Thanks for this, we can clearly do better. Some ideas:
When you recruit as an org, be 100% transparent on the number of applicants you have for a given position, so that people don’t overestimate their chances.
As a community, let’s do more to promote the creation of more impactful orgs (e.g. through communications and increased funding for early-stage initiatives)
Scale existing orgs by following best practices so that they can recruit more. Get experienced mentors on board if needed.
Stop talking as if there was a binary divide between what is “EA” and what is “non-EA”. This is a spectrum, and we should promote way more than just the usual ~20 EA orgs as good career options (it seems we are getting better at this, but there’s still a long way to go).
Make it easier for EAs to collaborate on projects (e.g. by creating an online project platform), so that they can still have an impact even when they can’t or won’t be hired in an org. This could also boost the creation of new orgs that could then hire later on.
I don’t really agree with your second and third point. Seeing this problem and responding by trying to create more ‘capital letter EA jobs’ strikes me as continuing to pursue a failing strategy.
What (in my opinion) the EA Community needs is to get away from this idea of channelling all committed people to a few organisations—the community is growing faster* than the organisations, and those numbers are unlikely to add up in the mid term.
Committing all our people to a few organisations seriously limits our impact in the long run. There are plenty of opportunities to have a large impact out there—we just need to appreciate them and pursue them. One thing I would like to see is stronger profession-specific networks in EA.
It’s catastrophic that new and long-term EAs now consider their main EA activity to be to apply for the same few jobs instead of trying to increase their donations or investing in non-‘capital letter EA’ promising careers.
But this is hardly surprising given past messaging. The only reason EA organisations can get away with having very expensive hiring rounds for the applicants is because there are a lot of strongly committed people out there willing to take on that cost. Organisations cannot get away with this in most of the for-profit sector.
*Though this might be slowing down somewhat, perhaps because of this ‘being an EA is applying unsuccessfully for the same few jobs’ phenomena.
I disagree that “organizations cannot get away with this in most of the for-profit sector”, at least when it comes to the kinds of for-profit jobs people in EA are likely to apply for.
I applied to ~10 different EA roles in 2018 (depending on how you count):
The longest process, from Open Phil, involved roughly the same number of rounds, and the same amount of time, as the most time-intensive job I applied to out of college (at a hedge fund). They paid me for my time; the hedge fund didn’t.
CEA was a round shorter than that, and involved maybe 6 total hours of work before my work trial (at which point I had a very good chance of being hired—also, I was paid at a reasonable rate during the trial).
Of the other positions where I reached the final round or got an offer, none took more time than the job I accepted out of college (at a software company); most were along the lines of “one work test, a short interview, and a longer interview or set of interviews on-site”. This seems to me like the standard in several high-skilled industries.
Out of roughly 20 jobs and internships I applied for in college (and reached an interview round for), none of them took less time than the median EA position for which I received an interview, usually because I spent several hours on a custom cover letter and other first-round materials before even getting an interview. As far as I know, most EA orgs don’t require cover letters, which seems really good.
Meanwhile, the hiring process for medical and legal positions, as far as I’ve heard from people I know in those industries, is often longer and less transparent than the EA process.
Is there an area of the for-profit sector that you think does especially well in keeping the hiring process brief and/or transparent for applicants, while still finding good people?
My husband is a software developer. He normally does a screening phone interview, a technical test (1-4 hours) and an in-person interview (which may involve other technical questions/tests). The whole process would take 4-8 hours.
I used to be a teacher. I normally did a job application and a teaching demonstration/interview. The whole process normally took 4-8 hours.
I can’t tell you if these processes were better or worse than EA org processes; I can only tell you that I now see 4-8 hours as a normal amount of time to spend applying and interviewing for a professional job.
When I applied to Google I did a phone interview and a full day of in-person interviews, plus a 1-hour conference call about how to do well in the second round. Lots of people devote significant time brushing up their coding interview skills as well; I only didn’t because things like Project Euler had brushed up those skills for me.
The job I took out of college included the tasks you mentioned, plus an overnight trip to the company for a series of interviews, which (if you log travel time as half of interview time) came out to something like 12 hours on top of the other tasks, or 16-20 hours total.
For an example from a different industry, the Vox Future Perfect work test was unpaid (unlike most EA work trials I’ve seen) and took me ~7 hours (I had a good amount of prior journalism experience and was familiar with the style they wanted). I don’t remember them giving any kind of guidance on how much time to spend, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other applicants spent much more.
As far as I know, this is pretty common for entry-level writing positions at publications (senior positions may rely more on reading work you’ve already done).
I agree with all of this, though I’d add that I think part of the problem is the recent denigration of earning to give, which is often all that someone realistically *can* do, at least in the short term.
Yes I agree 100% that merely trying to create more EA jobs won’t be enough, hence my 4th point. What I am suggesting is that we should both increase our internal capacity *and* change our message by making it clear that the work done at EA-branded orgs is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to having an impact.
Thanks for your comments. I already have a draft for a follow-up post on how I think the EA community could improve. Hopefully I will have time to write it up soon. Your points all seem to be good suggestions (with the caveat Denise mentions) .