Comment author: joel 12 October 2018 10:02:59PM *  7 points [-]

I appreciate this follow up as well. Peter and I seem to be of similar thinking here and in his comment on the other post, but just to add:

I don’t think the misunderstanding stems as much from the recent-hire valuations, as from terms like “talent bottleneck” and “talent constrained”. Especially “talent constrained” used alongside “funding constrained”. I could be mistaken, but it would seem odd to say you’re “funding constrained” but can’t use more funding at the moment. Whereas we are saying orgs are “talent constrained” but can’t make use of available talent. They evidently don’t function quite the same, so phrasing them in this matched sort of way invites erroneous comparison.

Similarly, I feel a “talent bottleneck” implies an insufficient supply of talent/applicants, which doesn’t seem to be the case. I guess it’s more that there’s insufficient talent actually working on the problems, but it’s not a matter of supply, so it’s more of a “hiring bottleneck” or an “organizational capacity bottleneck”.

EA orgs aren't so much constrained by a lack of available talent as they are constrained by their capacity to deploy additional talent

It seems like it would be far more informative to ask EAs to place figures on future hires

I had the same thought that it might be more informative to know EA leaders answers to something like, “I’d rather have $X in additional donations than my next ideal hire.” Agree that it’s difficult to know how a future hire will work out, but maybe there’s still something to be learned from the value they’d place on an additional ideal hire, as it wouldn’t necessarily be the same as holding on to a recent successful hire. I’m admittedly out of my depth here.

Comment author: 80000_Hours 12 October 2018 10:14:40PM 8 points [-]

We have a forthcoming post on whether the expressions 'talent gap/bottleneck/constraint' are generating more heat than light and should be phased out in favour of more specific terms.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 11 October 2018 09:28:02PM 0 points [-]

We surveyed managers at organisations in the community to find out their views. These results help to inform our recommendations about the highest impact career paths available.

How much weight does 80,000 Hours give to these survey results relative for other factors which together form 80k's career recommendations?

I ask because I'm not sure managers at EA organizations know what in the near future their focus area as a whole will need, and I think 80k might be able to exercise better independent judgement than the aggregate opinion of EA organization leaders. For example, there was an ops bottleneck in EA that is a lot better now. It seemed like orgs like 80k and CEA spotted this problem, and drove operations talent to a variety of EA orgs. But independent of one another I don't recall other EA orgs which benefited from this push helping to solve this coordination problem in the first place.

In general, I'm impressed with 80k's more formal research. I imagine there might be pressure for 80k to give more weight to softer impressions like what different EA org managers think the EA movement needs. But I think 80k's career recommendations will remain better if they're built off a harder research methodology.

Comment author: 80000_Hours 12 October 2018 07:47:04PM 2 points [-]

Hi Evan,

Responses to the survey do help to inform our advice but it’s only considered as one piece of data alongside all the other research we’ve done over the years. Our writeup of the survey results definitely shouldn’t be read as our all-things-considered view on any issue in particular.

Perhaps we could have made that clearer in the blog post but we hope that our frank discussion of the survey’s weaknesses and our doubts about many of the individual responses gives some sense of the overall weight we put on this particular source.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 10 October 2018 11:47:59PM *  13 points [-]

I’d really like to hear more about other EA orgs experience with hiring staff. I’ve certainly had no problem finding junior staff for Rethink Priorities, Rethink Charity, or Charity Science (Note: Rethink Priorities is part of Rethink Charity but both are entirely separate from Charity Science)… and so far we’ve been lucky enough to have enough strong senior staff applications that we’re still finding ourselves turning down really strong applicants we would otherwise really love to hire.

I personally feel much more funding constrained / management capacity constrained / team culture “don’t grow too quickly” constrained than I feel “I need more talented applicants” constrained. I definitely don’t feel a need to trade away hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in donations to get a good hire and I’m surprised that 80K/CEA has been flagging this issue for years now. …And experiences like this one suggest to me that I might not be alone in this regard.


1.) Am I just less picky? (possible)

2.) Am I better at attracting the stronger applicants? (doubtful)

3.) Am I mistaken about the quality of our applicants such that they’re actually lower than they appear? (possible but doubtful)

Maybe my differences in cause prioritization (not overwhelmingly prioritizing the long-term future but still giving it a lot of credence) contributes toward getting a different and stronger applicant pool? …But how precise of a cause alignment do you need from hires, especially in ops, as long as people are broadly onboard?

I’m confused.

Comment author: 80000_Hours 12 October 2018 07:01:50PM 3 points [-]

Many EA orgs say they place a lot of financial value on their previous hire. What does that mean, if anything? And why aren't they hiring faster?

In our 2017  and 2018  surveys of EA organisation leaders, the median respondent reported being willing to forego very large amounts of additional donations to hold on to their recent hires - several hundred thousand dollars for a junior employee, and millions for a senior one.  However, commenters on this forum... Read More
Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 11 October 2018 06:35:26PM *  8 points [-]

Continuing on the EA talent paradox (“EA orgs need talent but many EAs can’t get hired at EA orgs”), I’m confused why 80,000 Hours is continuing to bemoan earning to give. I get that if someone could be an FHI superstar or earn to give at $50K/yr they should go join FHI and I get that there are many awesome career paths outside of EA orgs and outside ETG that should be explored. Maybe in the past ETG was too much of an easy auto-default and we want to pressure people to consider more of their options. But ETG is an easy auto-default for a reason and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that ETG is genuinely the highest impact option for >50% of the population of people who are EA enough to, e.g., fill out the EA Survey!

It seems pretty discouraging to EAs to make them feel bad about what is a genuinely a really great option. I think we may have overcorrected too strongly against ETG and it may be time to bring it back as a very valid option among the top career paths, rather than “only for people who can donate $1M/yr or more” or “the auto-default for everyone”.


Edited to add that it looks like 80K seems to actually promote ETG in the way I recommend - see - but I don't think this is communicated very clearly outside that section of that article. In general, I get the sense that ETG has become depressing and low-status in EA when it was once high-status, and I'd like to see that trend reversed at least somewhat.

Comment author: 80000_Hours 12 October 2018 06:27:06AM 7 points [-]

Hi Peter,

It sounds like you mostly agree with our take on earning to give in the high impact careers article. That article is fairly new but it will become one of the central pages on the site after a forthcoming re-organisation. Let us know if there are other articles on the site you think are inconsistent with that take - we can take a look and potentially bring them into line.

We agree with you that earning to give can be a genuinely great option and don’t intend to demoralize people who choose that path. As we write in that article, we believe that “any graduate in a high income country can have a significant impact” by earning to give.

That said, we do stand by our recommendation that most people who might be a good fit to eventually enter one of our priority paths should initially pursue one of those paths over earning to give (though while maintaining a back-up option). Those paths have higher upside, so it’s worth testing out your potential, while bearing in mind that they might not work out.

Many of the best options on these paths require substantial career capital, so often this won’t mean starting a direct impact job today. Instead, we think many readers should consider acquiring career capital that can open up these paths, including graduate school in relevant disciplines (e.g. AI/ML, policy, or international relations) entry level policy jobs (e.g. as a Congressional staffer, or working as an early employee at a startup to gain skills and experience in operations. We hope to release an article discussing our updated views on career capital soon.

Of course, these paths aren’t a good fit for everyone, and we continue to believe that earning to give can be a great option for many.

It’s also worth emphasizing that our advice is, of course, influenced by our views on the highest priority problems. We tried to make that clear in “high impact careers” by including a section on how our recommendations would change if someone is focused on global health or factory farming. In that case, we believe “earning to give, for-profit work and advocacy become much more attractive.”

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 10 October 2018 07:08:37PM *  9 points [-]

Echoing David, I'm somewhat sceptical of the responses to "what skills and experience they think the community as a whole will need in the future". Does the answer refer to high impact opportunities in general in the world or only the ones who are mostly located at EA organisations?

I'm also not sure about the relevance to individual EA's career decisions. I think implying it might be relevant might be outright dangerous if this answer is built on the needs of jobs that are mostly located at EA organisations. From what I understand, EA organisations have had a sharp increase in not only the number, but also the quality of applications in recent times. That's great! But pretty unfortunate for people who took the arguments about 'talent constraints' seriously and focused their efforts on finding a job in the EA Community. They are now finding out that they may have little prospects, even if they are very talented and competent.

There's no shortage of high impact opportunities outside EA organisations. But the EA Community lacks the knowledge to identify them and resources to direct its talent there.

There are only a few dozen roles at EA orgs each year, nevermind roles that are a good fit for individual EA's skillset. Even if we only look at the most talented people, there are more capable people the EA Community isn't able to allocate among its own organizations. And this will only get worse - the EA Community is growing faster than jobs at EA orgs.

If we don't have the knowledge and connections to allocate all our talent right now, that's unfortunate, but not necessarily a big problem if this is something that is communicated. What is a big problem is to accidentally mislead people into thinking it's best to focus their career efforts mostly on EA orgs, instead of viewing them as a small sliver in a vast option space.

Comment author: 80000_Hours 10 October 2018 07:31:53PM *  4 points [-]

"Does the answer refer to high impact opportunities in general in the world"

That question is intended to look at the highest-impact jobs available in the world as a whole, in contrast with the organisations being surveyed. Given the top response was government and policy experts, I think people interpreted it correctly.


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