After talking to dozens of EA developers, here are some common things they want, and some suggestions of mine.
A clear understanding of when to apply
Many EAs are full of impostor syndrome which prevents them from applying. I recommend having a clear bar such as Anthropic’s “If you think you could write a substantial pull request for a [library], then major AI safety labs want to interview you today”.
Feedback if rejected
Many EAs, if rejected, will go and learn something that is unrelated to the reason they were rejected. As a community, I think it would be better if we’d give applicants some kind of feedback.
Specifically if you reject someone’s CV but you would accept it if they had a few extra side projects: I recommend telling them about that. It seems like many developers don’t put all their relevant non-professional background in their CV.
When can candidates re-apply, if at all?
I recommend writing this explicitly.
This is big, though probably biased, since it’s based on people who contacted me asking for mentorship.
Anyway, I expect something like this to go a long way:
“Our developer, [name], who has such-and-such experience, will sit with you for 2 hours per week which you can use to ask them questions about your work and improve. For example, they’ll review your code or help you investigate a complicated problem”
I often hear about EAs working in a “team” by themselves, with zero mentorship. 1 hour per week will go a long way, and 2 would be, I expect, amazing.
I am guessing that many orgs already offer something like this but just don’t advertise it.
EA developers care a lot about their personal growth, and I recommend showing off with anything you’re doing to support this.
No cover letter
EAs sometimes spend hours writing each cover letter, not only for your org, but for all of them.
I recommend asking for ONLY a CV, without even filling in a form. I think that would be attractive, and good for us as a community, since it will give the developers more time to do useful things, including applying to more EA orgs.
Signing Founder’s Pledge often matters too.
EAs sometimes tell me they had an unusually good bond/vibe/something with other EAs.
Here's my attempt at giving advice on this [filtered by “I don’t want to help orgs fake a good culture if it is not there”] :
- Don’t pretend like you don’t have flaws. Many people in our community prefer honesty and transparency. Don't you?
- If the candidate is better off (for themselves / for the world) working somewhere else, consider sharing that thought.
- Run your interview process well. For example, get back to candidates quickly.
Flexibility in interviews
Sometimes EAs tell me “I don’t know leet code, I can practice it, but is it worth delaying all my interviews for weeks/months?”
Other EAs get extremely stressed during live coding interviews.
Other EAs don’t like long take-home tasks and hardly have time for them.
It is pretty common for developers to have some kind of preference or aversion like that. (Did one of these options seem aversive to you?)
My current-best recommendation (from a startup that is really good at hiring) is to ask the candidate what they prefer.
I don’t have a cheap solution here, maybe someone in the comments will.
Say in advance what you ask about
Some candidates will want to prepare for your interview specifically.
I recommend writing something like “we ask leet code questions + some theory about React”, or whatever it is you ask. Unless it’s a surprise on purpose.
Bonus: Add links to study materials, especially if you're happy hiring unexperienced developers.
Remote work concerns
Some people are concerned about the social aspect of this. I recommend at least addressing this concern explicitly.
An example from Wave, which I recommend they write publicly if they didn't: "you might get a lot of what you're looking for in social connection from our retreats (every couple of months you see teammates for a fairly intense week)".
Or maybe write: “If remote work is the bottleneck, please apply anyway, tell us this is on your mind, and let’s talk”.
Or whatever is true for you.
I probably forgot something, so ask your candidates!
Is your bottle neck "people end up not signing"?
Consider something like “would you share why you didn’t sign with us? I am hoping you’ll tell me about something that is maybe-obvious for you but a blind spot for me, something that is maybe affecting our other candidates too”.
Is your bottle neck "people don't apply"?
This is the most common problem for EA orgs, as far as I know.
Consider making it very low friction to tell you why they didn’t apply, like an anonymous Google Form with only one field. My prediction is that most people will say “unclear if I’m qualified” or “unclear how much I’ll learn”, but maybe you’ll discover something else!
Check out the comments
I hope some developers will write what things they personally care about, or things they hope EA orgs would know.
I'll also take my own advice: Here's an anonymous form to send me anything, including a response you'd like me to post here anonymously for you. DMs also work.
I hope this helps!