In contrast to the market for tenure-track jobs, the market for postdocs in our field seems woefully inefficient. From the potential postdoc’s perspective — and I have a student going through the process now — there are generally no advertisements for postdoc positions and so one has to resort to some combination of word-of-mouth (with the help of one’s advisor) and sending random emails to people asking if they might be hiring. And the inefficiency goes both ways. Two out of the past three years I have tried to hire a postdoc: the first year I was unsuccessful (and so the grant money I had went unspent), and this past year I was unable to find somebody until late May. (Strange as it might sound, part of the issue may be that it is a very strong market for candidates “in the know”: over the past 3 years I have made several postdoc offers to people who took postdocs [or, in one case, a faculty position] elsewhere.)
Surely there must be something we can do about this? Note that I’m not talking about increasing the number of postdoc positions, I’m talking about better matching people looking for positions to whatever positions already exist. How about a wiki where applicants can post their application materials, and advisors can post openings? Any ideas how best to set this up?