The CIA is now getting over 2,800 resumes a week, and less than one percent of those are offered a job. About 88 percent of the applicants who are offered a job (usually as field agents or analysts), accept. This is up from 70 percent last year. The training is tough, although more in a mental than in a physical sense. About five percent of the trainees wash out, or a kicked out. The CIA expects to expand it's analyst and operator force by 25 percent in the next four years.
One of the recruiting problems is that the agency is trying to increase the percentage, of analysts and agents with a non-European background from 4-5 percent to twenty percent. For decades, the main enemy was Russia, and a lot of the senior CIA people speak Russian. But the enemy of the moment speaks Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Persian and a lot of other languages few American know how to handle. To a certain extent, the CIA can get some support from the military, especially the Special Forces. But the Special Forces are twenty percent understrength, and having a hard time recruiting. The Special Forces has higher standards than the CIA, and for that reason has long served as a complementary field force for the CIA. Thus the CIA does not want to be seen trying to recruit Special Forces troops, although the CIA does offer Special Forces guys retiring from the Army a second career doing a lot of the same work.
But no matter who they work for, new recruits who have to learn Arabic or Chinese are going to require a year or so of intense training before they are any good with their new language skills. There are lots of other things to learn, and it takes 4-5 years to turn a new hire into a really useful analyst or field operator. Since September 11, 2001, the CIA has convinced hundreds of retired agents and field operators to come back to work. Many needed little encouragement, as CIA employees live for a crises where they can strut their stuff. The retired "green badgers" (used to distinguish them from regular CIA employees who wear blue ID badges in CIA headquarters) were more useful than their numbers would indicate, because of their many years of experience. Meanwhile, CIA brass worry about non-CIA people they have to depend on in places where they don't have enough agency people who speak the local language or know who is who. In the past this has cause problems when, on a slow news day, Congress finds out that the CIA is working with thugs and murderers.