Comment author: Maxdalton 07 November 2017 08:54:44AM *  3 points [-]

[My views, not my employer's.] Just a data point, but I interpreted "We have experimented with different levels of salaries between 10k and 50k USD and have not found increasing the salary increases the talent pool in the traits we would like to see more of." to mean that you had advertised salaries between 10k and 50k. I don't know if others would have misinterpreted it in the same way.

Does that statement instead mean "When we asked people who made it through to late interview stages what salary they required, candidates who asked for 50k salaries were not on average better qualified than those who asked for 10k salaries."? If it does, this suggests that of relatively well-qualified candidates who thought that CS would meet their salary requirements, salary didn't seem to affect quality between 10k and 50k. But you might be missing some better-qualified candidates who required a 45k salary, but thought that CS wouldn't be able to meet that requirement, or who felt uncomfortable asking for such a salary given that they knew other people at the organisation took lower salaries. So I worry that there will still be some effect of shrinking the applicant pool that you're not accounting for.

(Maybe you advertised the salary as a range (20k to 50k), then asked candidates where they wanted to be on the range. In that case, I think my worry is slightly weakened, but that people might still feel uncomfortable asking for the higher end, given CS's reputation for people taking low salaries.)

Comment author: Joey 07 November 2017 02:49:53PM 1 point [-]

We generally post job ads without specific salaries. 50k is the highest that someone has asked that we have paid. It is not the highest people in late stage interviews have asked (it would range from 10k-100k if we used that criteria). My sense from most of my interviews is that candidates did not have a strong sense of the salary range of CS. We are more public about this now and more well known now than we were for the majority of the interviews I am speaking of.

Comment author: Gregory_Lewis 07 November 2017 04:40:26AM 5 points [-]

FWIW: Although part of this might be anchoring (it perhaps 'hurts more' to go down in salary rather than start at a low salary level) I don't think I'd have taken my current role as a researcher at FHI for salaries at the 20k sort of level (when adjusted for living expenses etc.) but much more palatable at the upper end of the 20-50k interval.

I regret I am far from a moral saint (like e.g. Xio and yourself, Julia Wise and Jeff Kaufmann, many others), and I expect I am less virtuous in this respect (and many others) than the typical EA who would contemplate direct work. But, insofar as one thinks some counterpart of mine (e.g. EA aligned medical doctor who specialised in public health and who was passionate about global poverty) could be an effective hire at a group like this, I think this offers evidence against a really strong correlation between altruistic ardour and the traits of efficacy you desire.

[I suspect asking for what salary a candidate looks for given public knowledge about the extremely low salary you and other employees claim may implicitly screen out people pre-application who would only work for more generous remuneration.]

Comment author: Joey 07 November 2017 02:49:15PM 2 points [-]

I think the traits we are looking for in a senior hire are pretty complex and fairly rare even in the EA movement, so it's hard to take a strong counterexample without me interviewing someone to see if they would be a good fit.

It would be interesting for my next senior hire to explicitly put a higher range (e.g. 50-100k) and see if the application pool changes dramatically. My expectation is we would get more total applications but the same number from the category we would considering hiring in the end (0-2 candidates).

Comment author: oge 06 November 2017 02:59:27PM 1 point [-]

Hi Joey, how can one apply for Charity Science's tech lead position? The link on your jobs page just goes to a Github repo.

Comment author: Joey 07 November 2017 12:05:03AM 1 point [-]

Great to see you are so keen. The job ad was not yet finished and public. It is now public and attached to that page.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 06 November 2017 10:45:20PM 1 point [-]

But you did find that 20k (above min wage in most places) was not appreciably different from 50k in terms of "talent pool in the traits we would like to see more of"? I'm still extremely surprised. While above the minimum wage, 20k would require many EAs I know to make large sacrifices in housing location, quality and/or savings buffer.

Are you only looking for people who are willing to move to India, or do you think the traits you care about are strongly correlated with being willing to make large sacrifices on those dimensions, or what?

Comment author: Joey 06 November 2017 11:22:06PM 3 points [-]

Most of these jobs included a move to either Vancouver or India. I do expect strong ability/interest in self-sacrifice correlates with many of the traits we are looking for. With our strongest candidates we often ask what salary they are looking for without specifying a number for the job beforehand, although our budget is public so they could in theory deduce the current average wages other employees are getting.

Comment author: joshjacobson  (EA Profile) 06 November 2017 10:21:50PM 2 points [-]

What was the communication of this like? As someone who I believe has monitored CS pretty closely, I can't remember a time a salary approaching $50k was communicated.

Comment author: Joey 06 November 2017 11:21:21PM 2 points [-]

We have not posted a job ad with a 50k set salary, but as I mentioned above, in the late interview stages we often ask what salary candidates are looking for without specifying a number for the job beforehand.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 06 November 2017 09:58:11AM *  6 points [-]

We have experimented with different levels of salaries between 10k and 50k USD and have not found increasing the salary increases the talent pool in the traits we would like to see more of

Is this really true throughout the whole range? It seems extraordinary to claim that moving from a salary of 10k to 20k truly had no effect. Most EAs live on much more than US$10k, and I think this is the right call for most of them.

Comment author: Joey 06 November 2017 11:53:38AM 2 points [-]

10k was not attempted for people living in the higher income countries (with the exception of the co-founders) as it would often go below minimum wage.

Comment author: joshjacobson  (EA Profile) 03 November 2017 06:56:29PM *  3 points [-]

I see you didn't call Charity Science 'talent constrained' but rather 'talent limited'. Was this intentional? Because it does seem Charity Science is an org that would get much better access to talent with more funds for salaries.... and that that is a likely major factor in your talent shortage.

Comment author: Joey 05 November 2017 01:13:32PM 3 points [-]

The use of the term talent constrained vs talent limited was not intentional.

Overall I think salary is not a large factor in our talent concerns. We have experimented with different levels of salaries between 10k and 50k USD and have not found increasing the salary increases the talent pool in the traits we would like to see more of. It could be that 50k is still too low or that we are not marketing our jobs in communities that are very income sensitive. I would guess that normally we are looking for pretty hardcore/dedicated EAs and that tends to correlate very strongly with people who take low salaries.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 30 August 2017 04:18:46AM *  4 points [-]

I don't think there is a difference between a moral duty and an obligation.

In 2015, there were more than 2000 respondents, right? Does this mean EA is getting smaller??

Comment author: Joey 31 August 2017 12:31:03AM 3 points [-]
Comment author: MichaelPlant 30 August 2017 09:49:46AM 3 points [-]

Joey, am I right in thinking your don't count work expenses in your estimate?

Your circumstances seem quite unusual for a couple of reason.

It seems you work in your home, and so don't commute to work. Most people don't get to move their office to suit their preferences. In general, if your office is in a city, you either pay to commute to it, or you'd pay more rent if you move closer, both of which are more expensive than your set up. (You could cycle, but you'd expect to you pay more to live within cycling distance).

I'd also be curious to know how you spend as part of your work and whether you count those trips in your budget or class them as business expenses. Just to push the point, if I spent 52 weeks of the year on business travel I claimed from my organisation, my personal expenditure would be tiny. I think there's also something in that travelling abroad for work will be a partial replacement for holidays (at the least, it's a change of scenery), which I don't see in your budget either.

Maybe the other thing is you're living with a partner. This isn't something one can guarantee, and if you doubled your rent, utilities and internet numbers (leaving aside, for the moment, the normal costs of dating!), because I'm assuming you split those, that adds $3300 dollars-ish, around an extra third, to your total.

I think what you're doing is admirable, but my concern is that because you run your own organisation and live with a partner, which not all EAs can or will do, you're able to reduce your own expenditure in ways that are hard to recreate. Hence I'm not sure how practical a standard this is, even leaving aside all the concerns you might be able to spend more to save time.

Comment author: Joey 30 August 2017 07:05:03PM 4 points [-]

It depends on the work expense. I would guess I generally err on the side of covering it under personal expense (e.g. using our home as an office space we do not get compensation for, or the free food we provide in Van comes out of our personal budget.). But we do put some things under it (e.g. my next flight to India will indeed be under work costs). I think in general our work expenses budget wise follow a similar pattern of lower cost than comparable organizations, so I do not feel my personal budget is offset by it any more so than the average EA org/earning to give job, probably a little less.

It's true I have no specific budget for travel (although this would go under “other spending”). I generally find there are less money and time consuming ways to maximize novelty and life satisfaction. I wish I could count my trips to India as holiday travel and I guess they are novel. Overall though the locations we are going to (low income cities in north India) would not count as a vacation for most people. Certainly that is the way I feel, although I can imagine other people enjoying travel as a whole more than I do.

I definitely think you're right it's hard to cross-apply any specific rule, and there are things that could pull in both directions (I do think living with a partner makes this possible where it would otherwise not be). Of course there are other things that would pull in the opposite direction (there are cities cheaper than Vancouver for example). As mentioned in first comment, this was the number we felt we could both be comfortable and optimally effective at. If it was different circumstances we would have picked a different number.

We do not think we are so atypical in terms of skills and life circumstances in the EA movement that some EAs wouldn’t benefit from this post. Of course we believe that many people will have different life circumstances that prevent it, but there are also many who could do something more like this. Many people cannot donate 10%, but I still think it's very worthwhile to talk about and I expect many people that hear about folks donating 10% increase their net donations. I think the same applies to stronger commitments (e.g. 50% or more).

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 30 August 2017 03:57:44AM *  3 points [-]

I agree with all of this in principle so we're now down to an empirical question.

Holden is the most extreme single case I can think of, for the purposes of demonstration. There are a handful of other managers who generate bottlenecks who I think might generate an expected $1,000+ worth of donations with an hour of extra work. But yes they're not the typical case.

I doubt Holden could find ways to spend $1m usefully to save time. But $200k? Probably.

Options include:

  • Live next to your office in the centre of town (not an issue for Joey as he works at home).
  • Get an executive assistant to manage your house and personal life so you never have to think about it or buy anything yourself.
  • Always fly direct in a seat you can work in. Always catch UberX wherever you're going.
  • Update you phone and laptop, etc to the best equipment each year.

In SF this stuff could easily run in to the hundreds of thousands, and I'd be psyched to see Holden spending that kind of money so he can work every hour God gives without any other stressors in his life.

"However, I definitely call BS on 95%+ of arguments of the "I can't be frugal/vegetarian/etc. because it would harm my productivity" type. I think we should just own up to having room to improve on the frugality angle and just not wanting to make that sacrifice. That's how I feel, at least."

I suspect that many EAs doing direct work are committing the reverse moral error of undervaluing their time in order to seem i) humble, ii) morally dedicated by being conspicuously frugal. They would be more moral people if they spent more on themselves. I didn't used to think this, but seeing how time-effective direct work can be I have changed my mind.

"Second, the time you spend thinking about frugality may not trade directly off of productive time"

In my experience during the middle of the workday I think it translates close to 1:1. Hence I get UberX if I'm moving between work tasks. During random evenings, or weekends it's more like 3:1 (i.e. a third of the time I save goes towards extra work). So I often use Uber Pool if I'm just relaxing. But YMMV.

I don't want to tell Joey he has opportunities he thinks he doesn't. His circumstances are a bit unusual - my impression is that people working in professional positions in the centre of expensive cities (e.g. high up positions in government) can easily spend up to $100k on sensible things to free up their time, and even more importantly, their attention. And I admire them for figuring out how to do it so they can fully apply themselves to their comparative advantage.

Comment author: Joey 30 August 2017 05:37:23AM 3 points [-]

I like getting down to the empirics :) Some thoughts/empirical data on some of the suggestions. Specific to me as it’s hard for me to speak for Holden, but I would be somewhat surprised if my situation/work loads were way different than other folks working in EA orgs.

i) Indeed at CSH our Canada office is small enough to fit in a single home which we do to save money and travel time. Our India location does have an office, but I have found its location to have near 0 effect on staff work hours (this is tracked so we have decent data on it). This might be due to the fact that most staff seem to work a pretty set 35-40 hours in all cases.

ii) We have in fact hired a PA to manage our life operations, but I found the benefits to be pretty minimal (also via hour tracking). Sadly the between the coordination time between us managing the PA and the work they were able to accomplish without our physical presence, our total time saved was pretty limited. This was in large part due to bureaucracy type issues like banks needing to talk to the account holder that I would expect to be true for most PA’s. We do use a bunch of technological systems which mimic a lot of their work (calendly, online groceries, etc)

iii) My job (even though we are based out of India) is pretty minimal in terms of flights, so maybe I am just lucky that I always have enough work-reading to cover the time in them. Maybe this is an issue for folks that fly a lot more or have less reading intensive work tasks? I also am lucky small enough (6 feet) to work on a laptop in even an economy class seat.

iiii) I do spend a decent amount on business class laptops that are updated before they break, but not sure that technological progress is fast enough to see huge differences in this in a single year unless someone is doing pretty computer intensive tasks like video editing.

Regarding any of these or other ideas I would be really interested in seeing any empirical data on them improving work hours as I have found this historically pretty hard to find and hard to create in my personal data. Even data on overall time trades off 1:1 vs 1:3 etc or data on really huge amounts of well time tracked hours worked by people using systems like these would be super handy.

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