I am currently doing my first postdoc in mathematics and I noticed that when it comes to hiring for tenure-track assistant professor positions, some universities prefer to hire people with a single postdoc, while other universities (for ex. most places in the UK) prefer to hire someone with 4 or 5 years of postdocs (2,3 or more).

What are some reasons for the hiring committees to prefer more inexperienced candidates and what determines whether a university belongs to the first group or to the second?

  • 6
    It is not a matter of a general preference, hiring is decided on the individual basis. Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 4:31
  • 1
    There's a difference between having two 3-year postdocs and three 1-year postdocs. The latter seems to be completely fine. Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 6:32
  • 4
    What is the evidence for your claim about preference?
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 11:01
  • @ArcticChar what is the difference other than "funding is unreliable and some projects only have enough money for 1 year"? Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 11:15
  • Well, those are cases that they have more than one offers in their job hunting process and can split their job in different place.@AnderBiguri Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


Disclaimer: I am not in the Maths field but in Biology

I have never seen evidence that “number of postdocs” is a criteria for hiring committees.

Instead, they care most about your productivity (= generally, number and “impact” of published papers) normalized by number of years worked post-phd. Say about 1 really good first-author paper every two years post-phd or 1 less good paper every year in my field (Note that quantification of “good” is generally done poorly but that’s another question).

There also seems to be boundary effects: if you haven’t done any postdocs, you might not be even considered for a permanent position as your independent research abilities cannot be evaluated (with exceptions); if you’ve done too many years of postdoc (whether in the same lab or different ones) that might be considered a negative as well.

Of course, many other criteria are involved in hiring decisions, but this is not one of them.

  • Still, some positions on mathjobs state explicitly, say, that "preference will be given to early career researchers". I know this is mostly for postdoc positions, which is something a bit different. As for tenure-track positions, to be specific - if you look at the lecturers (tenure-track assistant profs) hired in the math dept of QMUL or King's college, they all have at least 5 years (or more) of postdoc experience.
    – sdd
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 15:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .