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Do search committee members ever see or take into account the time that candidates submit an application as a postdoc or faculty member. Does submitting close to the deadline (same day or few hours before) carry a risk of predudicing your application due to being considered unorganised for submitting so late.

Since most applications are now submitted through convoluted electronic systems it seems likely that submission are timestamped so this information could in principle be accessed. Any thoughts? I know one could just stumble across an application late in the day but can anyone speak from experience about whether such meta data has an effect (even if legally forbidden, we all know that unofficial or subconscious effects can take place...).

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    It's a commonly accepted working style in academia to do everything just in time. I've heard about a few individual PIs who don't like this working style at all -- if they took into account the submission timestamp of a postdoc application, that might be for the benefit of everyone, as it indicates a poor fit with "just-in-time" applicants. – lighthouse keeper Jan 7 at 10:29
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    When your applicants might be in countries with different working schedules, it's silly to analyze time stamps. – Anonymous Physicist Jan 7 at 10:55
  • So "JIT" compared to "JTFL"... @lighthousekeeper – Solar Mike Jan 7 at 12:39
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    Even with old fashioned paper processes the committee would usually get the applications with date stamps and numbers that showed who applied first. – Brian Borchers Jan 7 at 14:07
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    The deadline is not a 'winning post', it's simply a cut off point. Anyone submitting before should have an equal chance. If one only saw the advertised post the day before, that's not his/her fault. – Tim Jan 8 at 11:14
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I would say this depends on the department and their hiring practices, but in my department (math at a public US research university) applying early can definitely give you a leg up. In math in the US, there is a centralized application system (mathjobs.org) that most places use, and in my department all faculty get access to start looking at applications well before the deadline. Many of us do start looking at applications early, partly out of interest, and partly so we can take our time.

The advantage of applying early is that faculty may start talking about some candidates before any search committee meetings and people have the chance to get excited about your file early, which would give you some early momentum to help you stand out when we officially have meetings and rank candidates.

That being said, in other departments, faculty might not look at applications at all before the deadline, in which case there is no real affect. I do not know how common our approach is, but at least a few of my colleagues agree with me that it is better to apply early. I have also heard of departments that have somewhat misleading deadlines (they start officially reviewing files before the deadline, which might be in fine-print in the ad), so my advice is to try to prepare you application a bit early, and then submit application when your portion (i.e., excluding the references) is ready.

Incidentally, in mathjobs, the candidates submission date is readily visible, though it is not something that we focus on or analyze. (Though often we'll sort by submission date to see what files came in since last we looked.)

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    The same is true in economics. – FooBar Jan 8 at 9:08
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    I would point out that what you describe relates very much to "Primacy" and "Recency" effects. Therefore, and given that this is in effect what OP is worried about since they accepted this answer, submitting early but "not early enough" can backfire in exactly the same way, such that in a sense they could possibly be better off submitting close to the deadline than "averagely" early from it, for exactly the same reasons you describe here. (obviously this is not a ringing endorsement of 23:59 submissions either though). – Tasos Papastylianou Jan 8 at 10:33
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    Not to mention, being able to look at and discuss candidate submissions early should be expressly forbidden for just that reason. – Tasos Papastylianou Jan 8 at 10:37
  • @TasosPapastylianou Yes, that certainly is related, but I don't think there is a large effect for the order (nor can one predict/plan for it), at least the way we evaluate candidates. My impression is that primacy and recency effects play a larger role in the order of interviews, particularly when we have many interviews. – Kimball Jan 8 at 14:49
  • @Kimball yes, I've noticed that too when I was on interview panels, though presumably that's an orthogonal issue. Unless, of course, interview slots happen to be allocated in order of submission! :p – Tasos Papastylianou Jan 8 at 17:59
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Extremely unlikely.

More organized institutions, and especially those with a culture of "procedural fairness", may enforce the stated deadline and resist considering applications that arrive after it. Certainly those that arrive significantly late, and possibly literally to the second.

At others, the effective deadline is when the person in charge gets around to preparing the file for the hiring committee, which may happen at any time after the stated deadline but may well be a few days later. You cannot count on that, of course.

Prompted by your question, I've checked and on the hiring files I most recently reviewed: the timestamp of application is visible, buried among other technical info none of us on the committee are paying any attention to.

A much bigger challenge for hiring committees are late letters of reference. Recognizing the unfortunate tendency towards elastic/fake deadlines and just-in-time response in academia, there is not only leniency towards late letters (when sent directly by the letter writer) but a painfully time-consuming amount of increasingly strident outreach by the committee itself to writers who are being slow. We try hard to not let it color our evaluation of the candidates, but it does: in an era (in some fields) of increasingly glowing letters becoming standard, akin to grade inflation, I have seen committees discount letters that took a lot of prodding after the deadline to come in versus those which arrived on time without prompting, indicating a higher level of priority for the writer.

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  • Adding: Answer (and I think Q) is relevant for North America. – Houska Jan 7 at 18:31
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    I'm not sure I see how this answers the question, which is about applications submitted in time... – Kahovius Jan 8 at 16:59
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The only applications that tend to be affected by time are those that arrive after the stated closing time.

I have never heard of or seen any system of application sorting involving those who submitted first or last past the post. However, my experience is limited, perhaps it does exist somewhere...

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  • Pretty sure this happens for undergraduate applications: when you are expecting thousands of applications arriving right around the deadline, it makes sense to start work on those that are complete significantly before the deadline. – Allure Jan 7 at 22:57
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A rather different angle on the question:

From the way you phrased the question, I doubt that the deadline is three months away, and you are deciding whether to write the application now or to put it off and do some interesting research instead. Instead, I imagine that the deadline is very near, and the decision is whether to apply at all.

If I am right, remember that (even if it were true that your chances of getting the job were higher if you had applied two months ago), your chances of getting the job are almost infinitely higher if you apply now than if you don't apply.

(If you really are considering applying now or later, I would advise applying now).

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Given normal order of a search committee, submitting toward the end of the solicitation date should do you no damage as an applicant.

There are variations from normal order. For example, a very strong candidate can turn up, and that candidate might be in a position to require an immediate decision, or some sort of fast track; a committee might develop a "favorite" or two in the candidate pool before they ever see your application, and your competitiveness falls below where it should be; the search could close early because somebody suspects a leadership change could shut down the search without a hire, and they need to put a butt in a seat quickly...

Stuff like this might not happen often, but it can certainly happen.

Unless there's something that will make an application look better if you wait, like a pending decision on a grant application that will likely go in your favor, apply when you see the position posted.

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I am a mathematician, and the optimal strategy is to wait with the application until the very last (with some comfortable margin in case of technical issues).

This gives more time to do changes, and allow for inclusion of papers which change status (under review to being accepted, accepted to published, etc).

There can also be personal changes (pregnancies, illnesses, etc) which might totally change the life situation.

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