I recently applied to some post-doc positions at well-ranked universities whose number of candidates is usually not so large (ca. 15, at most 50). Usually, the recruitment process consists of a formal interview, and sometimes, a pre-informal one where candidates are first "filtered".

I'm not aware about the main procedure after such interviews conducted with candidates. I got only 1 feedback from a university being totally transparent on this procedure; i.e. you get a document showing (1) the candidates selected and those non-selected, (2) their ranking in the selection, and (3) comments about the selections made. This makes me think, is it authorized in general as an unsuccessful applicant to request feedback on the outcome of my application? I wish decisions taken were more transparent so that unsuccessful candidates could at least situate themselves in the pool.

  • 1
    In the US, at least, giving information to one candidate about another would probably be illegal on privacy grounds. They can give you some feedback on your own shortcomings, at least, but giving comparative information starts to reach the red zone.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 14:55

2 Answers 2


Rules, regulations and customs vary a lot between different countries and institutions. Generally, candidates are informed that Universities are not able to provide feedback for candidates who were not shortlisted for the role. Candidates who were shortlisted and interviewed can have some feedback, but the quality differs widely. In my experience, the most detailed feedback I received from a nordic University, containing about three sentences from the Panel about each candidate. The least useful feedback I received so far consisted of one sentence:

Unfortunately, you were not successful, because we found a more suitable candidate.

In about 1/3 of cases I received no feedback at all even when I asked for it post-interview.

I have to say that currently the post-interview feedback tends to be rather useless, and in most cases it is a mockery of the transparent approach. I suspect that HRs are just too cautious that a frustrated candidate might submit a legal complaint, and are trying to "protect the University" by not saying anything specific or useful.

My experience mostly covers UK/EU. As I said the situation in the US might be different.

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    There is also the privacy issue. A lot of the candidate selection boils down to making comparisons between candidates and it is hard if not impossible to give meaningful feedback about this process without invariably leaking information about the other candidates without their consent.
    – mlk
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 12:36
  • @mlk I am not sure about it. All EU is bound by the same GDPR, but nordic Universities find it possible to say much more than let's say UK ones. Privacy laws are important, but too often they are used as an excuse to withhold all information whatsoever, which seems unhelpful and lazy approach to me. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:50
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    Maybe not for a post-doc, but I would be really irritated if it became public knowledge that I had applied for a job - that could have repercussions if I didn't get it.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:56
  • @DmitrySavostyanov There are many more laws than just the GDPR (which is more about data storage than disclosure anyway) and most of them are national and thus different everywhere. To give an extreme example that comes to mind regarding privacy: In Scandinavian countries anybodies tax returns can be requested by anybody else. Passing a similar law in Germany on the other hand would likely be impossible without abolishing the constitution first, as privacy of such information is literally considered a human right by German courts.
    – mlk
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 15:42
  • @JonCuster Not convinced either. The list is sent to other candidates, who likely have already met each other during the interviews. References are already collected at this stage, including the reference from candidates' Head of Department. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 16:26

Where I am (),

  • Telling other candidates who else applied would clearly violate the privacy rights of the other candidates.
    For some hiring procedures candidates may be able to gather that knowledge for a shortlist of candidates, e.g. if the procedure includes a day of public lectures by the candidates - however, even these are often sufficiently separated in time that the candidates don't usually meet.
  • The hiring committee AFAIK doesn't usually bother to rank candidates except maybe the top 2 - 3 in case they're afraid the top one may not accept the offer.
    The feedback on rank that could be given would then be e.g. "you were in the top 8" (in case the first round of deciding whom they'd be OK to hire and whom they would not want to hire had lead to 8 people of whom then then pick their first choice)
  • Administration is often very much afraid of people suing for a job. Thus, the hiring committee is likely forbidden by the legal department to give any kind of useful feedback: regardless of whether the one suing for a job is right or not, this material would give them an advantage at court, and possible encourage them to sue (which, even if the court decides against them, is costly for the institution).

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