I applied for a research associate position when I was at the final stage of my Ph.D. The job description matches my profile with 80%, the 20% included some scientific skills that I didn't have, but they said that they're considering applicants who are willing to learn. This was perfect for me cause this is I have seen those concepts that they're asking for when I was a Master's student, I just didn't have a detailed knowledge of those concepts.

I have prepared hard for the interview and even started reading some research articles. Basically, I started working on my own cause I loved the project. But the surprising thing is that I didn't hear from them at all!. When I reached to the HR team, they said that 'they raised the bar pretty high and only choose candidates who are a close match', my initial reaction was laughing but I decided to take the L and move on.

A few days later, I noticed that the job is re-posted again (previous applicants will not be considered). I also completed my Ph.D and I am available immediately. The job description is still the same and it's really frustrating cause I deserved an interview at least. I want to write an email to the PI, is this a good idea?

  • 3
    Just a note to observe that this is not at all unusual: it's happened to me on at least a dozen occasions, during a career of seven years as a postdoc and six years as a lecturer. But on a few of those occasions, there was one subtle difference from OP's experience: the re-posted job advertisement had a couple of extra, very specific "essential requirements" added to the person specification, which ruled me out. Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 11:37
  • Ah I see. I'm sorry you experience that as well. It's not a good experience. I think I will move on!
    – U. User
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 11:54

2 Answers 2


A significant proportion of academic jobs are advertised publicly, but in reality they are created for a pre-selected candidate. It is extremely frustrating that many talented candidates routinely waste time end effort applying for jobs where they will not be shortlisted, even if their skills are a close match to published job specification. I am sorry to hear you find yourself in this situation. The old boys' club is still strong in academia and it hurts normal candidates a lot.

For an individual like you, it is probably advisable to move on and apply elsewhere. Some places have a more fair assessment process for all applications, and the more you apply the higher is the chance you will be invited for an interview.

Good luck.

  • 'A significant proportion of academic jobs are advertised publicly, but in reality they are created for a pre-selected candidate.' You really know what's going on, I have seen this a lot in my university/country. It's a sad reality, doing research alone is stressful enough, and rigging the system like this won't make things better! I am moving on! Thank you.
    – U. User
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 11:59
  • 'A significant proportion of academic jobs are advertised publicly, but in reality they are created for a pre-selected candidate.' True enough, but it doesn't explain a post being re-advertised with a "previous applicants will not be considered" rubric. Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 13:50
  • Incidentally, the sort of incidents @DmitrySavostyanov mentions often result from PIs mistakenly believing that local anti-discrimination laws oblige them to advertise every post publicly, even if they already have an internal candidate lined up. Better compliance training may save all parties a lot of wasted time and anxiety. Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 14:04
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    You should support the claim that a significant proportion of positions are created for a pre-selected candidate. I do not doubt that some positions are like this, but I would suggest this is the exception rather than anything close to a significant proportion. It may be more prevalent for postdocs and research assistant-level positions, but surely for university positions the competition is usually level and open. Finally, if the group already had a candidate in mind, there would be no need to re-post the position. Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 14:37
  • @ZeroTheHero Obviously, there is no official statistics accurately capturing the numbers of cases where the candidates are pre-selected. I make my judgement based on my own experience as an applicant, and rumours shared in my own network of contacts. If your personal experience is more positive than mine, I am happy for you. Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 15:29

It's not a terrible idea, but it probably won't be fruitful since they state that "previous applicants will not be considered". They would have to make an exception to consider you and they already know your qualifications, even though you now have the doctorate.

Unless something else has changed in your qualifications, it is probably a waste of time and you probably won't like the reply. But there is nothing wrong about asking.

  • You're right, the doctorate qualification alone is not enough. Perhaps they're looking for tailored profiles that matches the job description. If they did interview me and then reposted the job, I don't think it will bother me at all. But oh well, I think this happens a lot
    – U. User
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 11:44

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