I am finishing my Ph.D. and I am waiting to hear back from postdocs. I don't have offers yet (although I heard that some schools have already offered) but I have a question about how to tell which school is the best fit in terms of how to be in a better position when I'll be applying for tenure track positions. I want to hear about what kinds of criteria were used when people were choosing postdocs.

I think that it is usually good to choose better-known institutions and larger institutions because that helps you not fall through the cracks when you apply for tenure-track jobs. But you also want someone whose research interests align well, and someone who is well-established such that they can write you a good rec letters when you apply for tenure-track jobs. Combine that with your personal constraints (two-body problems etc) and what you get might even be an empty list of schools.

How did you prioritize among all the different constraints for ranking postdoc institutions? Is there anything that you wish that you knew when you were deciding where to go?

P.S. Pretty sure that this is a community wiki question, but this is my first time posting on mathoverflow and I don't know how to make this a community wiki.


closed as primarily opinion-based by Will Jagy, Misha, Andrés E. Caicedo, Stefan Kohl, Olivier Benoist Jan 11 '14 at 10:28

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Have you asked your Ph.D. adviser this yet? He or she will know your situation better than strangers on the internet. Besides, in most cases you'll have at most a few offers, in which case the specific features of those schools would outweigh for you any generalities that could be suggested. This question is probably better asked after you have concrete offers (it's not as if you'd be asked to make a decision in a day or two from the school). $\endgroup$ – KConrad Jan 11 '14 at 3:29
  • $\begingroup$ @KConrad I was planning to ask my advisor when I have concrete offers. Maybe I'm making this up, but I think that one can guess the rough level of schools that you are going to get offers from (assuming that if you're Harvard level, a middle-of-nowhere university won't bother giving you an offer - is this true?). Since one only gets two weeks to decide, I wanted to at least have a rough idea in advance. I feel that I have no real preference between schools of similar caliber at the moment. Do you think that this is unnecessary? $\endgroup$ – hithere Jan 11 '14 at 3:35
  • $\begingroup$ Two weeks is typical, and that's plenty of time to speak to your adviser and get feedback from this site when there is something more concrete to ask about. If you wind up getting one postdoc offer and nothing else for the two weeks after that, then there wouldn't even be anything to ask about how to compare postdoc offers (other than deciding between that offer and pursuing a non-academic track). In short, I think this question is coming too early in the process for you. $\endgroup$ – KConrad Jan 11 '14 at 3:58
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    $\begingroup$ This question seems to belong to academia.SE, try there. $\endgroup$ – Benoît Kloeckner Jan 11 '14 at 9:42

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