EA needs a hiring agency and Nonlinear will fund you to start one

post by Kat Woods (katherinesavoie) · 2022-01-17T14:51:57.650Z · EA · GW · 12 comments


        Deadline: February 1st, 11:59pm EST
        Fill out this form to apply
  Why it’s high impact to start an EA headhunting agency
    What roles will the startup hire for?
    What about BERI, CampusPA, 80,000 Hours, and non-EA recruitment agencies?
  Why you might want to start this charity
  You’re a good fit for starting this charity if:
  What the incubation program provides
      Seed funding
  Should you apply?
  Application process
        Deadline: February 1st, 11:59pm EST

If your dream job is to work in longtermism, be your own boss, and talk to EAs all day, then you might be the perfect fit for starting an EA recruitment agency through Nonlinear’s incubation program.

To find out more about the idea itself and why it’s high impact, read below.

For more details about how to tell if you’re a good fit, what support we provide, and how to apply, see the second half of the article.

If you think this is an important charity to have in the EA space, please like and share this Request for Founders so that the right people see it.

Deadline: February 1st, 11:59pm EST

Fill out this form to apply

Why it’s high impact to start an EA headhunting agency

The idea is for you to start an organization that helps hire employees for longtermist orgs. This will help the world in a few ways:

What roles will the startup hire for?

Nonlinear’s research team has identified hiring PAs as one of the best use cases of a hiring agency in EA. This is for a few reasons.

Firstly, as 80,000 Hours describes in their career guide, PAs can be a high-impact role. Ben Todd says it better than me here:

“Consider: if you can save that researcher one hour spent on activities besides research, then that researcher can spend one more hour researching. So, by saving that researcher time, you can convert your time into their time. Suddenly, one of your hours becomes one more hour spent by the best researcher, working in the best field!”

Put another way, imagine you could add another Paul Christiano, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Chris Olah to the alignment community. With a PA hiring agency, you could essentially do that by getting the top researchers PAs.

To use an extremely oversimplified example, say a PA increases the output of a researcher by 10% on average. That means if you hire ten PAs for the top ten researchers, that’s the equivalent of adding a top AI safety researcher. It’s hard to put a dollar estimate on the value this would add to the world, but if you’re convinced of AI safety, it’s extremely high.

Secondly, PAs are particularly well-suited to a hiring agency. This is because of two main reasons:

  1. Hiring for individuals instead of orgs. Most people don’t have much or any experience hiring, so the prospect of hiring a PA is so daunting that they’ll never do it. And even if they did, they’d often do a poor job of it due to their lack of expertise. This is different from most roles that are usually hired for by an organization, where at least one person will have the experience and confidence to hire. This means that a recruiter will have more marginal impact on hiring for an individual than for an organization.
  2. Benefits of scale. Most people are looking for pretty similar things in a PA, such as high conscientiousness and initiative. Due to the similarity of the role, a recruiter can get a lot of reps of identifying and evaluating certain traits, thus gaining more from specialization. They can also develop a very particular network that will be useful again and again, as opposed to having their established network not be useful for the next role they’re hiring for.

Once you’ve created optimal systems for hiring PAs, the org will expand to helping EA orgs hire for other roles. How you proceed will depend on what strategy you think is best.

Some potential roles that could benefit from a recruiter include:

What about BERI, CampusPA, 80,000 Hours, and non-EA recruitment agencies?

BERI already hires PAs for longtermists, but only for a few academic research institutions. Their strategy for the foreseeable future is to stick to these orgs, specializing in helping longtermist academic institutions, so they won’t be filling the gap.

CampusPA hires PAs for EAs. However, they only hire remote PAs, which is a dealbreaker for many. They also focus specifically on PAs and are unlikely to switch to hiring for other EA roles. We spoke to them about switching and it doesn’t fit with their business strategy.

80,000 Hours used to do recruiting, but they stopped because their strategy is to do a few things extremely well instead of spreading themselves too thin. We spoke with Niel Bowerman and he’s really excited for somebody else to take the baton since he thinks it would be high impact.

What about just using non-EA recruitment agencies? Generally, we shouldn’t make an EA-specific organization when a non-EA one will work just as well.

In the case of a non-EA hiring agency, the reason we think that an EA will have a comparative advantage is that to hire for EA orgs, you need to have an EA network and know how to get EAs excited about certain jobs. This is true for most roles you’d be hiring for. Even PAs, who don’t need to be EAs, often will be simply because they will be more aligned with the general mission of the person they’ll be assisting, leading to more talented people from the EA community applying than from those outside of it.

Finally, even if there was another org working on this, we think there's room for at least three full-time people working on this, potentially even more. If we get enough good applicants, we'll likely just incubate multiple people.

Why you might want to start this charity

You’re a good fit for starting this charity if:

What the incubation program provides

Nonlinear’s incubation program provides two main benefits: seed funding and mentorship.

Seed funding

The seed funding will be for up to a year’s salary, although you’ll also have the option of using that money for other things, such as hiring other people. This way you can have some runway to establish yourself before you have to start fundraising or charging commission.


You will receive bespoke training and guidance from two experienced entrepreneurs, Nonlinear founders Kat Woods and Emerson Spartz. Kat Woods previously founded Charity Entrepreneurship and Charity Science Health (now Suvita). Emerson Spartz is a Forbes 30 Under 30 who founded the #1 Harry Potter website when he was 12 and then built websites with a monthly audience rivaling the New York Times.

The training will be catered to your particular background. If you have a lot of experience with management and little with marketing, you’ll get training in marketing. If vice versa, then you’ll get training in management.

You’ll start with more intensive, daily guidance, then you’ll graduate to less and less frequent check-ins until the training wheels are completely taken off. After that, you’ll be on your own, though there will always be the option to request that Kat and/or Emerson be board members of your charity.

The length of the incubation period will depend on your current level of expertise. If you’re already an experienced recruiter, then the incubation period could be as little as one month. If you’re relatively inexperienced, it could be as long as six months.

The incubation can be done remotely from anywhere in the world.

Should you apply?

We accept candidates from a wide range of backgrounds. You can be a recent high school graduate or have a decade’s experience recruiting. Experience is helpful but not necessary. We’ll help you develop the skills you’re currently missing. What matters most is grit, altruism, and intelligence.

If you’re uncertain, you should err on the side of applying. Impostor syndrome is rampant in EA. In fact, around 50% of Charity Entrepreneurship’s most successful founders from previous years didn’t even think they should apply.

Application process

To apply, fill out the form here.

If you already have your CV ready, it should take around 30-120 minutes to fill out.

Deadline: February 1st, 11:59pm EST

If you think that having an EA hiring agency is a high-impact idea, please share this request for founders on social media or upvote it to make it more likely that the right person sees it.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Dancer · 2022-01-17T21:18:02.583Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

"The seed funding will be for a year’s salary" - how much?

Replies from: katherinesavoie
comment by Kat Woods (katherinesavoie) · 2022-01-19T15:04:45.606Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

It depends on their experience, what they need, and how many good candidates there are. It can range from $30-$150k.

comment by PeterSlattery (Peterslattery) · 2022-01-18T03:39:16.359Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for this! I think it is a great idea. I have had similar ideas which, like most of my ideas, were noted down for looking at in the future. I am not in a place to apply now, but I will keep an eye on how things go, as I think I could be a good fit for connecting people for mutual benefit.

Quick related thought - I think collecting a privately accessible database of people looking for jobs in EA, with their skills, resumes and various personality and intelligence test scores (e.g., 1,)  and a team of associated headhunters/job finder could be a valuable long term outcome from this project. 

Replies from: edoarad
comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2022-01-22T07:57:21.434Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

compiling this list strictly from existing EA orgs' data might be a good short term project by itself

comment by Lee McC · 2022-05-27T15:00:27.003Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm Lee and one of the people who is now working on this project. If you come across this post and are have thoughts or ideas about hiring in EA, reach out to me (calendly link is on my bio). 

I'm looking to connect with people who: 

-Have experience hiring within EA 

-Have wishes or suggestions for ways you think EA orgs could do hiring better

-Have been a personal assistant

-Have hired or attempted to hire a personal assistant

-Have outside experience with hiring best practices that you think should be implemented more often

I can't talk to too many people right now, so don't hesitate to connect! 

comment by Robi Rahman (robirahman) · 2022-04-19T00:17:03.631Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Did anyone ever end up creating a hiring agency?

Replies from: katherinesavoie
comment by Kat Woods (katherinesavoie) · 2022-04-29T15:06:32.314Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

We've found three stellar people to incubate. 🥳 More details to be announced soon.

comment by MaxRa · 2022-03-17T20:45:46.887Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Are there already updates on this? :) I think this is a very cool idea and I'm personally very interested in scaling up recruitment for AI safety research.

comment by Mats Olsen · 2022-01-26T16:22:41.410Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Great initiative. Whoever ends up in this role, we at impactcolabs.com would love to connect as we could both help identify potential candidates as well as help identify needs within EA orgs. We find that many EA orgs have volunteer needs that might be best served by a PA-type FTE. We will hopefully share more about these findings and the status of our 2.0 platform soon.

Replies from: Dancer
comment by Dancer · 2022-01-27T02:22:05.151Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Nice initiative! Have you seen https://eawork.club? Certainly not as fancy as impactcolabs.com but seems clearer and easier to navigate to me, so potentially still a source of UX ideas.

comment by Miranda_Zhang (starmz12345@gmail.com) · 2022-01-19T03:33:17.557Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Ooh. Based on jlemien's comment, I assume there's no potential for visa sponsorship?

If not, honestly, I could be down to join something like this in the future.

comment by Joseph Lemien (jlemien) · 2022-01-18T02:45:04.525Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Great initiative. I was thinking of the value of an EA hiring agency just a few days ago. If I was located in my home country without the need for a visa I would take action on this. :)