I was recently asked by a friend whether or not her student should participate in EconMatch. My colleague, Umut Dur, and I thought about this for a bit, and we'd like to share our initial thoughts. To be clear, this is not a complete analysis and we welcome criticism. Also, this is not meant to criticize the creators of EconMatch who we believe had good intentions. But as said by Roth " Market design involves a responsibility for detail, a need to deal with all of a market’s complications, not just its principle features. " We believe that any system proposed for job market matching needs to be carefully analyzed in every detail.
EconMatch addresses a clear problem. There are only a limited number of fly-outs and so departments often do not fly out candidates deemed unattainable and similarly sometimes fly out candidates that are unattainable and end up not hiring anyone. This clearly has the potential for inefficiency, and EconMatch aims to address this through a recommendation process based on matching theory.
EconMatch makes recommendations for fly-outs, not an actual match. But we will point out a couple of problems with the match that the recommendation is based on. We consider two cases - case 1 there is pressure for you to accept the recommendation from the match and so the assignment is "binding - and case 2, the assignment is just a suggestion.
Case 1 - the assignment is binding - here we are imagining a system where if you participate in EconMatch and are assigned to a school, then there is an expectation that you accept the job offer. In this case, you cannot know which preferences to submit to EconMatch if not all schools participate. For example, if you rank schools A, B, and C, and B does not participate in the match, then until you know whether or not B offers you a job, you cannot know whether you should tell EconMatch that A is your only acceptable school or whether you prefer A to C but both are acceptable. If you tell the "truth: (submit A,C) then this would obviously be a big mistake if you are not matched with A and B does end up making you an offer. For any matching theorists, the problem here is that you don't actually know what your true preferences are because you don't know your outside option. If it's B, then your true preferences are just A. If it's not B, then the true preferences are A,C.
Case 2 - the assignment is not binding. In this case, it's hard to even know what an assignment is. It is more of a suggestion that this school should make an offer to this candidate. But it is not at all clear that this is a good suggestion. Again, the problem is partial participation. Suppose there are three schools, A, B, and C, and three students, i, j, and k. All students rank the schools A>B>C. School A either wants to hire i or no one but only they know which one. Schools B and C both rank i>j>k. School A does not participate in the match. Since A does not participate, the match will assign i to B and j to C. Should i accept? No, i should wait to see if she gets an offer from A. Should j accept? No. j should also wait to see if i gets an offer. If she does, then j will get an offer from B. An analogous situation would occur for the schools if not all of their candidates participate. Also notice that, if j accepts without waiting for i's decision it is possible for B to end up unassigned, i.e. this situation is also problematic for the colleges.
Finally, we would like to point out that not participating in the match can be beneficial for schools (and candidates). Suppose there are two schools, A and B, and two students, i and j. A ranks i > j, B ranks j > i, i ranks B > A, and j ranks A > B. If everyone participates, then i is matched with A while j is matched with B. Suppose A chooses not to participate. Now the match assigns j to B. i is left unassigned and now A is able to hire i. Therefore, A gets her favorite candidate by opting out of the match.
There are other reasons why we think EconMatch would be problematic (timing!). But our main concern is that if we were a school (or a candidate), we wouldn't know the best way to rank our options or whether to follow the systems recommendation. For these reasons, we would not recommend that people participate. The key point is that full participation cannot be guaranteed, and without full participation, Econmatch might hurt some of the participants.
Again, these are preliminary thoughts, and we would love to hear what other people think.
Good luck to all the job candidates,
Thayer Morrill and Umut Dur
PS. We believe the recent (and growing!) literature on sequential/parallel matching systems is very relevant to this problem. There are great papers by Andersson, Dogan, Ekmekci, Ertemel, Kesten, Manjunanth, Turhan, Yenmez, Westkamp..... and Umut on this.