Summary of main point: A large pool of talented applicants are applying to EA organizations. Only a small percentage of the pool is being hired. A more thoughtful use of "rejection email templates" could save job seekers & EA orgs hundreds of hours. It could also lead to more people working in EA-aligned jobs & fix some of the current hiring bottlenecks. The time investment of such a potentially impactful change is incredibly low -- i.e., it's just rewriting an email template. 

Summary of sub point: For jobs with work tests that have been standing open for months, tailored feedback to near-miss candidates could help fill the positions & identify candidates who are excellent at receiving criticism. 


This post is in conversation with/inspired by: After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organisation & Hiring: How to do it better

The Issue: A large pool of talented applicants are applying to EA organizations. Obviously, only a very small percentage of the pool is being hired. If talented (and rejected) applicants were optimally funneled to other job openings in EA it could: 

 (1) Make it more likely they work in an EA-aligned job. (Especially for applicants who don't have the financial leisure of "waiting for the right job"). 

(2) Prevent applicants from wasting time on unguided job searches. 

(3) Help EA orgs who are still hiring find a higher number of "match" candidates.

(4) Fix some of the hiring bottlenecks we've been seeing (i.e., Candidates (who are not attached to role specifics) could be directed to more neglected job-types. 

(5) Leave fewer people bitter about EA/applying for roles in EA. 


Ideas for Action: 

(1) Make use of the template rejection email the org is already sending. I've seen this done in fields/contests outside of EA. For example, they: 

-List openings at their organization/partner organizations where there are too few applicants

-Include a list of other openings/contests similar to the role/contest applied for

Note: The time-cost to benefit ration here is very low, especially for referral to within-org roles. It takes a very short time to write a new email template, and the same one could be used for any high-quality candidate. The writing of this single new template would save hours of work for both orgs & job seekers -- not to mention the hours of EA-aligned work it might create. 

It would be a slightly higher time investment to include jobs at parter/EA-aligned organizations. However, even a link to the 80,000 Hours Job board would provide helpful direction to any applicants not fully familiar with EA's online world. Otherwise, it might just take a DM from one EA org to another to confirm/learn about a need for candidates. 

(2) Give tailored feedback. Work tests are great, but few EA organizations are explaining why candidates fail them. Especially in roles that have been open for months, (e.g., GiveWell's content editor role), why not give otherwise promising applicants feedback for improvement? Sometimes all a person needs is a slight correction -- and "ability to respond well to criticism & implement feedback" are great traits in candidates.  

One option in this area: Recently, a friend showed me a rejection email from a non-EA company that gave them the option to request tailored feedback. They were then sent a version of the "scorecard" the hiring team used when reviewing their application. My friend then revised their application materials for future jobs. Because the feedback was wrapped into the hiring process it took the company little added time. Because the scores were relative to other candidates, it was hard for my friend to find fault with them. I think this would have to be designed thoughtfully, but there are examples to draw from already.

(3) When time allows: Give tailored suggestions. E.g., "We think you would be a great fit for roles in category x."

(4)  Make sure to send a rejection template at all. I've heard several times about people who have never heard back from an org they've applied to. 


New comment
4 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:12 PM

Anecdotally, I have received 2 rejection emails from EA-aligned organisations which incorporate your first idea for action. Personally, tailored feedback would have been super helpful, but I do appreciate that people are time-constrained.

That is great news (given the rejection). Was there anything in the templates you found particularly helpful? And were they relevant to your search?/Could have they been more relevant?

Out of the rejections I've seen, a single one linked to an org's own 'career page' and one suggested signing up for the org's mailing list (helpful, but possibly a kick in the gut if you've just been rejected? And, if you're a strong candidate, presumably you've already checked it out?). 

In terms of EA and EA-aligned orgs, I have not seen:  (1)  direction to specific roles with a paucity of candidates,  (2) 'potential good fit' suggestions, (3) direct links to other EA/EA-aligned orgs with similar openings (or direct links to orgs outside of the one applied to at all). 

I strongly agree that better rejection emails would be helpful. A handful of templates would likely suffice. Heck, "rejection email templates" could even be crowdsourced by the EA community, with a Google Doc listing a dozen or more of the most common reasons why application are rejected, and each of those reasons having two or three polite, respectful, professional, firm messages available to plug-and-play. A rejection email for a candidate for the reason of insufficient professional experience from Organization A doesn't need to be very different than one from Organization B

Last week I applied to a job for which I have several years directly relevant experience, and I received nothing more than an email stating "Thank you very much for your interest... We appreciated the chance to learn more about you and your professional experience. Unfortunately, we won’t be moving forward with your application at this time." This would have stung a lot less if they had said any of the following:

  • although you seem to be qualified for this position, we have chosen to move forward with an applicant that has even stronger qualifications.
  • we want an applicant to start by DATE1, and you indicated that you are not able to start until DATE2.
  • you had type-os in your resume, and based on that we chose to reject your application.
  • we would prefer a candidate that has more experience working with X.
  • we would prefer a candidate that has skill Y.
  • Z is important to us, and this was not demonstrated by your application materials.
  • we didn't see anything in your application to suggest that your commitment to CAUSE meets our expectation.
  • we spoke to some friends of ours about you, and it turns that everyone we spoke to thinks that you suck and you be a horrible addition to our team.[1]


  1. ^

    This one is a joke, but only somewhat. Sometimes I think that maybe this is what happens. Considering the level of transparency there is in the process, for all I know this is what happens.

I really like the idea of crowdsourcing. In conjunction with everything you said above, I've seen a lot of rejections that seem to be written by someone who seems very uncomfortable with the idea of rejection and/or isn't imagining what it's like to be on the receiving end. 

I think crowdsourcing could give a distance that allows analysis for rejection letters that they're rarely written with -- e.g., think about what impact it will have on EA, think about what impact it'll have on the recipient.