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I recently had a postdoc interview (at a research institution) in which I wasn't selected. After receiving the interview outcome, I decided to directly email the panel a few weeks later asking for a feedback. One of the professors replied and invited me for a chat the following week. He said that he has other opportunities that are a good fit for my profile. I know that he's talking about the university where he's working and not the research intuition where I met him (with the panel).

The issue, is that I checked the university's website and I didn't find any job postings. Can a PI hire a postdoctoral researcher without first advertising the job?

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    This probably depends on local law. In some places all (or almost all) positions need to be advertised. But for "short term" employment it might be different. – Buffy Feb 12 at 21:58
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    Perhaps the opening isn’t posted yet, but they plan to? Your availability may push the issue higher on his priority list... – Jon Custer Feb 12 at 23:15
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    Can a PI hire a postdoctoral researcher without first advertising the job? I see a lot of speculative answers here that aren’t backed up by anything. Unless you get an authoritative answer backed up by credible supporting evidence, you should assume that the answer is “yes”, as this is a safer course of action, risks nothing and avoid the risk of missing out on a career opportunity if you dismiss this professor’s overtures out of a misguided assumption that he can have no positions available since you didn’t see any jobs advertised. – Dan Romik Feb 13 at 3:56
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    No, most of them are not. – Greg Feb 13 at 7:43
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    n=1: I am a postdoc and my position was not advertised. – Gimelist Feb 13 at 11:32
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Many job postings are written after the candidate that will fill the position has been selected. This makes sense in academia - I usually want to hire people who were trained by people I know. University policies often require that postings are made for all positions though.

It's therefore very common to interview for a position that hasn't formally been posted. Especially if you have fellowship money coming with you.

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Are all postdoc jobs advertised?

No. Advertising is a good idea, though.

Can a PI hire a postdoctoral researcher without first advertising the job?

Practices vary widely from "never" to "whenever they have the money." Advertising is less likely if the hire is already affiliated with the university.

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In most research-intensive countries and Universities, all academic jobs should be advertised. For many countries this is also a condition for issuing a visa for a candidate, if they need it.

However, the meaning of "advertise" vary considerably: from publishing an advert on a well-known website like mathjobs or jobs.ac.uk, to pinning an A6 paper advert in a corner of a local announcement board. It all depends on the rules and customs of each particular organisation, and in some places there rules bend more than in others.

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  • Thank you for your answer. I certainly need a visa. This means the job should be advertised for a month I guess. He's probably going to tell me that he's going to open a position in the near future or something. – U. User Feb 12 at 22:04
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    Visa requirements vary by country - do check what your personal situation is! – Dmitry Savostyanov Feb 12 at 22:09
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    In the case of the US, most postdocs are on J1 visas which are for visiting exchange scholars. There won't be a requirement (for visa purposes) to advertise to US citizens like there would be for an H1. – user133933 Feb 12 at 23:21
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    I can think of quite a few “research intensive” countries where this is not the case, especially for postdoctoral positions. – mmeent Feb 13 at 1:16
  • @mmeent I will appreciate examples - I am not familiar with all the countries in the world, and I am curious to know what you mean. – Dmitry Savostyanov Feb 13 at 12:29
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No. Not all jobs are posted either. I do even not think there is an expectation that all positions are advertised. Then what exactly do you mean by “posted”?

Every year I receive 10s of unsolicited emails from people asking if I have a postdoc position open. Clearly, these people do not expect me to post positions, else they would wait until I advertise. Since clearly these people are just going through mailing lists sending CVs almost randomly, they expect 1000s of people to possibly have unadvertised positions.

Even when positions are posted, they are not posted everywhere: the mere fact that not all sites have the same postings is proof of that. Indeed it may not make much sense to post broadly as you might anticipate there are sufficiently many local or regional candidates qualified for the position. There might be language barriers or other factors that very legitimately restrict the pool of candidates.

Hiring rules vary by institutions, but rule #1 of a PI who has someone in mind is to craft an ad (if required) that meet the local requirements while guaranteeing the preferred candidate is selected.

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In the US, and presumably some other countries, there are laws and regulations in place designed to prevent discrimination and bias in the hiring process. One manifestation is that jobs get posted in a large proportion of cases, though not always widely.

Some postdoc positions arise out of situational opportunity. In such cases, the job is often created and then posted using language like "strong candidate identified".

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The very practical aspect of this is: Even if required by law, it could be that these positions are advertised but already filled. Signs of this are:

  • overly specific requirements

  • sometimes the publication period may be very small

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In my experience in the US, it is not legally possible to hire a postdoc without advertising for the position, though as people point out, there is nothing to stop people from deciding before the position is advertised who they’d like to hire, and doing the advertisement in a pro forma way. I was kind of shocked to discover when I moved to Canada that this is not the case here. At least at my university, if you have the right grant funding to hire a postdoc, you can just do so without needing to provide any evidence to the university of having advertised the position or done any due diligence in your search. My understanding is that this is because postdocs, as a temporary position, are treated differently under employment discrimination law here (postdocs at Canadian universities have a weird status where the university considers them more like students than employees, or at least in a weird gray zone).

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    "In my experience in the US, it is not legally possible to hire a postdoc without advertising for the position" This is not generally true. – Anonymous Physicist Feb 13 at 19:49

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