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FBI Retired Case File Review

The host of FBI Retired Case File Review with Jerri Williams is a retired FBI agent writing crime fiction inspired by true crime FBI cases. In this podcast, she interviews retired FBI agents about their most intriguing and high-profile cases, reviews how the FBI is portrayed in books, TV, and movies and recommends crime fiction. Photos and links to articles about the cases and topics discussed can be found at

Apr 22, 2022

Special Agent Cerena Coughlin, an FBI Applicant Coordinator and recruiter for the Philadelphia Division and first office agent Special Agent Cassandra Winkel, provide answers to over 40 questions sent in by FBI Retired Case File Review listeners. 

This is part 2 of this two-part recruitment episode. Also check out Part 1 - 257: FBI Special Agent Hiring and Training Update, where Special Agents Coughlin and Winkle take us through all phases of the FBI special agent hiring process and the FBI Academy training program. 

SA Coughlin has served with the FBI for 21 years. SA Winkel is a recent FBI Academy graduate.

Check out episode show notes, photos, and related articles.


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Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, attempts to relive her glory days by debunking FBI cliches. Visit her website to check out her books, available as audiobooks, ebooks and paperbacks wherever books are sold.


Episode 258: Audio Timestamps

00:02:56 - Would a kindergarten teacher be considered a serious candidate?

00:04:13 - How does the FBI treat misuse of prescription medication (i.e. taking a prescription that you are not personally prescribed to)? I read on a public forum thread that a candidate heard from his applicant coordinator that it would require no use within one year (similar to the new marijuana policy). Is this correct?

00:06:00 - Is it still the policy of the FBI that a new agent will not return to their applicant field office as their first assignment? For example, if you apply through the Tampa office, is there any chance you could be assigned Tampa (or a resident agency) as your first location?

00:07:11 - Is anyone permitted to be in your government issued vehicle (i.e. spouse or children)?

00:08:00 - Is it still true that the application process takes about one year, or has that increased or decreased?

00:08:27 - How do we find out who the applicant coordinator is for our local office? And what types of questions are appropriate for the AC prior to an application even being submitted?

00:11:13 - Does the FBI still, on occasion, assign new Special Agents to work applicant matters? Or has this function been turned over to the FBI’s Background Investigations Contract Services (BICS) Unit?

00:12:58 - Which FBI Division and/or Office at headquarters is responsible for the tracking and analysis of women and minority Special Agent diversity statistics? And how have these numbers changed over the past 3-5 years?

00:17:02 - Are Special Agent job applications now all handled electronically on-line? Or are some still accepted by snail mail and/or hard copy drop-offs at the 56 field offices throughout the United States?

00:18:24 - What changes have been made to the FBI’s formal recruitment process over the years in order to attract more women and minorities into the Special Agent ranks? Are there still more hurdles or are you encountering roadblocks?

00:23:13 - What kind of continuing training exists for agents, for tactical-related things learned at the academy? Not just firearms shooting at a static range, but also tactics/shoothouse, car stops, etc.

00:24:19 - What is the process for changing what squad and violations you're working on after entering?

00:27:53 - What is the work/life balance like these days? I've listened to quite a few episodes where the different agents worked 80-100 ish hours a week for months over the course of their careers, which often negatively impacted their family relationships, with some ending in divorces, etc.

00:31:00 - I am 27 years old; I work as the Director of Assessment at a psychiatric hospital. My master’s degree is in Psychology. I have been with the hospital for almost 6 years, working in progressively higher positions until obtaining a director-level job. My goal has been to join the FBI at 30. Given the brief overview of my background, is there any general advice you all can give me as I look to apply within the next 2-3 years? Anything that would make me stand out even more as an applicant?

00:32:57 - My grand daughter is 28 and has BA and MA degree in Accounting and four years with a major accounting firm. She has researched and realizes she meets the basic educational and experience for the SA position but is more interested in the Accounting /Financial Analyst position. Are professional Accounting/Financial Analysts able to choose their office assignments? Are they subject to transfers as are the SA’s? Do they receive location pay for high-cost areas? Do they receive overtime (AUO) as do the SA’s?

00:37:00 - I am a licensed attorney and I own and run my own law firm. My husband is a Navy JAG officer and so I take my firm with me when we move from state to state. I am a solo practitioner, so I do not have a supervising attorney. Is this still considered "professional" job experience for purposes of the Special Agent position?

00:37:50 - In moving from field office to office, is there any consideration given to being able to live close to my husband who is in the Navy, if possible? Of course, I understand the needs of the Bureau come first.

00:38:47 - I got arrested for driving under the influence. Besides this, I have a clean, spotless record. Would this prevent me from getting accepted? Would that one mistake in my past be enough to prevent me from my dream job?

00:39:56 - What fields of study and experience is the Bureau most looking for and what will give future applicants that edge?

00:42:14 - Is the Intelligence Analyst recruitment process on hold or does it only happen one time per year?

00:44:00 - Do you have to have 20/20 vision to be an agent? Is there a height restriction?

00:45:00 - How long does the hiring process typically take?

00:45:10 - During Quantico, are you able to communicate with/see loved ones?

00:49:37 - How does the FBI determine what your specialization (or unit) will be as an agent?

00:53:00 - I haven't been able to get in touch with my local FBI recruiter or Applicant Coordinator. What should I do?

00:55:02 - In your experience observing and training candidates, what do the most resilient New Agent Trainees do regularly while at Quantico to help them face unknown challenges and experiences while training?

00:57:20 - I've been told or even warned that this job can change you; being exposed to a world of crime and prosecution might do that. What strategies have you used, or seen used, whether mental attitudes or practices, to maintain a healthy optimism when facing even the toughest situations consistently as a special agent? And to follow that question, what practices do you suggest to check-in with yourself throughout one's time serving in the FBI to make sure you haven't lost true north, in a sense?

01:05:44 - I am a military officer considering transitioning in the next 3-5 years and I’m interested in applying to the FBI. Can you speak at all on family life in the FBI? My dream is to coach my kids’ little league teams. Is that possible as a special agent? Also, does the FBI respect Sundays for church?

01:10:41 - Are Tattoos allowed?

01:12:05 - What is the graduation rate over the past 5 years? How many people flunk out?

01:14:03 - How do new agent graduates from the Academy handle first assignment living arrangements, especially given when that first assignment location is confirmed while in training and the 2 year probationary period? Are there any services provided at the academy to help locate housing/apartments for new agents or at the field offices themselves? Do most agents look to rent an apartment or do they purchase a house that they have a family?

01:19:44 - When given a new assignment (new city) later in an agent's career, do the individuals have to handle breaking a lease/selling a house or does the government help alleviate some of that stress?

01:22:14 - How does that first week/month look for new agents when they arrive at their first field office?