7 Common Misunderstandings About the Postdoctoral Selection Guidelines

APPIC’s recommended Postdoctoral Selection Guidelines are currently followed by the preponderance of clinically focused psychology postdoctoral training programs.  Although there may be compelling reasons that the remaining programs are reluctant to participate in the UND, we have found that there are several core misunderstandings that often lead to this decision. The following is an attempt to clarify these misunderstandings.

Misunderstanding #1.

The UND overprotects applicants by denying them the opportunity to navigate each offer as it comes, a dry run for when they will compete for a job in an open market.

Postdoctoral selection and employment selection processes have very little overlap. Below, we summarize important fundamental differences: 

Opportunity to negotiate conditions of offer
High degree of negotiable components, including salary, space and benefits
Little to no opportunity to negotiate salary, space, or benefits, as they are typically fixed at the time funding for the position is arranged
Opportunity to hold an offer while weighing another competing offer
Most offers come with extended period of time to decide
Amount of time to decide is usually brief (less than a day)
Dates to interview and start
Dates to interview and commence employment occur throughout the year. There is no defined recruitment season.
The field is fairly synchronized, with interviews occurring between January 15 and March 1, and start dates between July 1 and September 1.

Misunderstanding #2.

The UND overindulges applicants by affording them maximum information as to where they stand with all programs before needing to accept an offer. 

Providing maximum information to applicants is to everyone’s advantage. It maximizes the odds of a best match. It minimizes the chance that an applicant would wind up at a site at which s/he feels prematurely pressured to accept. There will be many opportunities for applicants to fully navigate the free job market after completing their postdoc, with additional mentoring.


Misunderstanding #3. 

The occurrence of applicants withdrawing from one site after accepting a reciprocal (or preemptive) offer at another site is evidence that the system is not working.   

When programs lose an applicant before the UND date, it is natural to think they would have been able to recruit the applicant if given the time and opportunity. Yet, it’s likely the case that applicants who withdraw from one site without requesting a reciprocal offer preferred the other site they chose. This is indicative that the system is working, not failing. Also, some positions will go unfilled because, at the current time, there are more postdoctoral positions than applicants. The UND has no bearing on that.


Misunderstanding #4.  

There needs to be 100% participation from programs in order for an organized selection procedure to work.

There are many examples of longstanding training selection processes that have succeeded without 100% participation, including in medicine, dentistry, medical physics, ophthalmology, plastic surgery and urology. The minimum critical mass considered necessary for success (by National Matching Services Inc., the organization that runs most of these matches) is 70% program participation. The APPIC internship match is another example of a successful match that doesn’t have 100% participation.

Misunderstanding #5. 

A UND is utopian. Too many of our colleagues will always be inherently untrustworthy and do only what’s in their program’s own best interest.  

Data from the last four APPIC Postdoctoral Applicant and Program surveys suggests otherwise. With transparency and education, people do move closer to a community that values the common good.  


Misunderstanding #6.  

Returning to a free market process would greatly reduce the problem of programs making preemptive offers.

A free market system encourages earlier and earlier offers. If in year one, your biggest competitor is able to secure your preferred candidates before you are ready to make offers, then in year two, you’re likely to move your dates earlier to beat your competitor. Applicants may get caught in the crossfire and feel pressured to make premature decisions before they have the information they need. The UND is not perfect, and it doesn’t assure that applicants will wind up where they want. However, like the APPIC match, an applicant receiving an offer from their top choice does not define whether a system is working.

Misunderstanding #7.  

An organized selection system (like the UND) is not needed, since many states are doing away with the postdoc requirement for licensure.

Actuality. The vast majority of states (~40) still require a postdoc experience and there also remain numerous high quality postdoctoral programs in states that no longer require postdoctoral training for licensure. The true purpose of a postdoc is for advanced and specialized training that is needed for practice, not to gain hours for licensure.