Is Headhunting within EA Appropriate?

I’m the Chief Economist at IDinsight. I’ve been somewhat surprised recently to see a number of very direct headhunting attempts from people in the EA community, directed at key staff members of our organization. This is not a one-off, this is attempts to recruit multiple staff from a number of hiring organizations.

I understand that the recruitment of great staff is a key bottleneck for EA orgs, and that this has resulting in more resources being into headhunting. (For posts that discuss this issue, see here, here, and here.) But I would have though that this headhunting would be concentrated on less impactful organizations outside the EA community. Clearly, if a headhunter eases a bottleneck at a high-impact organization while creating a bottleneck at another equally high-impact organization, they are not having a positive effect.

I wouldn’t call IDinsight an EA organization, but we are certainly collaborative with the EA ecosystem, working closely with EA funders and high-impact implementation organizations in global health and development. We are a nonprofit dedicated to maximizing our social impact, and although I’m certainly biased I think we are in impactful organization. Perhaps headhunters targeting our staff feel that the roles they are recruiting for are much higher-impact than the roles people currently have at IDinsight, and I would respect their actions if this were the case. However, I would imagine that headhunters also are motivated to fill roles, and this would hinder them from accurately weighing the global impact of someone moving from job X to job Y.

I do understand this is complicated. The decision to move jobs ultimately rests with the worker, not the headhunter, and I of course respect the decision of anyone to switch jobs. But I do think the EA community should be thinking strategically about how to maximize our headhunting resources for total global impact, as opposed to just impact for the organizations they are working for. I wonder, are there any established norms or best-practices within the community? If not, I think it would make sense to develop some.