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APPIC Postdoctoral Selection Guidelines

Based on APPIC’s 2017 surveys of postdoctoral applicants and training directors and information gained from the UPPD (Universal Psychology Postdoctoral Directory). APPIC currently holds the following perspectives about postdoctoral selection:

  1. Establishing overall organization and commonly used selection processes are in the best interests of applicants, and the larger postdoctoral community.
  2. The broader community (including applicants) will be better served by having suggested selection guidelines than no guidelines.
  3. Although we have made substantial progress building cohesion and consensus among postdoctoral programs, there is still work to be done before any type of formal matching process could be successful. Last year’s APPIC Postdoctoral Selection Guidelines seemed to work well for the majority of programs, with evidence of positive outcomes for the majority of applicants. Specifically, 76% of programs that responded to the APPIC Program Survey rated the guidelines as working well or very well.
  4. Last year’s APPIC Postdoctoral Selection Guidelines seemed to work well for the majority of programs, with evidence of positive outcomes for the majority of applicants. Specifically, 76% of programs that responded to the APPIC Program Survey rated the guidelines as working well or very well. Of applicants who responded to the survey, 86.6% had obtained a position at the time of survey completion.  Of those reporting on rank of positions, 89.7% indicated that they secured a position with their first or second ranked program. 
  5. Last year’s uniform notification date (UND) in late February appears to have been generally well-timed. Specifically, 56% of clinically-focused programs that responded to the APPIC Program Survey indicated that the third to fourth week of February would be optimal, while 16% endorsed an earlier date, and 28% endorsed a later date.
  6. The UPPD offers a helpful and effective recruitment resource, and such a centralized location is valuable to applicants.
    • The UPPD, in its debut last year, contained over 900 program listings. Data from the applicant survey indicate that 73% of postdoctoral offers were from sites listed in the UPPD.
    • To support the effectiveness of the UPPD, APPIC will continue to prohibit advertising of positions on its list-serves. The Department of Veterans Affairs has also agreed to the same regarding mail groups. We appreciate that this policy may be frustrating to some, but we believe it is essential for the UPPD to serve its effective role as the primary resource to identify postdoctoral positions. Some programs hypothesized that this policy led to their unfilled positions. However, because there are significantly more postdoctoral positions than applicants, this surplus likely means positions will go unfilled regardless of posting strategy. Further, applicant survey data indicated that the majority of respondents secured highly-desired positions.
  7. February 26, 2018, will be the UND for 2018. To facilitate the flow of offers on that date, efforts will be made to communication between programs and applicants and on the UND.
  8. This year the APPIC Postdoctoral Workgroup will continue efforts to facilitate a successful postdoctoral selection process for both applicants and programs through:
    1. Support and enhancement of the UPPD based on user feedback
      • The UPPD continues to be a free directory open to all postdoctoral training programs (both APPIC and non-APPIC sites) and applicants.
      • Our hope is to make further gains capturing the universe of postdoctoral training programs.
    2. Providing more education and resources for all stakeholders, including:
      • For postdoctoral applicants about the selection process and how to use the Guidelines to maximize their ability to secure a postdoctoral position towards the top of their preference list.
      • For postdoctoral programs about the selection process and how to use the Guidelines to maximize their ability to secure their top-ranked applicant(s).
      • For internship training directors, as they are likely a key source of information and guidance for applicants seeking postdoctoral positions.
      • Increased education will also be available through YouTube videos and a series of Q&A Webinars with members of the APPIC Postdoc Workgroup. There will also be a downloadable PowerPoint presentation addressing navigation of the postdoctoral selection process. This is intended for applicants and for internship training directors to assist with preparing their interns for the postdoc application process.
    3. Continuing to offer and improve the centralized postdoctoral application system (APPA CAS).
      1. Program and applicant survey data indicate that this system was widely used. Specifically, 48% of reporting programs utilized APPA-CAS, and 75% of applicants indicated at least one of the programs that they applied to utilized APPA-CAS.
      2. Programs and applicants reported overall satisfaction with APPA CAS last year. Specifically, of programs using APPA CAS, 70% rated it as very useful (4 or 5 on a 5-point Likert scale); of applicants using APPA CAS, 74% rated it as useful or very useful (3 or 4 on a 4-point Likert scale).
      3. Several improvements have been made for the upcoming year including, but not limited, to a redesigned letter of recommendation portal, a live preview of what applicants see when they apply to a specific program or designation, and a live view for programs of their Applicant Portal(s). Comprehensive training will also be available for WebAdMIT, which is the APPA CAS Program Director interface. This interface offers many benefits, and few programs maximize the functionality of this system.
    4. Updated Postdoctoral Selection Guidelines (below), refined based on feedback from all stakeholder groups, and outreach to postdoctoral programs to offer education and encourage adherence. Last year we obtained significant cooperation among clinically-focused programs listed in the UPPD, with 95% agreeing to follow the selection guidelines, and we will continue to reach out to programs and encourage adherence to the guidelines.
      • Within the postdoctoral community, VA offers the largest number of postdoctoral positions (over 400), by a significant margin and as such, the VA is in a position to help foster greater overall collaboration. Knowing this, the VA Office of Academic Affiliations has decided to again make adherence to the guidelines mandatory for all of their conventional clinical VA Postdoctoral programs (the only exceptions will be the specialized training programs administered by their Advanced Fellowships section). It is sincerely hoped that programs in other settings will continue to follow suit, given the commitment of this core constituency.

APPIC strongly encourages Postdoctoral Programs and Applicants to adhere to the following guidelines for the 2017-2018 selection process:

2017-2018 APPIC Postdoctoral Selection Guidelines:

  1. Programs should give applicants at least two weeks advanced notice for in-person interviews where airline travel is required.
  2. Programs should wait to make offers until 10:00 AM Eastern Time on 2/26/18.
  3. Programs should notify applicants if they are not being extended an interview offer.
  4. Programs should communicate with applicants prior to 2/26/18, 2018 regarding how they intend to make offers (email, text, phone), and to ensure that applicants are available to respond to potential offers starting at 10:00 AM Eastern Time.
  5. Applicants should communicate with programs prior to 2/26/18, concerning how they may be reached and should ensure that they are available to respond to potential offers starting at 10:00 AM Eastern Time.
  6. Applicants may request a reciprocal offer from their top-ranked program if they receive a bona fide offer from another postdoctoral training program prior to 2/26/18 10:00 AM Eastern Time that is not their top-ranked program. Applicants who request a reciprocal offer must accept the position immediately if the position is offered (i.e., that offer may not be held).
  7. Programs are to make a reciprocal offer 2/26/18 only if their top applicant receives a bona fide offer from another postdoctoral training program and requests a reciprocal offer. Programs may require validation of the offer.
  8. On the UND, applicants should acknowledge receipt of postdoctoral position offers received through email or telephone contact (both are suggested) within an hour of receiving the offer even if they choose to hold the offer. Failure to acknowledge the offer within an hour could result in the program retracting the offer and the program moving on to contact other applicants.
  9. Programs should allow applicants to hold regular (non-reciprocal) offers for at least 4 hours.
  10. Programs should immediately notify applicants as soon as they are no longer under consideration and when all positions are filled.
  11. Once applicants have accepted an offer, they should immediately notify all programs for which they believe they are still under consideration.   
  12. For all filled postdoctoral positions (before, during and following the UND) applicants should receive an email with an official confirmation of the agreement within 48 hours.

**  Please note that two-year clinical neuropsychology programs are not expected to follow these selection guidelines.  Programs that are predominantly research in emphasis are encouraged to follow these guidelines to the extent to which it is possible.  

Additional APPIC Recommendations for the Postdoctoral Selection Process:

Recommendations for Postdoctoral Programs:

  1. Utilize the new APPIC Universal Psychology Postdoctoral Directory (UPPD) to advertise your program(s). If you used the UPPD last year, make sure you update your program listing(s) for the current selection cycle. Note that the application due date, notification date, and start date fields have been cleared out for all programs. It is essential that programs update all position listings for the 2017 selection cycle by September 1, 2017.
  2. Be explicit in public materials (websites, UPPD) and throughout the interview process about the intention to follow the APPIC Postdoctoral Selection Guidelines.
  3. Be prepared to make reciprocal offers (should one be requested) prior to 2/26/18. As such, programs should complete interviews and have internal consensus on applicant rankings before 2/26/18. Programs will likely not be able to make reciprocal offers if they have not completed interviews with all applicants (i.e., they may be unsure of who their top applicant is). Adjust application deadlines and review process to be able to make reciprocal offers if needed.
  4. Inform applicants about how they should contact the TD if requesting a reciprocal offer.
  5. Consider streamlining selection processes, particularly for sites that have both internship and postdoctoral programs.
  6. Familiarize yourself with the Recommendations for Postdoctoral Applicants (section below).
  7. Programs should consider using remote interview formats such as video, Skype, telephone or interviews at regional meetings to offset the burden or hardship to applicants in terms of costs and/or time away from internship.

Recommendations for Postdoctoral Applicants:

  1. It is highly recommended that postdoctoral applicants seek ongoing mentoring and guidance from their internship training director or other person(s) knowledgeable about the postdoctoral selection process.
  2. Take advantage of APPIC’s educational resources to learn about the postdoctoral selection process (e.g., YouTube videos and a series of Q&A Webinars with members of the APPIC Postdoc Workgroup).
  3. Utilize the APPIC Universal Postdoctoral Program Directory (UPPD) to search for programs, which is intended to provide a central location to find programs nationally. Be aware some programs may opt not to utilize the UPPD and advertise their program elsewhere.
  4. Inquire whether programs to which have applied are adhering to the APPIC Postdoctoral Selection Guidelines. You may want to ask if there are any aspects of the guidelines programs will not be following, including but not limited to time offers can be held.
  5. If you are applying to both predominantly research-focused programs and clinically-focused programs, be aware that timelines for offers for these types of programs may differ. Support or advice from internship training director or other mentor(s) is recommended.
  6. Have your informal rank ordering of programs completed as soon as possible and no later than 2/26/18. Note: No formal ranking of programs need to be submitted anywhere. This is for the applicants use only so he or she is prepared to respond to position offers.
  7. If you receive a bona fide offer from a postdoctoral training program prior to 2/26/18 that is not your first choice, you may contact your top-ranked program and ask for a reciprocal offer. That program may ask for verification of your offer. If a reciprocal offer is offered to you, it is expected that you will accept immediately. Do not request a reciprocal offer if you are not prepared to accept the position immediately; you should not ask to “hold” a reciprocal offer. If the program does not extend a reciprocal offer, it is acceptable to ask if you remain under consideration and/or if the program is willing to disclose information about your relative position on their rank list.This may be helpful in weighing the other offer you have.
  8. Reciprocal offer rules do not apply after the UND. Applicants are then free to contact programs to express interest and request application status updates.
  9. If a program declines an applicant’s request for a reciprocal offer, that applicant is free to request a second reciprocal offer to their next preferred program. As with all reciprocal offer requests, the applicant is expected to immediately accept if a reciprocal offer from the second-ranked program is extended.The applicant should then inform all programs, including the first-ranked program, that a position has been accepted.
  10. Inquire as to how programs intend to make offers (phone, email, text) starting at 10:00 AM on 2/26/18.
  11. It is essential that applicants are available to accept phone calls and emails and promptly reply to programs on 2/26/18. The APPIC workgroup will encourage internship training directors to facilitate applicants’ availability on 2/26/18. If your internship program is not willing to free your schedule that morning, it is highly recommended that take vacation or personal time. Cell phone reception should also be considered when advising programs on how to reach you. As noted in the Guidelines, if do not acknowledge a phone call, email, or offer within an hour of it being made, the program may choose to retract the offer or move on to other applicants.
  12. On 2/26/18, once an offer is made to you, one of three things can occur. can:
    • Accept the offer immediately
    • Decline the offer
    • Ask to "hold" the offer. If you decide to hold the offer, then the position is frozen and cannot be offered to any other candidate during that hold period. Each site has its own allowance for how long a position may be held; APPIC suggests 4 hours.
  13. Hold no more than one offer at a time. After receiving and holding an offer, each time you are offered a higher ranked position on your list, it is expected that you accept or hold it and immediately release the offer that you were previously holding (i.e., contact that site).
  14. As soon as you either accept or hold an offer, immediately contact all of the remaining programs that are lower on your preference list and inform them that you no longer wish to be considered at their site. This facilitates a swifter process and likely better outcomes for both programs and other applicants.
  15. It is expected that applicants (and programs) act ethically and with a high degree of professionalism. Once you have accepted an offer, it is considered binding to the extent that it’s a professional commitment for the applicant and program; baring extreme circumstances, reneging on an offer would likely results in negative consequences for programs, other applicants, and yourself. Psychology as a profession is a “small world” and it’s always in one’s best interest to act with the highest level of professionalism.

Recommendations for Internship Programs:

  1. Educate and mentor interns on navigating the postdoctoral selection process and the APPIC Selection Guidelines. A PowerPoint presentation and other resources will be available on the APPIC Website.
  2. Allow applicants the option to take “professional leave” (rather than vacation) for the time needed to interview in person or remotely for postdoctoral positions.
  3. For the day of the UND, grant interns who have applied to postdoctoral positions up to a full day of professional leave or schedule only non-clinical responsibilities so that they are available to respond promptly to postdoctoral offers. Given that offers may expire after an hour if an applicant fails to respond, it is in the applicant’s best interest to be free and available that day.
  4. Be familiar with the recommendations for applicants and advise interns accordingly. For example, educating and reminding interns to keep all programs on their preference list informed if they accept or hold offers is critical as to not create log jams on to 2/26/18

More information on the postdoctoral selection process and related resources can be found on the APPIC Postdoctoral webpage. https://www.appic.org/About-APPIC/Postdoctoral

Questions about the 2017/2018 APPIC Postdoctoral Selections Guidelines and APPIC recommendations regarding the postdoctoral recruitment and application process should be directed to Wayne Siegel, Ph.D., ABPP, APPIC’s Postdoc Work Group Chair (wayne.siegel@va.gov or 612-467-4024).