Recently in my university research group (scientific fields: computer science and bioinformatics) we had some open positions for PhD students and PostDoc. For the hiring phase, we decided to insert some announcements on many free websites. We avoided pay websites, such as IEEE Job Site or others.

Now, the hiring phase has just ended up. We've found some good applicants, but not so good as we expected. So I am wondering what would have happened if we had chosen the pay way.

I searched for some prices for a 30 days announcement on some popular job websites, and here are the prices I've found:

  • Linkedin: 140 €
  • ACM Careers: 380 €
  • IEEE Computer Science Society job board: 400 €
  • IEEE Job Site: 212 €

Do you think that these prices were worth to find better PhD or PostDoc candidates?

Do you think that next time we should pay one of these announcements in order to get better candidates?

Have you experienced before with them?

Many thanks

  • 2
    Did you try the CRA ? – Suresh Jul 31 '12 at 8:33
  • @Suresh - Does CRA stand for Computing Research Association? I googled CRA, and thats the closest match I found in top-10, but wanted to be sure! – TCSGrad Jul 31 '12 at 10:18
  • Yes, that's it. It's better for postdocs: not so much for PhD students – Suresh Jul 31 '12 at 16:58

Yes, it's worth paying for an advertisement if you end up hiring a stronger candidate. I tend to be fairly frugal, but I think of your situation in terms of one-time cost vs. recurring cost. When you pay for the ad, you pay just once. When you hire a weaker candidate, you pay every day in terms of lower productivity and lower quality results.

In the U.S., a typical annual salary for a postdoc in math might be in the range of $40,000-45,000 (33,000-36,500 €); in CS, it would likely be higher. Even the IEEE price (the highest of those you list) is roughly 1% of that. So, if you're fairly confident you'll get a better candidate by paying for a few ads, IMHO, you'd be foolish not to do so.

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  • Thanks, very interesting. So, do you think that candidates coming from pay announcements are generally better than those coming from free signs? Have you personally experienced this? – DavideChicco.it Aug 1 '12 at 17:38
  • I think often pay announcements generate more candidates, and some of those are likely to be better. Last year, my department placed an ad on MathJobs, possibly the highest traffic site for math jobs in academia. Granted, we were hiring in multiple positions, but we got something like 800 applicants. I believe this was significantly more than in previous years when we did not use the site. And I think the candidates we hired were quite good. – Dan C Aug 1 '12 at 17:43
  • Using mathjobs.org for mathematics postings is practically mandatory. I don't know if the outlets in the question have the same "market share". – David Ketcheson Aug 1 '12 at 20:38

The research center I am affiliated with had a difficult time filling a couple of the senior level posts. Basically, they were looking for people with associate professor type qualifications who were willing to work on a 3 year project with limited research freedom, but generous funding. We resorted to using a head hunter, which was a couple of order of magnitude more expensive, but well worth it. The head hunter found candidates that we couldn't.

For studentships and postdocs, I am not sure the people you are looking for are browsing the pay sites. The amount of money is small enough that it is probably worth it, especially if you can get a couple of posts into one advertisement. I would suggest building up your groups network. Talk to your colleagues at other universities. I think in general there isn't a shortage of good phd students and post docs, it is just getting an inside scoop on who they are.

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  • 3
    Very interesting. Just a curiosity: how much did you pay the head hunter? – DavideChicco.it Aug 1 '12 at 17:40
  • @DavideChicco.it As I said in the answer, a couple of orders of magnitude more than the adverts. I think we paid about 25% of the first year salary for each post/person appointed, which was about £15,000 in our case. While this is a huge number, it is easier to justify when you add all the other costs in (benefits, space charges, research expenses, startup package, etc) and actualize it over a number of years. – StrongBad Aug 2 '12 at 8:19

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