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When applying for a postdoc position or a tenure track job in the US, most universities have application deadlines between October and December, and send out offers between January and March. I am wondering, why some universities send out their offers later than others. Isn't it a big disadvantage, since some candidates may already have decided on another offer when they receive an offer from this particular university?

I am asking because this is what happened to me when I applied for a postdoc position: I had to make a decision on an offer that I had, and afterwards I was contacted by a couple of universities asking if I was still interested in their position.

What are the disadvantages for these universities to set an earlier deadline for applications and speed up the whole process in order to send out the offers earlier?

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  • Postdoc positions in the US will be really different from faculty positions, with very different considerations. Mar 19 at 22:41

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It takes time to review applications; the people reviewing applications have other jobs to do. They may also be on vacation during all or part of the time that serves as an academic break between semesters at many universities. They may be attending conferences.

Hiring decisions are often made by a committee, and if they want to find a time when everyone on the committee can meet to discuss an interim or final decision, there is no reason that a common time would necessarily be available sooner rather than later. Scheduling difficulties include teaching responsibilities, responsibilities on other committees, regular meetings for a research group or collaboration, conferences, travel for leisure, any events involving the children or other family members, etc.

So, these things don't happen in a vacuum.

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  • All these duties apply to academics at all institutions. Yet, some institutions always have earlier deadlines while others always have later deadlines (and thus the whole process is later). Wouldn't it be better for any institution to have an earlier deadline? Feb 18 at 19:54
  • @PeterWacken Then they just have to do the work earlier. Who wants to do work earlier than they have to?
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 18 at 20:11
  • Often times the delay is not intentional. A job posting could be kicked back by HR for a small oversight, triggering a 2-4 week delay and new approvals. Sometimes the budget line which was promised to the College by the University, and to the Department by the College got delayed, again setting everything back. Everyone wants to be as competitive as possible, but not all places have the smoothest process, and add to that if they are a state school, there usually is a whole slate of bureaucracy that must be followed.
    – R1NaNo
    Feb 19 at 1:59
  • One advantage is that a lower tier school can pick up a great candidate. For faculty searches, it usually ends up that the top 50 schools all interview from a very small pool of sought after candidates (usually the high pedigree candidates), when in reality they have probably 100-300 applicants per position. Once all the anointed candidates are locked up by January, a good school can snatch some very good but overlooked people from the broader pool.
    – R1NaNo
    Feb 19 at 2:02
  • @BryanKrause If it's work that they have to do anyway and doing it earlier yields better results (a better pool of available candidates), then it would be better to do it earlier. Feb 19 at 2:18
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If the universities that are sending out late offers are the highest ranked in the field, then they have the most leverage and can afford to do that. For similar reasons, some lower-ranked universities try to send out offers as soon as possible and use exploding offers to force an applicant to make a decision.

On the other side of the coin, applicants often try to schedule interviews with the lower-ranked (or at least lower-preference) universities first to try and get some "practice", and then schedule their target (typically higher-ranked) universities later.

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