I am a fourth year doctoral candidate in an Experimental Psychology program at an R2 and am completing a visiting instructor appointment at a small liberal arts college (SLAC) right now. I had seen there was a tenure track position listing at the start of November that was reviewing applications starting November 13th. I sat on applying to it for some time since they specifically said they were open to someone of any background, but would prefer someone in health psychology or biobehavioral health.

My transition to this position has, admittedly, not been the best. However, after a discussion with someone close to me, I am seriously considering trying to do so anyway, even if I do not get it. I was told that this college prefers hiring those who are already inside to promote them but given their preference I am a bit concerned if I am not selected at all. I also saw someone wrote on the faculty door next to me that new faculty interviews are already being set up so I may be too late.

Would it damage professional relationships with the full faculty at all if I apply and am not selected at all? For example, I could ask them for a letter of recommendation and whether they would be willing to write one or not. I am also applying a week later, could that be an issue too?

  • 1
    Look bad to whom? Damage which professional relationships?
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 1:00
  • @Buffy Edited to clarify. I am referring to the institution itself and my colleagues.
    – zzmondo1
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 1:07
  • 1
    I'm not really understanding the concern.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 1:40
  • @BryanKrause The concern is how awkward that would look if I was not chosen at all after I applied in this case. I want an LOR and whatnot from someone there in the future so I do not want that to come back to haunt me possibly. That is not mentioning that I am a week later after they started reviewing applications and they wrote on the board that there would be new faculty interviews. They wrote a question on the door asking, "Email [first name]?"(they wrote a first name so I'm guessing its a candidate).
    – zzmondo1
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 1:53
  • 2
    Ask the responsible person if they still accept applications for the position. I don't understand your other concern. Nobody will write in a LOR "zzmondo1 applied for a tenure track position and was not selected". And even if they did, this can happen even to exceptional candidates. Everyone knows that getting a tenure track position is strongly stochastic.
    – user9482
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 5:59

2 Answers 2


It seems like you are a lecturer at the same place you are doing your degree, but this answer doesn't depend much on that.

You have to start somewhere. And this seems like a low-risk opportunity. You have a couple of things against you, however. One is that you say your field is fairly different from what they prefer. That, alone, might be enough to choose someone else with no negative connotations about yourself.

But the other is that some (probably many) universities prefer not to hire their own graduates. There are important counterexamples, of course. Some people feel that you will gain more from broadening your horizons and that the university will gain more from bringing in "new blood". Again, that doesn't have negative implications about you.

If they will put you in the pool, even as a rather low priority case, you will probably gain important experience from going through the process and dealing with questions in interviews and such, along with preparation of an application. You might get valuable feedback even if you aren't selected.

People are, hopefully, trying to match qualifications to a job description. You may meet them or not. But at the moment tenure track positions are hard to come by and any experience, even with process, is possibly helpful. I'd guess the positives outweigh any negatives.

Your doctoral advisor may have something important to suggest about this. They know the situation better.

  • I am not a full time lecturer at the same university where I am doing my Ph.D actually. It's a small liberal arts college that is 20 minutes away from where I am doing my Ph.D. I took this job since my funding ran out for this academic year (because I only have extension credits left). So far, the transition has not gone super well since I am new and did data collection without research assistants on top of that. I've been working a lot of hours and am exhausted constantly with what I need to be concerned with as far as the post graduation job search goes as well. This is why I am worried.
    – zzmondo1
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 17:12
  • 1
    Even better then, since the second thing isn't an issue. Good luck. And, again, your advisor may have good career advice.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 18:25

I don’t know many psychologists, but if they are like other humans I’ve interacted with, your fear is illogical. There simply isn’t any plausible reason why anyone who has some opinion about you should change their opinion based on the extra knowledge that you applied to their department and were not selected.

Now, admittedly, people can behave illogically sometimes, but with someone who is so illogical as to make your fear in this situation justified, there would have to be a thousand more things to be afraid of. Would this person also resent you for starting your email to them with “Dr.” and not “Prof.”? “Prof.” instead of “Professor?” Or would they mind that you are emailing them after 8 pm, or that in your last paper you wrote in the acknowledgements that you are “very grateful” to them for the advice they gave you rather than “extremely grateful”? Etc. If you have the misfortune to get involved with one of these illogical people, there’s simply no telling how you can mess things up inadvertently. (For all you know, such a person might discriminate against you because you didn’t apply to their department; a chilling thought...)

The only sure thing in this situation is that if you don’t apply, you won’t get considered. And another thing that’s at least nearly certain is that anyone who would write you a useful letter of recommendation doesn’t really care (and most likely doesn’t really have time to think about) where you applied and/or were rejected from; they just want to see you get a job in a nice place and go on to a good career.

Good luck!

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