+3 votes
asked ago in Job Market - Candidate Questions by (1.3k points)
The obvious answer is that if someone is a second/third/maybe choice and might be getting an offer later, no-notice is better from the school's perspective. Completely unclear to me though is why not to say "no" to a definite no. A second reason might be that it is uncomfortable to say no to someone (though I expect editors and seniors to be accustomed to that).  

I want to make three points in support of (detailed) notices, and I am curious to hear other perspectives and comments:

1. Is the first point even true?
Candidates hear a lot of rumors and most likely know they weren't the first choice anyway. And I believe there is in general understanding of a match component, so I don't think people are offended if not first in line.

2. Information is helpful, from instrumental and mental perspectives:
From the candidates perspective, uncertainty is one of the most brutal things to deal with (see the recent mental health of candidates survey). If it's a no, rejection will have to be dealt with anyway. Providing information on objective chances can help in making peace with a rejection, or make an offer even more sweet. For departments this is one hire or another, but for us candidates is our foreseeable future. In many instances candidates have nothing else to do at the time, but sometimes there is -- and in these cases, think of us and the instrumental effects of information when we need to make decisions on other prospects.

3. Substantive feedback is extremely helpful:
Avoiding rejection notices, or updates, also takes away a candidate's opportunity to improve (and this is true also for AEA interviews). You, hiring departments, have a lot of power to provide valuable feedback that will be helpful -- in presenting one's research, interviewing in the future, framing agendas, etc.

What to do?
Think of it as editors -- you send a letter explaining why you made your decision, and you try to make it clear it is about the paper and not the researchers, right? You wouldn't imagine "never notify a rejected paper" as a good mechanism, would you? This case is not too different.
After making decisions, provide all invited candidates with information about the process. Send messages to these few people making it clear that this is not a rejection of the candidate as a person, and not even as a researcher, but is due to other reasons -- and say what these are. Say, for example, "we are in higher need of someone who can teach econometrics, but we might call you if these candidates will not accept our offer", or "your presentation was clear, but we were not sure you addressed external validity concerns in your research and some members of faculty found it to be disqualifying".

I will be happy to hear the thoughts of senior, junior, recently hired, and my fellow candidates!
commented ago by (100 points)
I have been on four search committees. It's just not feasible to send a detailed response when you have 350 applications to go through. And yes, it takes a long time after the search committee makes its recommendation to the dean - dean making a recommendation to the provost to an offer and then HR gets involved. For example, last year we interviewed 3 people for a position and those didn't materialize and we had to go back to the rest of the pool. By the time we brought the fourth person in it was mid-Feb, and the offer wasn't officially accepted until April, so rejections were probably not sent out until April or May. When I was on the market I remember receiving rejections as late as September of the following year.

1 Answer

+1 vote
answered ago by (2.2k points)
edited ago by
I am the chair of our search committee. My legal counsel would be dismayed if I said to her/him that we were going to write detailed letters about why we reject each candidate.  An e-mail like that has "law suit" pretty much written all over it.
commented ago by (1.3k points)
Thank you for your answer.
 I am sure there are some things you can say without the lawsuit threat.
And what about just a lawyer-approved generic rejection notice? Will still help.
commented ago by (2.2k points)
I agree about the simple yes/no answer at some junctures in the search.  We plan to let those that we aren't interviewing in Atlanta know about that once our schedule is filled.  But it does get much more difficult after that because we do not want to say no to the top 5-8 candidates; we may eventually be interested in bringing them to campus.  This is when it becomes useful for the candidate and search chair to "keep in touch."  For example, if the candidate gets an offer from another place, hasn't had a campus visit with us and hasn't been told no, and is still interested in us, then he/she should give me a call right away and I would see if there is anything I could do.
But for feedback, candidates should ask their dissertation committee or see the various resources listed elsewhere on this site.  That is not the search committee role.