Kakamega Kenya HQ

How We Hire at One Acre Fund

One Acre Fund Executive Director Andrew Youn shares our approach to hiring — and what we plan to improve.
Our application process

A letter from Andrew Youn, One Acre Fund's Co-Founder and Executive Director of One Acre Fund

One Acre Fund's Kenya headquarters in Kakamega

To One Acre Fund job applicants –

Last year, more than 24,000 talented individuals chose to apply to senior roles at One Acre Fund. We know there are many places you could work, and we deeply appreciate your interest in supporting hard-working farmers.

At the same time, we've recently heard valid critiques on how we can improve our hiring experience for candidates, both on Twitter and in a survey last December where 600+ candidates generously shared their feedback. We also heard a lot of genuine frustration from candidates about our hiring process.

So, I wanted to take the opportunity to 1) share more context on how we hire, 2) both correct some misperceptions and explain how we are learning from valid criticisms, and 3) re-state our commitment to African hires. Last year 26 out of 30 external hires for management positions were African nationals.

Context: Our Hiring Process

Applying for a job at One Acre Fund is fairly unique: We evaluate candidates with a mix of interviews and also practical exercises, which help us understand a candidate’s skills and potential beyond their resume.

  • Our exercises are unique and mimic the day-to-day responsibilities of the job (like a work plan or writing sample). They simulate real business scenarios. Exercises are designed around problems we have already put a lot of work into, so we can evaluate them fairly.
  • We think exercises are good for both the organization and the candidate. It’s a big decision to work together, and we think it’s wise to simulate practical aspects of the job. Candidates get a chance to see what it’s like to work here, and we learn how they’d perform in the role.
  • To correct a misperception: we never reuse candidate exercises or share them beyond the hiring committee.

Our Candidate Experience

Sometimes, applying for a job here can be a frustrating experience. We are working hard to address some valid critiques, like the length of the process and the feedback shared throughout.

  • Time investment: One valid critique is that applying takes a lot of time for the candidate – far more than a typical hiring process. We are currently looking at several different ways to lighten the time investment from candidates and to shorten our time-to-hire.
  • Expectations: We also feel we can do a much better job about sharing expectations about our hiring process upfront, so candidates can decide if they want to invest the time.
  • Feedback: Another valid criticism is that we are unable to share detailed interview feedback due to the large number of applicants. While all active candidates can request additional feedback from their interviewer, we are working on finding time-efficient ways to share more feedback, for more people.

Last year, each role on our site had more than 350 applicants. So there are always far more talented applicants than we can hire, and we invariably decline many, many candidates with stellar qualifications.

Our Commitment to African Hires

Hiring talented African staff is one of our top priorities as an organization: we need leaders with deep regional knowledge and long-term investment in the farmers we serve. Here’s who we are:

  • 95 percent of One Acre Fund's 7,000+ staff are African nationals. 
  • In 2018, 26 of our 30 external hires for management positions in Africa were African nationals.
  • In 2018, 7 in 9 of our most senior hires in Africa (managers and directors) were African nationals.

I also acknowledge that wasn't always the case. In our startup days, we relied on my U.S. networks to hire our early team. Today, we're deeply committed to hiring diverse leaders at all levels of the organization, particularly for senior positions that will guide our next phase of growth.

We’re certainly not there yet: We aspire to fill our roles faster with top African professionals, and give all candidates a great experience that leaves them more excited about our work at every step. 

We appreciate the many talented people who choose to invest their time in the application process and to share their thoughts on how it can be improved. We will be implementing many of these useful suggestions in the months to come.

Farmers First,
Andrew Youn
Co-Founder and Executive Director of One Acre Fund