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  • Writer's pictureAmbitious Impact

Talent identification as an underappreciated career option

We're hiring!

Recently, we have been scaling our work. AIM has developed new programs to support talented individuals in impactful careers beyond founding a charity. These include grantmaking, nonprofit research, and for-profit entrepreneurship. We are currently seeking a Talent and Recruitment Manager (or Director) to help us find and select the most talented people for these programs, helping outstanding individuals put their skills to better use for the world.

Talent identification, or vetting as we frequently refer to it within Ambitious Impact, has received little attention as a potentially highly impactful career. For the purposes of this article, we’re defining talent identification/vetting as work that takes a recruitment process from the point of application closure to the point of a job offer. This is separate from the marketing or communications work essential in a recruitment process to advertise the role and encourage high-quality candidates to apply.

We believe a talented individual taking our Talent and Recruitment Manager position would take a high-impact, high-leverage role. Similar opportunities for impact likely exist at other effective organizations scaling significantly. This article shares our thinking behind this.

Why great vetting matters 

Our internal assessment from the past five years of running our Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program is that the quality of the co-founding team is the best predictor of high-impact charities. As we scale up, one of our biggest challenges is identifying highly talented, value-aligned individuals from thousands of candidates worldwide. The difference in outcomes between a bad and a good hire can be huge, and we think this variation is even more extreme with co-founders. The initial staff of an organization sets the pace, tone, and culture for the long term. As we scale, we must identify outstanding candidates for our new programs, including researchers and for-profit entrepreneurs where we have less track record and precedent to base decisions on. 

We believe high-quality vetting may be high leverage for organizations like AIM scaling significantly and looking to maintain a strong culture and values in who we hire and why. At small organizations, the leadership team can exert an outsized influence on the organization's culture and processes, stepping in directly to make changes where appropriate. Larger organizations cannot operate like this since there is too much work for leadership to be directly involved in.

In these circumstances, effective talent identification is crucial. High-quality vetting involves finding potential new staff who are particularly talented and well-suited to the organization's culture, values, and aims. In this way, the person vetting must clearly and deeply understand what drives the organization’s culture while identifying the answers, experiences, and traits a candidate may offer that best correlate with the organization’s culture.

A vetting manager must develop explicit, testable role and career fit models, pairing these with a deep understanding of what it takes to excel in various career paths. With this knowledge, they can design processes to select the right talent, enabling a team's rapid growth while protecting its core values and approaches. 

What might make you a great fit for vetting 

Vetting is more than a technical role. The ideal vetting officer is person-focused, with a strong practical understanding of human psychology and a keen eye for quickly assessing people. While these skills can be enhanced with practice and training, it helps to start with a strong understanding of and interest in human motivations. In our experience, those best suited for this role can hold many (sometimes contradictory) pieces of evidence in their heads while making sane “overall” judgments.

Given that many organizations run large hiring rounds with hundreds or thousands of candidates to review, it's crucial to be passionate about consistently finding ways to make quality judgments. Similarly, it's important to compare candidates' impressions with those of other evaluators, making high reasoning transparency critical; you should be clear on why you believe what you believe and be able to communicate this.

When considering careers in which you do not have previous experience, it can be hard to assess your potential fit or comparative advantage through this work. The soft skill descriptions common to many job applications can easily convey relatively vague insight into potential fit, leaving significant room for interpretation differences. 

To take a different tack, we think the following more everyday examples might demonstrate the kind of person who is a particularly good fit for a vetting role: 

  • You enjoy learning about others’ interests and motivations, often asking friends or family not just what they are doing or learning, but why they have chosen these things to do or learn about. 

  • You might be inclined to predict what a friend or co-worker would do or say without asking them, and relatively good at doing so. Similarly, you might frequently anticipate what characters in books or TV shows will do next. 

  • You have likely met people from a wide variety of backgrounds. This could be from travel, backpacking or perhaps studying internationally. It could also be from working in a public-facing role where you interact with various personality types and backgrounds.

  • You may have a strong interest in psychology, perhaps shown by your own personal research into psychological assessments like the Big 5 personality test or by simply emphasizing the importance of deeper, mission-driven discussions about life and career choices.

Scaling impact and your career through vetting 

Career Progression

Optimizing a vetting process and identifying high-quality talent provides an opportunity to develop highly transferable skills. More speculatively, we could envisage people who excel as a vetting manager being a good fit for higher-level strategic roles within growing organizations, such as a Chief Operations Officer or

Chief People Officer position. These roles often involve significant responsibility for scaling an organization’s impact and processes while maintaining fidelity to the organization’s original culture. This makes the skills and experience gained in talent identification and selection potentially highly valuable. 

Separately, we believe some strong vetting managers will likely be a good fit for an entrepreneurial career trajectory. Identifying new target markets, selecting strategic partners, and building a dynamic team all involve evaluation and prioritization skills that are well-honed through a talent identification and selection role.

The possibilities for people with strong vetting skills extend far beyond these examples. In the case of Open Philanthropy, recruitment staff have gone on to take grantmaking roles. Given the need for sound evaluation skills and clear reasoning transparency, a long-term potential fit with grantmaking makes sense.

Interested in exploring talent identification further? Consider our open position!

AIM is currently hiring for a Talent and Recruitment Manager (or Director). We encourage you to apply on our website if this interests you. Additionally, if you know someone who might be a good fit, please refer them here, and for each candidate that makes it to the final interview stage, we'll send you $100. You can also sign up for a Q&A Session on 7 June 2024, at 4 PM GMT, with the Vetting Director, Judith Rensing.

canvcanbcanvJoin us in our mission to discover the next wave of effective altruists having a large, practical impact on the world by building new organizations. 


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