After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organisation

byEA applicant2mo26th Feb 2019179 comments


(I am writing this post under a pseudonym because I don’t want potential future non-EA employers to find this with a quick google search. Initially my name could be found on the CV linked in the text, but after this post was shared much more widely than I had expected, I got cold feet and removed it.)

In the past 12 months, I applied for 20 positions in the EA community. I didn’t get any offer. At the end of this post, I list all those positions, and how much time I spent in the application process. Before that, I write about why I think more posts like this could be useful.

Please note: The positions were all related to long-termism, EA movement building, or meta-activities (e.g. grant-making). To stress this again, I did not apply for any positions in e.g. global health or animal welfare, so what I’m going to say might not apply to these fields.

Costs of applications

Applying has considerable time-costs. Below, I estimate that I spent 7-8 weeks of full-time work in application processes alone. I guess it would be roughly twice as much if I factored in things like searching for positions, deciding which positions to apply for, or researching visa issues. (Edit: Some organisations reimburse for time spent in work tests/trials. I got paid in 4 of the 20 application processes. I might have gotten paid in more processes if I had advanced further).

At least for me, handling multiple rejections was mentally challenging. Additionally, the process may foster resentment towards the EA community. I am aware the following statement is super in-accurate and no one is literally saying that, but sometimes this is the message I felt I was getting from the EA community:

“Hey you! You know, all these ideas that you had about making the world a better place, like working for Doctors without Borders? They probably aren’t that great. The long-term future is what matters. And that is not funding constrained, so earning to give is kind of off the table as well. But the good news is, we really, really need people working on these things. We are so talent constraint… (20 applications later) … Yeah, when we said that we need people, we meant capable people. Not you. You suck.”

Why I think more posts like this would have been useful for me

Overall, I think it would have helped me to know just how competitive jobs in the EA community (long-termism, movement building, meta-stuff) are. I think I would have been more careful in selecting the positions I applied for and I would probably have started exploring other ways to have an impactful career earlier. Or maybe I would have applied to the same positions, but with less expectations and less of a feeling of being a total loser that will never contribute anything towards making the world a better place after being rejected once again 😊

Of course, I am just one example, and others will have different experiences. For example, I could imagine that it is easier to get hired by an EA organisation if you have work experience outside of research and hospitals (although many of the positions I applied for were in research or research-related).

However, I don’t think I am a very special case. I know several people who fulfil all of the following criteria:

- They studied/are studying at postgraduate level at a highly competitive university (like Oxford) or in a highly competitive subject (like medical school)

- They are within the top 5% of their course

- They have impressive extracurricular activities (like leading a local EA chapter, having organised successful big events, peer-reviewed publications while studying, …)

- They are very motivated and EA aligned

- They applied for at least 5 positions in the EA community and got rejected in 100% of the cases.

I think I also fulfil all these criteria. Here is my CV roughly at the time when I was doing the applications. It sports such features as ranking 16th out of around 6000 German medical students, and 8 peer-reviewed publications while studying.

Without further ado, here are all the ...

Positions I got rejected from in the last 12 months

I also include the stage that I was rejected at and how much time I had invested in the application process (Mostly work tests, but also researching organisations, adapting personal statements, preparing for interviews. I am counting “lost productivity” here, so I am also counting travel time weighted at around 50%).

Position – how far I got– how much time I invested in the application

Chief of Staff at Will MacAskill’s Office – stage 2/2: didn’t get an offer after 2 days worktrial – 32 h

OpenPhil Research Analyst – stage 2/4 (?): rejected after conversation notes work test – 22 h

OpenPhil biosecurity early career researcher grant – stage 1/1: no grant – 40 h

EA grants evaluator (CEA) – stage 2/X: rejected after first interview – 7 h

FHI Research scholar programme – stage 2/3: rejected after second work test – 50 h

Effective giving uk researcher – Stage 3/3 (?): no offer after what I think was the final interview – 15 h

LEAN manager – Stage 2/?: rejected after work test – 6 h

CEA operations specialist – stage 3/?: rejected after interview – 9 h

CEA local group specialist – stage 2/?: rejected after work-test – 12 h

2x FHI academic project manager (GovAI and research scholar programme) – Stage 2/2: no offer after final interview – 10 h each

Toby Ord research assistant – Stage 2/?: rejected after work test - 12 h

Center for Health Security research analyst – initiative application and interview, but they decided not to hire at all – 10 h

Nuclear Threat initiative researcher – initiative application, never heard back – 1 h

CSER biosecurity postdoc – stage 1/? – 3 h

CSER academic project manager – stage 1/? – 2 h

GPI Head of Research Operations – Stage 4/4: No offer after in-person work trial – 32 h

And here are additional positions I applied for but then did not complete the application process:

COO Ought – stopped following up after first stage because of visa issues – 4 h (but much more if you count me researching said visa issues)

Researcher Veddis – I decided not to go on the final stage work trial – 6 h

Program Manager/Investigator at BERI– I decided not to do the final stage work test – 15 h