I am a postdoc and am currently applying to tenure-track faculty positions. I am unsure whether or not I should apply to my current institution.

On one hand, I would be happy to get a permanent position where I am. However, it seems like this might violate some social norm or custom. If I were to be rejected, that would feel rather personal, given that I see those who decided every day. Also, sitting through the competing job talks and meeting other candidates would be rather odd.

What is the standard etiquette for this situation? Should I ask someone before applying? If so, how should I raise the subject? I assume the answer also depends on the area and country -- this is computer science in the US.


There a too many reasons to be rejected to take a refusal personally. You can be rejected even if everyone, in the jury, as a very high esteem of you, just because you research topic will interfere with someone else's, or is not in the lab priority, or they try to hire someone from that university to create a partnership, etc.

So, if you feel qualified and would like the job, I do not see any reason not to apply.

Also, if ever you ask to someone in the jury whether you should apply:

  • if he/she says no, then it's maybe not worth applying;
  • but he/she will probably say yes, just for you not to take it personally, even though he/she knows they will eventually reject you. So that might be a forced encouragement to apply.

In short: don't take anything personally!


In general, you can apply if you feel you're qualified. If they don't want to hire you, they'll reject you, but it's not inappropriate to apply.

Tenure-track jobs get huge numbers of applicants, so statistically, it's extremely likely that you will be rejected. If that's going to seriously disturb you and affect your ability to succeed in your current job, then you may want to think twice.

Some departments might prefer "fresh blood", which would put a strike against candidates from inside. On the other hand, if you've been particularly successful and it's clear that you really want to stay and would take the job if offered, that can be a plus, since it reduces uncertainty for the hiring committee.

If you have a trusted contact or mentor within the department, you could talk to them about whether they think you might be a good fit for the job, or vice versa.

If you do apply, then you should make yourself scarce while other candidates are being interviewed. (Unless of course you have already been rejected by then.) Don't go to their talks and don't try to meet them.


Getting people from outside is considered the norm. One of the main reasons: avoiding "scientific incest". Fresh ideas must arrive. So, do apply by all means, but do not count on success.

Of course, there are exceptions. For example, you might be exceptionally good (though you would know this by now). Or you have serious personal reasons to stay in one and the same place (e.g., taking care about a family member).

Still, in the US, I perceive moving as pretty normal.

  • 2
    That's by no means a universal stance (it might be in the US, but even there I am doubtful it is as stark as you paint it). Just yesterday, I was visiting a friend at his new university, and he told me that one of his superiors had spent her whole life at this institution, starting in the integrated preschool, going through elementary, junior high, high, undergraduate, master's, phd, post-doc, assistant prof, associate prof and now being full professor. That's an extreme example, but being a post-doc for a year or two is very light on the scale of "incest". – nengel Jan 6 '18 at 6:21
  • IMHO, "moving" between the PhD and your first post-doc, or you first tenure track job, is indeed normal, but moving between a post-doc and a tenure track position is not mandatory. – Clément Jan 6 '18 at 21:28
  • @nengel This is extreme indeed. I did say "there are exceptions". Further, the OPer did not tell us the amount of years he/she spent at their institution. – user85505 Jan 7 '18 at 1:11
  • I doubt academic incest is an issue in my situation. I've only been here for one year and my research is pretty different to what others do. – user85499 Jan 7 '18 at 6:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.