[Update: it exists now!]
If your dream job is to work in longtermism, be your own boss, and talk to EAs all day, then you might be the perfect fit for starting an EA recruitment agency through Nonlinear’s incubation program.
To find out more about the idea itself and why it’s high impact, read below.
For more details about how to tell if you’re a good fit, what support we provide, and how to apply, see the second half of the article.
If you think this is an important charity to have in the EA space, please like and share this Request for Founders so that the right people see it.
Deadline: February 1st, 11:59pm EST
Why it’s high impact to start an EA headhunting agency
The idea is for you to start an organization that helps hire employees for longtermist orgs. This will help the world in a few ways:
- Save orgs’ time. Hiring takes a lot of time. It often takes over 200 hours to hire a new employee. Fortunately, a lot of this can be outsourced. A typical approach would be for you to talk to the org about what they’re looking for. You’d then write the job ad, advertise it, do the first couple rounds of interviews and test tasks, then send the client the top ones for the final evaluation. This can shorten the amount of time they spend on hiring from multiple full-time weeks to an afternoon, freeing up their time for direct work only they can do.
- Hire better candidates. Since you’ll be a specialist in hiring, you’ll have a bigger EA network and know all the best practices for recruiting, so you’ll be able to get better candidates for the positions. This is huge. Team quality is one of the largest sources of differences in an organization’s effectiveness. This increases the impact of the organization until they hire a new person, which is often years later. Furthermore, having better colleagues has positive externalities on the rest of the team by decreasing conflict, creating a culture of excellence, and generally helping the team work more smoothly. This is an example of passive impact, where you make an upfront investment, then it continues having an impact without ongoing effort.
- Save applicants’ time. Instead of separately having to apply to each new job, people can apply to multiple jobs at once, even expressing general interest in certain sorts of jobs. This also increases their odds of getting an EA job per time invested, which can help with feelings of rejection in the movement.
- Make jobs. Lowering the barrier to hiring will increase the number of jobs orgs hire for. This will be especially true for hiring personal assistants (PAs) since a large barrier to hiring them is the process being so difficult.
What roles will the startup hire for?
Nonlinear’s research team has identified hiring PAs as one of the best use cases of a hiring agency in EA. This is for a few reasons.
Firstly, as 80,000 Hours describes in their career guide, PAs can be a high-impact role. Ben Todd says it better than me here:
“Consider: if you can save that researcher one hour spent on activities besides research, then that researcher can spend one more hour researching. So, by saving that researcher time, you can convert your time into their time. Suddenly, one of your hours becomes one more hour spent by the best researcher, working in the best field!”
Put another way, imagine you could add another Paul Christiano, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Chris Olah to the alignment community. With a PA hiring agency, you could essentially do that by getting the top researchers PAs.
To use an extremely oversimplified example, say a PA increases the output of a researcher by 10% on average. That means if you hire ten PAs for the top ten researchers, that’s the equivalent of adding a top AI safety researcher. It’s hard to put a dollar estimate on the value this would add to the world, but if you’re convinced of AI safety, it’s extremely high.
Secondly, PAs are particularly well-suited to a hiring agency. This is because of two main reasons:
- Hiring for individuals instead of orgs. Most people don’t have much or any experience hiring, so the prospect of hiring a PA is so daunting that they’ll never do it. And even if they did, they’d often do a poor job of it due to their lack of expertise. This is different from most roles that are usually hired for by an organization, where at least one person will have the experience and confidence to hire. This means that a recruiter will have more marginal impact on hiring for an individual than for an organization.
- Benefits of scale. Most people are looking for pretty similar things in a PA, such as high conscientiousness and initiative. Due to the similarity of the role, a recruiter can get a lot of reps of identifying and evaluating certain traits, thus gaining more from specialization. They can also develop a very particular network that will be useful again and again, as opposed to having their established network not be useful for the next role they’re hiring for.
Once you’ve created optimal systems for hiring PAs, the org will expand to helping EA orgs hire for other roles. How you proceed will depend on what strategy you think is best.
Some potential roles that could benefit from a recruiter include:
- Operations roles
- Technical AI safety roles
- Research assistants
- Helping people find good therapists or coaches
What about BERI, CampusPA, 80,000 Hours, and non-EA recruitment agencies?
BERI already hires PAs for longtermists, but only for a few academic research institutions. Their strategy for the foreseeable future is to stick to these orgs, specializing in helping longtermist academic institutions, so they won’t be filling the gap.
CampusPA hires PAs for EAs. However, they only hire remote PAs, which is a dealbreaker for many. They also focus specifically on PAs and are unlikely to switch to hiring for other EA roles. We spoke to them about switching and it doesn’t fit with their business strategy.
80,000 Hours used to do recruiting, but they stopped because their strategy is to do a few things extremely well instead of spreading themselves too thin. We spoke with Niel Bowerman and he’s really excited for somebody else to take the baton since he thinks it would be high impact.
What about just using non-EA recruitment agencies? Generally, we shouldn’t make an EA-specific organization when a non-EA one will work just as well.
In the case of a non-EA hiring agency, the reason we think that an EA will have a comparative advantage is that to hire for EA orgs, you need to have an EA network and know how to get EAs excited about certain jobs. This is true for most roles you’d be hiring for. Even PAs, who don’t need to be EAs, often will be simply because they will be more aligned with the general mission of the person they’ll be assisting, leading to more talented people from the EA community applying than from those outside of it.
Finally, even if there was another org working on this, we think there's room for at least three full-time people working on this, potentially even more. If we get enough good applicants, we'll likely just incubate multiple people.
Why you might want to start this charity
- Have a huge impact. Really make a difference in the world by being a multiplier on EA charities’ effectiveness. You’ll help longtermist orgs with one of the most important decisions they have to make: who to hire. This will both free up their time to work on work only they can do and also improve the effectiveness of the org by having a better team.
- Lower-risk entrepreneurship. Most of the time if you want to start a charity it’s a high-risk proposition with a high likelihood of failure. The alternative is getting a regular job with high security but low degrees of freedom. Starting a hiring agency through an incubation program is the best of both worlds. If you get accepted into the program, you’ll have a guaranteed salary of up to a year and guidance from experienced entrepreneurs every step of the way.
- Growth. You will never feel stagnant in charity entrepreneurship. You will face new challenges every day and grow with each obstacle.
- Meaning. So many jobs feel meaningless. Like you’re just a cog in a much larger machine, and that machine is just selling Fruit Loops. As the founder of a charity, you get to work on the thing you think is most important every day.
- Career capital. Build lots of great career capital, including experience in entrepreneurship, leadership, recruiting, negotiation, marketing, decision-making, communication, management, and much more. Most of this will be cause-agnostic and hence allow for flexible career transitions later on.
- Freedom. You’ll never have to do some stupid strategy just because your manager said so. You’ll have the autonomy to decide for yourself how to do things. You’ll be your own boss.
- Have lots of energizing interactions with EAs motivated to save the world. A huge part of your job will be talking to smart and values-aligned people.
- Witness your impact first-hand. Most EA work is very abstract. With a hiring agency, while your main impact will be indirect, you’ll also directly help the people you’re working with. You’ll help people find their dream jobs. You’ll see your customers finding the perfect person for the position.
- Define your own schedule. You don’t have to do a traditional 9 to 5 if you don’t want to. If you’re a night owl, you can start work at 1:00 PM if you’d like. If you have something you want to do on a weekday, you can always move your break day to then, or even make your weekends a different day every week.
- Every day is different. When you run a charity you wear many hats. It will range from conducting interviews and talking to customers, to strategizing and improving effectiveness, to managing money and people, and much more.
- No frustrating rules. No need to deal with unnecessary internal restrictions and bureaucracy. You’ll make the rules.
- Relieve two key EA bottlenecks at once: entrepreneurship and top researcher time
- Choose the people you work with. One of the biggest factors of how much you enjoy your job is the people you work with. As the founder, you get to choose who you work with.
- Work from wherever. You can choose to work in one of the EA hubs like the Bay Area or London, or you can work in your hometown, or you can choose to be fully remote, living in a cheap sunny location like Bali or Portugal. It’s up to you.
- Pride and fulfillment. Earn a sense of having built something yourself. Prove to yourself that you can do it.
You’re a good fit for starting this charity if:
- You’re an entrepreneur at heart. You’ve always wanted to get off the beaten track and make something of your own. Getting a job is fine, but you feel drawn to the adventure of doing something bigger. There’s something deeply romantic and appealing about starting your own charity.
- You’re a doer. You sometimes get frustrated with EA because people spend so much time sitting around talking about what to do instead of actually doing anything. You think theory’s good, but without action, it’s powerless. You really get excited when the rubber hits the road and things actually happen.
- You love thinking about people. You love thinking about what makes people act the way they do. Your startup will be all about you analyzing people, predicting who will excel at different roles, who will get along with who, etc.
- You’re deeply altruistic. Leaders of EA organizations have to be deeply altruistic since they have so many degrees of freedom that can allow them to veer off course. You need to have a solid core of truly caring about the long-term future.
- You love optimizing. You’re the sort of person who is always spotting ways for things to be done better.
- You love a challenge. The idea of a simple life sounds boring to you. You don’t want to be complacent. You want your life to be full of complexities that force you to grow.
- You’re emotionally resilient. Entrepreneurship is hard. You’ll need to have the emotional strength to handle the inevitable problems. You don’t have to be the Dalai Lama, but if you find it hard to be happy in ordinary times, entrepreneurship probably won’t be a good fit for you.
- You never give up. Entrepreneurship will challenge you like nothing else. You’ll have to be able to keep going when everything is on fire. You will need to update based on evidence and change your tactics, but never give up on the ultimate goal.
- You’re proactive. You don’t wait for people to “give you permission” to do something. If you see something that needs doing, you just do it.
- You’re an extrovert. This is a dream job for an extrovert and a nightmare for an introvert. You will be talking to, emailing, and networking with people the majority of the time.
- You’re high conscientiousness. You’re the sort of person who has lists and spreadsheets for everything. You are good at getting things done by the deadline and like keeping things organized.
- You like doing lots of projects at once. You like having your hand in many pies instead of being stuck doing the same thing all day.
What the incubation program provides
Nonlinear’s incubation program provides two main benefits: seed funding and mentorship.
The seed funding will be for up to a year’s salary, although you’ll also have the option of using that money for other things, such as hiring other people. This way you can have some runway to establish yourself before you have to start fundraising or charging commission.
You will receive bespoke training and guidance from two experienced entrepreneurs, Nonlinear founders Kat Woods and Emerson Spartz. Kat Woods previously founded Charity Entrepreneurship and Charity Science Health (now Suvita). Emerson Spartz is a Forbes 30 Under 30 who founded the #1 Harry Potter website when he was 12 and then built websites with a monthly audience rivaling the New York Times.
The training will be catered to your particular background. If you have a lot of experience with management and little with marketing, you’ll get training in marketing. If vice versa, then you’ll get training in management.
You’ll start with more intensive, daily guidance, then you’ll graduate to less and less frequent check-ins until the training wheels are completely taken off. After that, you’ll be on your own, though there will always be the option to request that Kat and/or Emerson be board members of your charity.
The length of the incubation period will depend on your current level of expertise. If you’re already an experienced recruiter, then the incubation period could be as little as one month. If you’re relatively inexperienced, it could be as long as six months.
The incubation can be done remotely from anywhere in the world.
Should you apply?
We accept candidates from a wide range of backgrounds. You can be a recent high school graduate or have a decade’s experience recruiting. Experience is helpful but not necessary. We’ll help you develop the skills you’re currently missing. What matters most is grit, altruism, and intelligence.
If you’re uncertain, you should err on the side of applying. Impostor syndrome is rampant in EA. In fact, around 50% of Charity Entrepreneurship’s most successful founders from previous years didn’t even think they should apply.
To apply, fill out the form here.
If you already have your CV ready, it should take around 30-120 minutes to fill out.
Deadline: February 1st, 11:59pm EST
If you think that having an EA hiring agency is a high-impact idea, please share this request for founders on social media or upvote it to make it more likely that the right person sees it.
"The seed funding will be for a year’s salary" - how much?
It depends on their experience, what they need, and how many good candidates there are. It can range from $30-$150k.
I'm Lee and one of the people who is now working on this project. If you come across this post and are have thoughts or ideas about hiring in EA, reach out to me (calendly link is on my bio).
I'm looking to connect with people who:
-Have experience hiring within EA
-Have wishes or suggestions for ways you think EA orgs could do hiring better
-Have been a personal assistant
-Have hired or attempted to hire a personal assistant
-Have outside experience with hiring best practices that you think should be implemented more often
I can't talk to too many people right now, so don't hesitate to connect!
How are you coming along on this? Happy to sit down and chat sometime!
Did anyone ever end up creating a hiring agency?
We've found three stellar people to incubate. 🥳 More details to be announced soon.
Thanks for this! I think it is a great idea. I have had similar ideas which, like most of my ideas, were noted down for looking at in the future. I am not in a place to apply now, but I will keep an eye on how things go, as I think I could be a good fit for connecting people for mutual benefit.
Quick related thought - I think collecting a privately accessible database of people looking for jobs in EA, with their skills, resumes and various personality and intelligence test scores (e.g., 1,) and a team of associated headhunters/job finder could be a valuable long term outcome from this project.
compiling this list strictly from existing EA orgs' data might be a good short term project by itself
Are there already updates on this? :) I think this is a very cool idea and I'm personally very interested in scaling up recruitment for AI safety research.
Great initiative. Whoever ends up in this role, we at impactcolabs.com would love to connect as we could both help identify potential candidates as well as help identify needs within EA orgs. We find that many EA orgs have volunteer needs that might be best served by a PA-type FTE. We will hopefully share more about these findings and the status of our 2.0 platform soon.
Nice initiative! Have you seen https://eawork.club? Certainly not as fancy as impactcolabs.com but seems clearer and easier to navigate to me, so potentially still a source of UX ideas.
Great initiative. I was thinking of the value of an EA hiring agency just a few days ago. If I was located in my home country without the need for a visa I would take action on this. :)
Ooh. Based on jlemien's comment, I assume there's no potential for visa sponsorship?
If not, honestly, I could be down to join something like this in the future.