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  1. ITV Report

MI6 releases first TV advert in bid to cast off macho James Bond image and recruit more women and ethnic minorities

While Britain's most famous (and fictional) spy might be able to keep his cool in a shark tank, MI6 is instead seeking intelligence officers who are better at "picking up on the silent cues that matter" and "understanding others", the agency has declared as it seeks to cast off its James Bond image.

The Secret Intelligence Service has released its first television advertisement highlighting the "soft" skills it is seeking in applicants, as it aims to recruit more women and ethnic minorities.

While the advert opens on a menacing looking shark - a scene that could come straight from a James Bond film - it soon becomes clear that the shark is in an aquarium and is being watched by a child and his mother.

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The voice over says: “We are intelligence officers but we don’t do what you think. It is not keeping your cool in the shark tank, it is picking up the silent cues that matter.”

It ends: “MI6 – secretly we are just like you.”

MI6's head of recruitment explained that the idea of the advert was "to play on the Bond image but to explain very clearly that this was not James Bond...

“In many respects the people we are recruiting have sets of skills that are common to many people in the population.

“MI6 can take advantage of this Bond image and then turn it on its head.”

The shark is watched by a mother and his child. Credit: MI6

She said they were looking for new intelligence officers who had a “blend of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills” combined with a “strong sense sense of integrity and creativity”.

The agency is currently looking to recruit 800 new staff by 2021.

It has seen an upsurge in interest since the Salisbury nerve agent attack on the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, blamed by the Government on the Kremlin.

MI6 chief Alex Younger is keen to attract more women and ethnic minorities to the agency. Credit: MI6

However MI6 chief Alex Younger said it was essential they were able to continue to attract the very best candidates, including women and members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities who previously might not have considered applying.

“The principal underlying capability that we have is our people.

“We have to sustain that situation and we have to recruit more,” he said.

“It is about having the widest possible choice of the best talent in the country.

“I want people who would have never have thought about joining MI6 to think about joining MI6.”

According to the latest official figures from March 2016, 24.1%s of senior staff and 37.8% of non-senior staff were women while there were no BAME members among the senior ranks and they accounted for just 6.8% of the non-senior staff.

A senior director of the service said that a bringing in a more diverse workforce would help counter the dangers of “group think”.

“We are looking for people who are brave enough to speak up,” he said.

Elaine, a mother of three, who joined MI6 five years ago after a successful career in retailing, said she had wondered how she would fit in as a BAME woman.

However she said she had found she had been able to work against the “full range of targets” while she said the agency’s approach to flexible working compared favourably with her previous employer.

“I have been able to use my difference to my advantage,” she said.

“I wanted to do something that made a difference and this absolutely ticked that box.”