I am in the final stages of my PhD in pure math, and have been submitting applications to positions. Most of these have been through mathjobs.org but some positions of interest to me don't use that site.

When applying through mathjobs.org, I have a standard AMS cover sheet (generated by the site) giving my personal address, the address of my department at my university, my email address, and my phone number.

I've also written a cover letter for each school that requires one. Following advice of professors at my school, these cover letters give the university address as the return address, not my personal one. Apparently this makes it clear that I can actually be contacted through the school I'm saying I attend, and that I'm not some crazy person pretending to be getting a PhD. But in reality I am not in the habit of getting mail at my school. Also in the midst of sending out many applications it slipped my mind that some non-mathjobs.org applications have now been sent with only my school address, since they don't have the AMS cover sheet. Is it really not appropriate to have my own address on a cover letter?

Where would a response from a hiring committee typically be sent? Should I get in the habit of checking for mail to me at my department? Is this usually done by email? Or would a job offer be sent to my personal address? Would they call me on the phone?

While I'm at it, how long should I expect to wait before receiving any responses? I know this depends highly on which job it is, but just a rough idea of this would be helpful.

  • In applying to well over 100 positions, I got one paper letter. It was a rejection letter saying the position had been filled, sent before the date on which the advert said they would begin to look at applications. Most places send you nothing at all, ever, if you're not of interest. The few rejection emails that do come are typically useless (one didn't even say who it was from!).
    – Jessica B
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:47

3 Answers 3


Based on my job search experience from a couple of years ago, there are three kinds of communications you might get by snail mail:

  1. Equal-opportunity questionnaires, asking your race, gender, etc, for statistical purposes (usually not shared with the search committee). Responding to these is optional, and certainly not time-critical.

  2. Rejection letters. Obviously these don't need any response at all, and they usually don't tell you anything you didn't already know; often they aren't sent until long after the search was obviously finished.

  3. Formal offer letters. You'll know when these are coming, because you'll already have been informally offered the job by phone or email. (And in some cases, you might have also had to negotiate what the offer letter will contain, though for postdocs it's more likely to be "this is our offer, take it or leave it".) At that stage, you could ask the employer to be sure to send the letter to your home address.

All communications that are actually relevant to whether you get hired or not will take place by email, phone, Skype, or in-person interview. Time is of the essence in hiring, and nobody wants the delay of snail mail for something that needs a quick response.

  • I have had formal offer letters by email even. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 1:42

When I applied for postdocs a couple years ago, everything important came by email, with a couple follow-ups by phone.

A couple schools sent their official offer letters via snail mail, but these arrived a couple weeks after I got an email offer and I had already seen an identical pdf. I think there is little risk of missing anything important if you don't check your school mail every day.

Not much will happen until after the NSF announces their postdocs, with the exception of a few elite programs. As a not particularly star candidate, I think I got my first offer by email during the JMM in early Jan, continuing through March or so for places where I was not the first pick. I think there is another thread here discussing the timing in more detail.


You'll typically be contacted by email (you did include an email address in your applications?) In search committees that I've been involved with we also contact applicants by telephone if we don't get a prompt response to our emails- many times emails are lost to spam filters.

Some search committees will be conducting in person interviews at the upcoming joint mathematics meetings in early January. Other search committees will do initial screening interviews by telephone or skype. Either way, most search committees for positions in the US will have application deadlines around January 1 and be doing their first round of interviews some time in January.

  • 2
    Note that the question is about a postdoc job search - I don't think too many places interview for postdocs at the Joint Meetings. Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 1:28

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