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I interviewed for a faculty position in the first week of september and the interview went very well. The last two candidates were interviewed in the second week of September. I sent a follow-up email to the search committe chair on the first week of October regarding decision-making timeline. The search committee chair replied to my email on the same date but at night and stated " they sent the recommendation to the dean and director, and now things should move forward faster, but still he can not give a definite timeline this time since its the busy time of the year". Does this letter mean anything positive or negative? Appreciate your answer.

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    I can't see how this email can be viewed as negative
    – Neuchâtel
    Oct 6, 2022 at 15:15

2 Answers 2

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It is just an update, neither positive nor negative. If the dean and director have an important part in the decision, then it is up to them and we can't read their minds nor know their priorities. You are still in the game, of course.

Nothing to do but wait. Maybe have a culturally appropriate beverage. Good luck.

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    Thank you for your nice clarification.
    – Nur570
    Oct 6, 2022 at 15:28
  • I generally talk about age-appropriate beverages, but now that you mention it I do have Hindu and Muslim friends.
    – Bob Brown
    Oct 6, 2022 at 21:48
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A good mental model for how academic searches work is that they are like a black box that crunches a complicated set of information fed into it as input, and after some (usually excruciatingly long) amount of time outputs a binary bit saying “we would like to offer you a job / we decided not to offer you a job”.

The point I’m trying to make with this picture is that it is not going to be helpful to you as a job candidate to know what is happening inside the black box; in fact, knowledge of what happens inside can actually mislead you into an incorrect assessment of your chances of getting the job, or just cause confusion. For this reason, search committees are usually very reluctant to share information with candidates about what is happening “under the hood”.

This search committee chair is trying to be helpful by sharing with you some of the inner workings of the black box. The information they gave says nothing about the final outcome, but it might give some clues about how much time it will take for the outcome to be decided. Although as we can see from your question, it can still lead to exactly the kind of confusion I was referring to above, hence proving my point that this kind of information is not as helpful to share as people sometimes think.

Good luck, I hope you get the job!

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    I disagree. I think this information is somewhat positive. I can't imagine telling a candidate that the department has forwarded its recommendation to the dean if that recommendation was not that the candidate was the department's choice. But of course there is no guarantee until there's a formal offer. Oct 19, 2022 at 16:28
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    @EthanBolker there are multiple scenarios in which a search committee chair would say such a thing. E.g., maybe the department recommended 2 or 3 candidates for hiring, with OP not being the top ranked candidate. The dean might decide to authorize hiring only some of them, etc. Or maybe the search chair volunteered that information thinking it only implies something about the amount of time it would take for a decision to be made, and not realizing the potential for a candidate to interpret things differently. All kinds of things of this type can (and do) happen all the time.
    – Dan Romik
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:40

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