Canadian spy agency partners with escape room to find new recruits

Published Aug. 15, 2019 5:46 p.m. ET

Share this story:

Click to Expand

OTTAWA – In an unorthodox recruitment effort, Canada's electronic spy agency has teamed up with an Ottawa escape room company to track down potential new hires.

Starting in September, people are being given a chance to "solve your way into a career in cyber security," and experience a dramatized version of what a day on the job is like as a Communications Security Establishment (CSE) cyber defence expert.

Called "The Recruit," the newly-designed escape room involves a cyber attack executed by a fictional foreign adversary, and includes challenges developed in part by agency employees.

If successful in cracking the clues, those who try their hand at the room could be asked to interview with a CSE recruiter.

"Can your team rise to the occasion, or will your first day also be your last?" asks a promotional video created by CSE.

CSE conducts foreign signals intelligence -- the interception and analysis of electronic communications like calls, texts, and satellites -- to provide the federal government with international intelligence.

It's not a job many people may consider, so CSE is hoping to raise awareness about the typically super secretive organization.

"This is an ideal venue for us to reach people with these interests who may not be aware of CSE or have ever considered career opportunities in Canada's security and intelligence community," said CSE spokesperson Ryan Foreman in an email to "We know that the kinds of puzzles and problem solving skills needed to be successful in an escape room challenge are common interests among many of our staff," he said.

Escape Manor, the company that CSE approached for this initiative, has doubled the size of their space in their Hintonburg neighborhood location to set up this new experience.

This project is being billed as a modern take on the 1940 codebreaker recruitment tactic used by the British, who offered interviews to people who could solve the difficult crossword puzzles recruiters put in the newspaper.

"Our workforce is made up of creative problem solvers and critical thinkers. We work on some of the most challenging technical problems for the Government of Canada. This innovative partnership aims to raise awareness among Canadians of the work that CSE does and of the fulfilling career opportunities available at CSE," said CSE Chief Shelly Bruce in a press release announcing the initiative.

Read the original version