Hiring Process

In Academic Year 2022-2023, the university piloted a new process for hiring Postdoctoral Fellows that was overseen by the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. This new process re-framed postdoctoral hiring at SMU so that it resembles the faculty hiring process. This new process is driven by the hiring manager/PI in collaboration with the department and school administration. The Moody School’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs offers oversight and guidance. If you have questions about this process, please contact postdoc@smu.edu.

Learn About the Hiring Process

Postdoctoral Fellow Hiring Process Training Webinar
Postdoctoral Fellow Hiring Process Slides

Form and Template Library

Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment Request Form
Postdoctoral Offer Letter Template
Postdoc Recruitment Plan Template (Under Revision)
Request for Variance Example

Steps Involved in Hiring a Postdoc (Provisional)

Before embarking upon a search for a postdoctoral fellow, PIs/Supervisors and administrators should read the steps below to fully understand what is involved in hiring a postdoc at SMU. Supplementally, PIs/Supervisors may find it helpful to consult the SMU Model for Faculty Search and Recruitment, which is an excellent guide for understanding the broader institutional approach to academic hiring. The entire hiring process for postdoctoral fellows is documented and signed off on the Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment Request Form and its associated attachments. In general this form is filled out and circulated for signatures by the Postdoc Hiring Contact in the PI's school dean's office (more below).

PIs/Supervisors are encouraged to inform their departmental administrator and the school's postdoc hiring contact as soon as they have the intention to hire a postdoc. Typically, PIs/Supervisors will receive administrative support with postdoctoral hiring from their school's dean's office (Lyle/Dedman/Simmons). Depending upon the school/department, that support might include collecting information, filling out required forms, circulating documents for signatures, and working with the Interfolio system. If you have questions about who can provide assistance with postdoctoral hiring, please contact your departmental administrator and the postdoc hiring contacts below:

  • Dedman College: Contact your Departmental Administrator
  • Lyle School of Engineering: Nancy Huff
  • Simmons School of Education and Human Development: Stev'anne Horton

If you intend to hire a postdoc but your school is not listed above, please contact Rob Pearson in the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs directly (pearsonr@smu.edu).

Departmental Administrators who have questions about this process should contact their school's Dean's Office or Rob Pearson in the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs by email (pearsonr@smu.edu) or by phone (214-768-6122).

Anyone responsible for hiring a postdoc, including all members of a search committee (if one is being used), are required to complete anti-bias training (Searching Intelligently) through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. PIs/Supervisors should work with their school’s Diversity Officer to enroll in the training. This is the same training used for faculty searches, and faculty are encouraged to participate in this one-time training well before embarking upon a search. The majority of workshops are held in August and September, aligned with the faculty search cadence; however, year-round trainings will be offered on a limited basis.

The school's postdoc hiring contact will initiate the postdoctoral hiring process by working with the school's Financial Business Manager (FBM) to ensure that the orgs to cover the costs of the postdoc are fully funded. The FBM will identify the position number, the Home Base Org, the Charge Org, and the Funding Unit Org for the position. The school's postdoc hiring contact will enter these numbers on the Postdoctoral Appointment Request Form and circulate the form for the FBM's electronic signature.

If the postdoctoral position is funded by an external grant, PIs should also work with the Office of Research (Sponsored Projects & Contracts) to ensure that the use of funds for a postdoctoral position aligns with the requirements of the funding agency.

If the orgs are not yet fully funded, but they are expected (e.g. they are awaiting disbursement for a successful grant application or they are pending renewal), then in most cases a PI may still advertise a position, provided the FBM and PI work with the Office of Research to make other funding arrangements (i.e. a placeholder org, etc.) in the interim.

In general, postdoctoral hires must go through a formal recruitment process unless a special exception has been made (See step 4b). The recruitment of a postdoc requires a Recruitment Plan composed/compiled by the PI/Supervisor, which the school's postdoc hiring contact will attach to the Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment FormA template for the Postdoc Recruitment Plan is available here. Plans are expected to vary by position and department. In general, the plan should include 1) the job advertisement in its entirety and any additional advertising language for the position, 2) all publications where the advertisement will be distributed, including efforts to reach diversity publications, 3) a signed statement from the school’s Diversity Officer confirming that all search committee members have completed the Searching Intelligently Training, 4) any other relevant information about efforts to recruit for the position.

Once the Recruitment Plan is created and attached, the department administrator will circulate it for review by the institutional Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which must sign off on the Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment Request Form. When these offices have approved the recruitment plan and job advertisement text, the postdoc hiring contact will send the form to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (postdoc@smu.edu) for final approval before the position may be posted on Interfolio.

Postdoctoral appointments of candidates who are already known may be permitted by special exception, provided the PI/Supervisor has composed a Request for Variance (more below) and the postdoc hiring contact has attached it to the Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment Request Form.

A request for a variance is a simple memorandum a few sentences in length that explains the rationale for why a search would not likely help identify a more qualified candidate than the one that has already been identified. It should explain the nature of the candidate's specialized expertise/experience and its alignment with the research that will be conducted. The request for variance may also address the PI's/Supervisor's knowledge of professional networks that are relevant to the research being conducted, the business need for the candidate who has already been identified, or any other relevant details that justify granting an exception to the normal recruitment process used to identify high-quality diverse candidates through a search.

If planning to appoint a known candidate, then PIs/Supervisors and postdoc hiring contacts may skip Steps 5-6 and submit the Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment Request Form directly to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (postdoc@smu.edu).

The school's postdoc hiring contact should identify the person responsible for posting positions in Interfolio. In general, this is the same person in the school's dean's office who posts faculty positions. Each school/college has a designated point-of-contact who can help answer questions related to Interfolio. Additionally, the Office of the Provost has a helpful guide for using Interfolio for faculty searches. The job advertisement may be posted on Interfolio once Section 1 of the Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment Request Form is complete.

In addition, send a copy of the final advertisement in Microsoft Word format, 500 words or less, to accessequity@smu.edu. IAE will post the ad with the Texas Workforce Commission to comply with federal regulations.

PIs/Supervisors and departmental administrators should follow the procedures used for postdoc hiring in their school and department to review applications, interview candidates, and select (a) finalist(s).

Once the top candidate has been identified, the school's postdoc hiring candidate should complete Section 2 of the Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment Request Form, and circulate it for the school dean's electronic signature. Once it is signed, the form may then be sent to the Postdoctoral Affairs Office (postdoc@smu.edu). The Postdoctoral Affairs Office will prepare the candidate’s offer letter using the information provided on the Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment Request Form. The offer letter is based on a template; additional language may be added to the offer letter, provided it is approved by the Office of Legal Affairs. A draft of the offer letter will be circulated with the PI/Supervisor, and then sent to the candidate via DocuSign.

If the appointee requires visa sponsorship in order to join SMU as a postdoc, then they will need to work directly with the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) to determine the best path forward. ISSS uses the Visa Questionnaire for Exchange Visitors to make an initial determination on the type of sponsorship required. Once the candidate has been identified, the Postdoctoral Affairs Office will ask the candidate to complete this questionnaire as soon as possible. Note that the type of sponsorship, the appointee’s physical location, and the appointee’s country of citizenship may impact the time required to apply for and receive a visa. A sixty to ninety day wait time for paperwork processing is normal, on top of the wait time for a visa appointment.

The ISSS's recommendation for the type of sponsorship to be pursued will determine the subsequent steps in the process toward the candidate's sponsorship. In many cases, the offer letter is required for sponsorship, therefore it may be prepared and sent to the candidate right away in order to expedite any steps they must take with respect to sponsorship.

For more information about this process, PIs/Supervisors and the school's postdoc hiring contact should consult the ISSS website on inviting a foreign national.

Once signed by the candidate, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs will send the offer letter to Human Resources, which will conduct a background check and, if cleared, begin on-boarding paperwork with the candidate. Lastly, the Postdoctoral Affairs Office will prepare a Payroll Authorization Form for the appointee, circulate it with the appropriate individuals, and submit to payroll to ensure the appointee will be paid from the appropriate source in time for their start date.