation in the cognitive abilities of college degree holders even from the same institution. Direct measures with strong psychometric validation are readily


Attainments such as an advanced graduate degree or extensive domain-specific expertise, although technically malleable, may entail a sufficiently long developmental period as to be considered stable characteristics for practical purposes.

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