I did a virtual campus visit interview for tenure track assistant professor positions in an R1 university in the U.S. I think that I aced a job talk and was good with one-to-one faculty interviews. My supervisor told me that they had not reached out to him for a letter of recommendation even before the campus visit (They requested only a list of three referee contact information at application). It is a bad sign?

My supervisor said that this is not any sign, but the dean emailed and said they hope to finalize the decision in two weeks, and now it is over two weeks, which worries me. This is my dream job. I will wait for one extra week and am thinking of emailing them after then. Does some university hire a junior faculty without reaching out to references?

  • What discipline is this in? And did they also not contact your other two references? Are you sure they didn’t ask for letters from other experts in your area?
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 15, 2022 at 12:07
  • Did the job ad (or similar) ask for references or gave any indication that they will consider references at all?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 15, 2022 at 13:56
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    @DanRomik Thanks for the questions. I am not sure that they did. I did not ask the other two references because I do not want to bother them. Neither am I for requests to other experts. I saw threads that requesting other people not proposed by the applicant is not common for TT position. Probably it is for a tenured position. Discipline is public health. Mar 15, 2022 at 14:19
  • @Wrzlprmft Thanks for the question. I do not see any indication about that. The job ad said only a list of three names with contact information. I provided it when I applied for the position. Mar 15, 2022 at 14:21
  • Ask yourself whether knowing that you didn't get the job will change what you do in the next couple of weeks? Do you have other offers? Do you have important academic work to do no matter what? Mar 15, 2022 at 15:18

2 Answers 2


Hiring practices can vary widely by departments. In my experience hiring in industry, generally no news is good news. Though a bit of a tautology, the idea that "you are not rejected until they reject you" holds here. I don't think not asking for references is therefore a bad sign.

Even the claim that they want to get things done in two weeks (and more time passing since with no news) is not necessarily a deal-breaker. Often, people involved in hiring underestimate the red-tape and admin issues. Delays are common.

My guess is that you are still a candidate, but you may not be the top candidate. Since you were given some semblance of an expectation (two weeks), it's not unreasonable to write with a brief follow-up restating your interest in the position and asking if you can provide any further information. I don't know if it'll make a difference, but it's possible you will get more information. If you get another offer, also let them know.

Beyond this, there is little you can do besides wait. Perhaps do some things to take your mind off the stress, too.

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    I would agree. In my (non-university) hiring experience, references are the last thing I check, and only on the candidate I’m making an offer to.
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 15, 2022 at 13:31
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    Thank you. I saw some threads in google search that some did not request the letters at all in some companies in industry. But to my sense (without proof), it seems unusual to not contact references unless they do not want to hire in schools. Thank you for your advice. I should take this off my mind. Mar 15, 2022 at 14:26

Let's consider only academic positions within US higher ed.

The administrative requirements vary on what documents must be in place at any given time during a hiring process for an academic position. At a minimum, all paperwork requested in the job advertisement must be on file before any negotiations can begin on a formal letter of offer. This typically includes the CV, transcripts, and letters of recommendation (LoRs) as well as teaching, research, and possibly diversity statements. Colleges or departments are generally at liberty to put their own spin on what documents have to be in place in advance. With regard to LoRs, one position may require these to be on file before they even set up a virtual interview, another may only ask for them during the virtual interview, and another may ask for them by example only on the top three candidates after conducting a virtual interview with ten applicants.

Federal hiring guidelines restrict that colleges or departments are not permitted to request any additional documents that are not officially or indirectly required by the publicly posted job advertisement. What is an example of an indirect requirement for documents? Suppose a job advertisement states that a PhD in field XYZ is required, but the advertisement also does not directly ask for transcripts as part of the application file. Be assured with this language that you may (and likely will) be asked later to submit graduate transcripts to prove that you have a PhD in field XYZ before any negotiations will be initiated with you on a potential offer.

Until the position is filled, the standard reply to any request by an applicant for information on their status is the equivalent of "The position is still open and processing on applications is still on-going". In other words, you will never hear that your application has been declined, only that the position has been filled or the search has been closed. By example then, a third-ranked applicant in a list of top three from ten in a virtual interview has the distinction to be on hold until after the first applicant or the second applicant either accepts or declines an offer (or until a decision is made to close the search without filling the position).

  • Thank you for the answer. I have a question. Will departments require some documents that are not listed in the job ad before giving an offer? For example, in my case, they did not request transcripts when I applied for the position. This has nothing to do with LoR, but I am just curious because I am not from the U.S. Mar 15, 2022 at 14:38
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    @Gratitude17 By the time you are applying for tenure track jobs transcripts are usually not relevant. Mar 15, 2022 at 14:51
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    I've updated my answer accordingly. Mar 15, 2022 at 15:09
  • @JeffreyJWeimer Thank you! Mar 16, 2022 at 4:31

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