by Pia Voltz
EA's success depends greatly on placing outstanding people in high-impact positions. However, in the last couple of years, there hasn’t been enough focus on recruitment as a professional way of finding, vetting, assessing, and placing talent within the EA community. This “lack of demand” has created a lack of supply of qualified recruiters. To remove bottlenecks in organizations, communities, and industries benefiting EA cause areas, we need more professional recruitment activities - and recruiters. I want to encourage more people to consider recruitment as a potential high-impact career for themselves.
In this article I am:
- sharing my perspective on recruitment as an overlooked career opportunity
- sharing the link to a job profile on recruitment I wrote
About the author: Pia Voltz has 9 years of work experience in executive search, assessment, training, and employer branding. She has been an EA member since 2016, co-founded EA Dresden in 2018, CellAg Germany in 2021, and in early 2022 Tälist, an organization that matches Alternative Protein businesses with the best talent from around the globe for the benefit of humans, nature, and animals.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Anya Hunt for coordinating our publications and to Sofia Balderson for providing valuable guidance on writing my first EA blog post. Thanks to Rowan (Connor) Flynn, Shaileen McGovern, and Rainer Kravets for their feedback on a draft of this post.
Disclaimer: While writing this blog, I learned that Katie Glass and Anya Hunt have already been working on a much more comprehensive article on the same topic (soon to be published). Just before publishing I also took notice of this article by Kat Woods and Amber Dawn. This is why I shortened my initial draft to avoid too much overlap and focus on content that provides an additional perspective: my own hiring experience of finding EA-aligned recruiters for Tälist, as well as a job profile for recruiters.
Recruitment as an overlooked, high-impact career
The way EA has approached the goal of redirecting people to high-impact careers has been heavily focusing on community building and raising awareness for certain careers. In recruitment terms, this could be seen as building a talent pipeline - a rapidly growing, global talent pool. At the same time, professional recruitment as a systematic way of placing candidates from this talent pool into high-impact roles has been neglected. This “lack of demand” created a lack of supply - recruiters with the right skills and EA alignment are difficult to find (based on my experience when hiring a recruiter for Tälist, and anecdotal evidence from other organizations that ran hiring processes for recruiters in the last two years).
Much like operations management wasn’t considered a high-impact role in the past, recruitment hasn't been discussed, or proposed, as an effective way to make a difference. For example, “recruiter” is not mentioned in 80000 Hours’ list of recommended careers (even though hiring and HR are mentioned as the last project in their project list for operations management roles), and there haven’t been any blog posts about recruitment as a profession to date. In my perspective, this signals that the EA community has been underrating this profession and the potential benefits it could have, especially because EA is growing rapidly, and thus, will need to engage more talented people. By now, operations management has largely been accepted as having a positive impact on organizational efficiency. In the same way, we need greater awareness of the massive impact recruiting can have through the cumulative benefits of putting the right people in the right roles.
The impact potential was one of the main reasons why I decided to found Tälist as a meta-organization at the beginning of 2022. Tälist was founded on EA principles, and the focus on recruitment for the Alternative Protein industry aligns with several EA cause areas, most specifically animal welfare. When searching for our own recruiter, we experienced the challenges of finding fitting candidates. Considering the variety of educational backgrounds and skills within EA I don’t think the main challenge is a lack of the right people. I assume that the problem is that the right people are not aware of their fit for this role, and/or don’t consider recruitment as a high-impact role.
If successful, recruiters can find the best people for the most impactful roles and remove bottlenecks in organizations, communities, and industries, benefiting EA cause areas. They facilitate the success and growth of organizations - and individuals. As a recruiter, the impact you have is the sum of the effect of the candidates you place in high-impact projects or organizations (accounting for counterfactuals). Additionally, recruitment can be trained or learned well based on some more general skills (such as self-management and communication skills). If you want to learn more about this role please also read the job profile I published.
With this article, I want to encourage more people to consider recruitment as a career for themselves - with the current developments in the EA community, it seems like there will be promising opportunities to start a career as a recruiter.
You can write to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or share your experience and thoughts on recruitment and hiring, e.g.:
- Have you been considering recruitment as a role for yourself?
- If not, what are the reasons?
- Which challenges do you see for yourself in making a career in recruitment?
Talist seems like it would be useful for advancing the alternate protein space. I could see value in their being a similar recruitment agency for the top global poverty charities. On the other hand, I am a bit more uncertain about the value-add of recruiters for roles which require more value alignment.
I'm guessing the greatest value add comes when you can recruit people outside of the community, but maybe there's value even for just recruiting within the (broader) community?
thanks for sharing your thoughts and questions. In the linked job profile I also mention that I think for EA organizations having a value-aligned recruiter might be very valuable. I would love to see more people from the EA community consider this role for themselves because they already are mission-aligned. :-)
Could you write a little about the successes, positive impact, and theory of change of the recruitment industry? My personal and professional experience has not given me a positive perspective on the role of recruiters or their success in finding the right candidates. The success rate of recruited candidates doesn't seem to be (in my anecdotal experience) any greater than those who are vetted by the org or company in a normal process. Have I just been unlucky?
Hi Charlie. Great question. I don't have any data at hand on the recruitment industry as a whole compared to in-house recruiting. I know that the demand and market for recruitment services are growing as it gets harder and harder for companies to fill their positions. There are economic calculations comparing the total costs of in-house recruitment vs. hiring an external service, of course assuming that external services are doing a better job (as in successful and efficient). I do believe that there are plenty of services that only do an okay job and might not be better than in-house recruitment. But sometimes these services just get hired because the in-house recruiters don't have the capacity to manage all recruiting processes themselves.
This being said, my article wasn't about promoting the recruitment industry as a whole. I think what makes recruitment impactful is if you are hiring for an impactful project or organization. So I was referring to in-house recruiters of EA (or EA-aligned) organizations and recruiters for EA (or EA-aligned) hiring agencies.
I hope this was helpful and thanks for sharing your experience :-)
Thanks for the reply, that is helpful! Hiring is definitely difficult and getting it right has absurdly good benefits! Tangential to this, I think Open Phil has recently been putting a lot of effort into having a good recruitment team. Might be worth getting in touch with them!
yes, I am very pleased to see that there are more and more initiatives in the EA space to build up professional recruitment for the EA community. And this is why we need more recruiters ;-)
Rethink Priorities just recently hired an excellent full-time recruiter. Surprisingly (and perhaps ironically) this was the role we had the most trouble hiring for.
Hi Peter, thanks for sharing this experience. Unfortunately, this doesn't surprise me at all. Glad to hear you eventually found someone.
Thanks for writing this! There's been a lot of interest of EA community building, but I think the one of the most valuable parts of EA community building is basically just recruiting – e.g., notifying interested people about relevant opportunities and inspiring people to apply for impactful opportunities. A lot of potential talent isn't looped in with a local EA group or the EA community at all, however, so I think more professional recruiting could help a lot with solving organizational bottlenecks.
Thank you for this article, Pia!
I agree that as EA grows, I believe there will be an increase in demand for recruiters (in-house to organizations, and external in different niches/cause areas). And I also have observed that there are not many people with prior experience in recruiting within the EA ecosystem, but many people could have the skills and aptitudes that could make them a good recruiter.
Recruiting is also a relatively flexible career, with opportunities in many sectors all around the world!
I hope that people who are hiring for recruiters within EA make it explicit when they need someone with past experience, and when they're able to provide training/mentorship to support someone who could excel in the role with the right supports.
thanks a lot for your comment and perspective - I second that. Given the variety of skills and education in the EA community, I am quite optimistic that there are enough people who could work successfully as a recruiter for EA (or EA-aligned) organizations, even without prior experience in this field. Training and mentorship could be very helpful in these cases. I'd be happy to offer some sort of support, as we have a lot of recruitment experience in our Tälist team. :-)