I am writing this post partially to vent, partially to connect with others who have had a similar experience, and hopefully instigate some change in the culture around this.
Let me start off by saying that I am very passionate about Effective Altruism. I studied social entrepreneurship in university and EA has given me a very important moral and philosophical framework with which to ground my thoughts and feelings. 80,000 is a tremendous organization and way for a young person to consider the impact and outcome of their career.
However, I have found it very difficult to land a career in EA -- and I have a couple hypotheses why.
- Saturated Market -- This one is probably the most likely and the most morally confusing. I do not know the exact statistics, but I would guess that job postings on the 80,000 hours career board get a significant amount of applicants. This is great that so many people are interested in an EA job, but it has made landing an EA job incredibly difficult. Is there a solution for this? I am not sure.
- Elitist Hiring -- Based on the interviews that I have done with some EA aligned organizations, it seems that candidates that come from a highly academic background are desired more than those that might have a creative skillset. I personally find this dangerous and myopic hiring process that will stifle new world views and innovation required to reach the masses.
Now, neither of these things are inherently bad. They may simply just be a reflection of where EA is at in this point in time. But what I have found quite discouraging is the culture that both of these points come with. I have felt that as a community as a whole, we need more empathy. I understand that EA does take the approach of being a slightly more removed, statistics and logic driven framework. But narrative matters. Stories matter. People matter.
So how does this relate to my hypotheses above? I (and many I have spoken to) have felt consistently neglected across the hiring process. For somebody who has shown passion, desire and care for these organizations, they have in turn often pretended like I don't exist. This has manifested itself in not updating applicants on the status of their applicants, ignoring emails and showing up late to interviews.
I would love to see our culture shift here at EA. Towards more compassion, more gratitude and more love.
I would love to see hiring done better at EA organizations, and if there was some kind of "help EA orgs do hiring better" role I would jump at the chance. Judging and evaluating people is such a raw, human process, and it should be done with some compassion and care.
I've done quite a bit of hiring over the years for non-EA organizations. Generally speaking, any organization that systematically neglects applicants is losing potential talent and damaging their reputation. Part of hiring is convincing the candidate that this is a place they would want to work, and many organizations forget about that.
While this is more conjecture than data, my impression is that many EA organizations are run by people who are young and relatively inexperienced, and they haven't spent a lot of time in the professional world. I don't like how it feels kind of patronizing to write this, but I think that for a lot of people they just don't know any better: they either haven't learned, haven't spent the time to think about it, or haven't yet implemented it.
Regarding the specific issues you mentioned:
I can't tell you the number of hiring processes I've gone through as an applicant in which there was minimal (or no) effort from the organization to learn about what I want in my next job, or to show my how this role would be enjoyable/fulfilling.
I think that there are lots of foolish/bad/silly things in the professional world, but one thing that I think has some value is managing impressions and appearing professional: there is a combination of calm/relaxed, competent, attentive/engaged, and friend/warm that makes for a great experience.
I've had interviews with EA-orgs in which the interviewer appeared slovenly and scatterbrained, in which the interviewer appeared to both not have a clear idea of what the role would be and to not be listening to what I was saying, and in which irrelevant questions were asked. As a guy whose research interests and professional knowledge focuses around hiring processes (and especially around hiring interviews), I found it particularly disappointing.
This would be great. Changing the human parts of the hiring process would be a lot of work, but if you can just get organizations to use some kind of software that automatically sends out "We received your application" and "Your application was rejected" e-mails then that would be a good start.
There actually is an organization doing this (that I won't name) which I had a horrible experience with. I think they are focused on doing hiring better from an organizational standpoint as opposed to advocating for the candidates.
This is clearly a problem across all industries, the hiring process is extremely out of touch right now. I was just hoping for better from EA.
Thats awesome you are working on this. Updating applicants on the status of their applicants is a very easy thing to do. Even done in a mass email format is much more respectful towards the candidates career search and aspirations.
They've dome some small improvements that can be scaled upwards, such as having a trial stage where the top applicants effectively work as interns and then they see who is the best one to take on for the fellowship.
I think this can be scaled up further. Competent people can distinguish themselves for trial periods for internships, i.e. internship internships. The management problem is solved by having the successful interns manage the new interns, perhaps as yet another trial phase. The problem with that is that it nurtures extreme competitive spirit e.g. backstabbing and Goodhart's Law, whereas with academia they just pick the people who already were at least capable enough to conquer a bunch of stupid walls, and are choosing EA work over more stable options.
The grant/contest system seems to be a great way to just sort people out of a big mess of randos at the bottom based on how good their ideas look. There's no ladders where each successive rung incentivises you to bump off the other finalists in your cohort.