Yonatan Cale

@ Effective Developers
4675 karmaJoined Feb 2021Working (6-15 years)Seeking workTel Aviv-Yafo, Israel

Bio

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I'm happy to help

  • People running EA aligned software projects (about all the normal problems)
  • EA Software engineers (about.. all the normal problems)

Link to my coaching post.

I'd be happy for help from

  • People who think about global EA priorities:
    • Rewriting arxiv.org: Is this a high impact job?
    • Does EA need a really good hiring agency?
  • Funding my work would be nice

My opinions about hiring

A better job board

  • draft 1: 75% of 80k's engineering jobs are unrelated to software development. This board is the other 25%.

Tech community building & outreach

(apparently I'm doing some of this?)

  • Some ideas I'm working on or strongly considering working on
  • Are you talking to someone about working on strange neglected problems? Here's how I'd frame it

My opinions about EA software careers

  • An alternative career guide
  • Improving CVs (beyond what I saw any professional CV editor doing)
  • Getting your first paid software job
  • [more coming]

My personal fit for jobs

  • Owning the tech of a pre-production (helping with things around it, like some Product)
  • I really enjoy coaching, user research, explaining tech concepts and tradeoffs simply to non tech people, unclear if this will fit into some future job

Fun

  • I'm currently reading ProjectLawful and Worth A Candle [26-7-2022]
  • Big hpmor fan
  • I like VR
  • My shirts have cats on them

Contact details

How others can help me

  • Connections to EA aligned orgs that have software problems

How I can help others

  • Running software projects, specifically hiring
  • EA careers

Comments
896

Linking to Zvi's review of the podcast:

https://thezvi.wordpress.com/2024/04/15/monthly-roundup-17-april-2024/

Search for:

Will MaCaskill went on the Sam Harris podcast

 

It's a negative review, but opinions are Zvi's, I didn't hear the podcast myself.

do you have a rough guess at what % this is a deal breaker for?

It's less of "%" and more of "who will this intimidate".

Many of your top candidates will (1) currently be working somewhere, and (2) will look at many EA aligned jobs, and if many of them require a work trial then that could be a problem.

(I just hired someone who was working full time, and I assume if we required a work trial then he just wouldn't be able to do it without quitting)

 

Easy ways to make this better:

  1. If you have flexibility (for example, whether the work trial is local or remote, or when it is, or something else), then say that in the job post. 
    1. It was common for me to hear that candidates didn't even apply because of something like that which is written as a strict requirement, and then for me to hear from an employer that they didn't really care about it.
  2. If your candidates will feel comfortable talking to you and telling you about things like this, and then you can find a solution together - I imagine that would be great.

 

Also, some candidates will WANT a work trial to see how the job actually is. I asked for a work trial in my current job.

 

Also, CEA does work trials. You could ask them how it goes. (But they won't hear about people who didn't even apply, I guess)

I recommend adding "Sam Altman" to the title, it can act as a TLDR. The current phrasing has a bit of a "click here to know more" vibe for me (like an ad) (probably unintentionally)

1.a and b.

I usually ask for feedback, and often it's something like “Idk, the vibe seemed off somehow. I can't really explain it.” Do you know what that could be?

This sounds like someone who doesn't want to actually give you feedback, my guess is they're scared of insulting you, or being liable to something legal, or something like that.

My focus wouldn't be on trying to interpret the literal words (like "what vibe") but rather making them comfortable to give you actual real feedback. This is a skill in itself which you can practice. Here's a draft to maybe start from: "Hey, I think I have some kind of blind spot in interviews where I'm doing something wrong, but I don't know what it is and a friend told me I probably won't notice it myself and I better get feedback from someone else. Any chance you'd tell me more about what didn't work for you? I promise not to be insulted or complain for not passing or anything like that"

 

2.

But in non-EA jobs I'm also afraid that I might not live up to some expectations in the first several weeks when I'm still new to everything.

This is super common. Like, I'm not making this up, I had dozens of conversations and this is a common thing to worry about, and it's probably true to many other people interviewing to the same position.

My own approach to this is to tell the interviewer what I'm worried about, and also the reasons that I might not be a good match for whatever this is. For example, "I never worked with some-tech-you-use". If after hearing my worries they still want to hire me, that's great, and I don't need to pretend to know anything. I also think this somewhat filters for hiring managers that appreciate transparency (and not pretending everything is perfect), which is pretty important to me personally.

(also, reasonable managers understand you will need onboarding time, and if they don't understand that - then I prefer they don't hire me)

This all totally might be a Yonatan-thing, idk.

 

4.

You mean as positive reinforcement?

Yeah

I could meet with a friend or go climbing. :-3

I think (?) I'd aim for something short that I could do right-after, so my brain will understand this is a positive reinforcement and not just an unrelated fun evening? This is just my own intuition. I guess it would work if I'd meet a friend and they'd keep saying "good job for interviewing! now let's get you chocolate!" or whatever :)

I don't really know, I recommend you trust your own introspection, I might be unusual here

 

5.

Maybe I should practice minimally next time to avoid that.

Eh, you might have (right now) downsides to applying and not having it work well. The downsides might be subjective or "technically wrong" but if you're averse to applying with minimal practice, I would acknowledge that feeling and try to address it (or if you can't - I'm not personally pushing you to apply to Google unprepared, if it seems scary or so).

Examples of things that might worry you:

a. "will google never invite you to interview again if you fail" --> You can check Google's policy. I think they have a 6-12 months cooldown for people who didn't pass, but you can apply again. Is this time too long? Maybe you don't care at all? I don't know, depends on your circumstances

b. maybe you're not interviewing to dozens of places and so it (maybe correctly) feels like Google is your only chance? ( --> I'd recommend interviewing to dozens of places, to be clear :P )

 

I think a useful answer here would mainly involve listening to you which I can't really do over text. If you want to brainstorm out loud here, I can try to contribute "textbook solutions" if I have them. Or you could do introspection with a friend, or we could talk, or none of the above! just trying to share how I'd approach this

 

 

:)

I would be interested in something like this existing for Israel

I have thoughts on how to deal with this. My priors are this won't work if I communicate it through text (but I have no idea why). Still, seems like the friendly thing would be to write it down

 

My recommendation on how to read this:

  1. If this advice fits you, it should read as "ah obviously, how didn't I think of that?". If it reads as "this is annoying, I guess I'll do it, okay...." - then something doesn't fit you well, I missed some preference of yours. Please don't make me a source of annoying social pressure
  2. Again, for some reason this works better when speaking than in writing. So, eh, ... idk.. imagine me speaking?? get a friend to read this to you?
    1. (whatever you chose, consider telling me how it went? this part is a mystery to me)

 

So,

TL;DR:

  1. The goal of interviews is not to pass them (that's the wrong goal, I claim). The goals I recommend are:
    1. Reducing uncertainty regarding what places will accept you. (so you should get many rejections, it's by-design, otherwise you're not searching well)
    2. Practicing interviews. Interviews are different than actual work, and there's skill to build there. So after interviews, I'll review stuff I didn't know, and I'll ask for feedback about my blind spots. I have some embarrassing stories about blind spots I had in interviews and would never notice without asking for feedback. Like, eh, taking off my shoes and walking around the room including the interviewer 🫣 these are actual blind spots I had which are absolutely unrelated to my profession of software development
  2. Something about the framing of "people who interview a lot beat others in getting better jobs" - and motivation to be one of those
  3. Get yourself ice cream or so after interviewing
    1. Important sub point: Positive reinforcement should be for "doing good moves" (like scheduling an interview, or like reviewing what you could do better), and NOT for passing interviews (which imply to your brain that not-passing is negative, and so if your brain has uncertainty about this - it will want to avoid interviewing)
  4. Asking a close friend / partner / roommate what they think could work for you. They might say something like "play beat saber, that always makes you feel good" which I couldn't guess
  5. Sometimes people spend a lot of time on things like writing cover letters (or other things that I think are a wrong use of time and frustrating (and in my model of people: some part of them knows this isn't a good idea and it manifests as stress/avoidance, though I'm no therapist)). I'd just stop doing those things, few things are (imo) worth the tradeoff of having more stress from interviews. It's a tradeoff, not a game of "do interviews perfectly and sacrafice everything else"

Seems to me from your questions that your bottle neck is specifically finding the interview process stressful.

I think there's stuff to do about that, and it would potentially help with lots of other tradeoffs (for example, you'd happily interview in more places, get more offers, know what your alternatives are, ..)

wdyt?

TL;DR: The orgs know best if they'd rather hire you or get the amount you'd donate. You can ask them.

I'd apply sometimes, and ask if they prefer me or the next best candidate plus however much I'd donate. They have skin in the game and an incentive to answer honestly. I don't think it's a good idea to try guessing this alone

 

I wrote more about this here, some orgs also replied (but note this was some time ago)

 

(If you're asking for yourself and not theoretically - then I'd ask you if you applied to all (or some?) of the positions that you think are really high impact. because if not - then I think once you know which ones would accept you, and once you can ask the hiring managers things like this, then your dillema will become much easier, almost trivial)

The main reason for this decision is that I failed to have (enough) direct impact.

 

Also, I was working on vague projects (like attempting AI Safety research), almost alone (I'm very social), with unclear progress, during covid, this was bad for my mental health.

 

Also, a friend invited me to join working with him, I asked if I could do a two week trial period first, everyone said yes, it was really great, and the rest is (last month's) history

Yeah, I think maybe seeing a post like this would have helped me transition earlier too, now that you say so

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