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I am being considered for a job in Germany (W1 junior-professorship) and I was hoping to get some insights regarding the process as I come from the US system and am unfamiliar with how things work in Germany.

  1. I notice that the application packages do not require inclusion of recommendation letters. In the US, the typical requirement is that the application package includes at least 3 letters. Will the schools require recommendation letters once selected for an interview or the job? Do letters or references play any significant role at all?

  2. Selection: I know this should vary by case, but how many people do they tend to put on their short list?

  3. Interviews: I get a feeling that the interview process is brief and a lot less tiring than the American system (for a R1: Typically a 3-day campus visit, job talk, endless meetings with professors, deans, grad students, teaching demonstration, etc, etc). What do they focus on in Germany? (I am asking this as I was invited for an interview, but I was not even asked to do a job talk or teaching demonstration) Are there typically multiple rounds of interviews?

  4. Selection committee: That some European departments practically have a one-person decision making body came as a surprise when I first came to Europe. How is the case in Germany? How many people in the department are typically involved in the decision making process?

  5. Final decision: How fast do they move with their final decisions? For example, the job I am considering only has about a four month gap between application deadline and position start date. This is significantly shorter than a typical US-Search where many schools begin examining applications a year before the position start date, and tells me that they should be moving fairly fast with the decision. Any inputs?

I know these might be a lot of questions. As someone unfamiliar with the system, I am hoping to gain as much insight as possible.

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I may be wrong about this, but from your question I have the impression you don't know the German system at all, and from that I conclude you don't know the people in the faculty where you are applying. If this is true, I bet you won't get this position. In Germany, you only have a chance if you have a local advocate. If you don't have one, then you may as well forget your application. In Germany, hiring processes in academia are often only show, they only hire people they know. Please tell me when you get informed about the decision. I would be really glad if you told me you did get the job. –  user12956 Jul 6 at 15:04
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You are right that I do not know anything about the German system and you might be right that they won't give me the job (after the hassle of interviewing me, since I got an invite). One thing that might make things different, though, is that I am in a very specialized, yet in-demand, field where there are not that many practitioners that would domestically qualify for the job. That is what got me into Europe in the first place and I am not sure if this department can in fact hire someone within network for this position. –  socialsciencedoc Jul 6 at 15:12
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As I said, the hiring process is often only a show. And they need to have candidates from outside the network to make a good show. Anyways, I do wish you get this job, it would also mean the German system is not as corrupt as I think. –  user12956 Jul 6 at 15:38
    
@user12956, thank you for your insights and comments. I am wondering if German universities ever have failed searches? Also, if it is a widely known fact that internal candidates would end up getting hired, why would anyone bother to apply for these positions? (or do most people not apply for these positions where they do not have networks?) –  socialsciencedoc Jul 6 at 15:54
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@user12956 I'm not disputing that this can (and does) happen, but I wouldn't assume this is the norm. Every committee I've been involved in had members from outside the department as well as from outside the university, for example. It is true, however, that having an advocate on the committee helps tremendously. But that doesn't have to be a personal acquaintance, just someone who really likes your research. –  Christian Clason Jul 6 at 16:02
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2 Answers 2

I have some hearsay knowledge about the hiring process for W1 positions. I will do my best to answer correctly, but maybe aeismail can chime in later - I think he is currently on such a position.

1) I notice that the application packages do not require inclusion of recommendation letters. In the US, the typical requirement is that the application package includes at least 3 letters. Will the schools require recommendation letters once selected for an interview or the job? Do letters or references play any significant role at all?

If they did not ask, they probably don't need / want them. In central Europe, letters of recommendation are not traditionally asked for. Many institutions are now starting to ask for LoRs as they adapt more of an US system, but it is certainly not that uncommon that they did not want to see letters.

As Dirk points out in the comments: instead of letters, the committee will often ask experts in your field for "comparing reports", however, this is not under your influence. You cannot select said experts, and you will never see the result.

2) Selection: I know this should vary by case, but how many people do they tend to put on their short list?

As you say, it varies by case, but traditionally at least 3. Dirk states that his experience is rather "at most 3", often less. Let's agree on three-ish.

3) Interviews: I get a feeling that the interview process is brief and a lot less tiring than the American system (for a R1: Typically a 3-day campus visit, job talk, endless meetings with professors, deans, grad students, teaching demonstration, etc, etc). What do they focus on in Germany? (I am asking this as I was invited for an interview, but I was not even asked to do a job talk or teaching demonstration) Are there typically multiple rounds of interviews?

This varies a lot. I have once applied for a job where they invited people for an entire week. However, a one-day campus visit with a talk, dinner, and some meetings with core faculty seems usual. Again, Dirk says: "Always a research talk, always a job interview, often a teaching demonstration, seldomly further meetings or campus tours, never a dinner.".

4) Selection committee: That some European departments practically have a one-person decision making body came as a surprise when I first came to Europe. How is the case in Germany? How many people in the department are typically involved in the decision making process?

Again, varies a lot. Formally, the decision is usually a committee decision, but in reality the actual power often lies with a single person (either the dean or the head of the institute / lab that the W1 professor would be assigned to).

5) Final decision: How fast do they move with their final decisions? For example, the job I am considering only has about a four month gap between application deadline and position start date. This is significantly shorter than a typical US-Search where many schools begin examining applications a year before the position start date, and tells me that they should be moving fairly fast with the decision. Any inputs?

I have no idea. My impression was so far that the process does often not move very fast, but I am sure there are exceptions. Dirk says that one should be prepared to wait at least a few months, but I guess that is true for every committee decision.

All that being said, I should warn you that the actual job of a W1-Professor in Germany is not very well-defined. Some are actual independent professors with their own group, own money, and own research agenda, but some are little more than glorified postdocs with very little factual independence. My instinct is that if they do not make a lot of fuss about "your" job during the application phase, the position you applied to may fall into the latter category. You would be well served to ask very concretely what your actual working conditions would be.

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Nope, there never have been a dinner. –  Dirk Jul 6 at 13:33
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AFAIK (I'm neither in the position, nor do I have any plans to go in that direction) one of the official goals of the Juniorprofessur is to offer a way to become professor without habilitation. So formally, you do not need to work towards habiliation. Nevertheless, 2/3 of the junior professors work towards habilitation (see academia.stackexchange.com/a/16638/725, where I put also dug out some statistics about junior professorships and tenure track). –  cbeleites Jul 6 at 14:36
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LoR are uncommon in central Europe for any kind of job application. Instead we have the Arbeitszeugnis (de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbeitszeugnis), which you get when a contract ends. You are basically supposed to hand that in (possibly without the future employer explicity asking for it) - except if you apply out of an existing contract, because then you don't have one. That being said, anyone wanting to hire a Juniorprofessor will know that people from the US have LoRs instead. I think I'd ask them if they want to have LoRs as coming from the US you do not have an Arbeitszeugnis. –  cbeleites Jul 6 at 14:44
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@cbeleites I have never seen these "Arbeitszeugnisse" in an academic environment, though. If not asked for specifically, I would never hand those in. –  xLeitix Jul 6 at 15:06
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@Dirk A nitpick: Since the OP has not yet given his talk, he is likely still on the long list (whose size is usually about twice that of the short list, meaning four to eight, depending on how narrowly the position is focused). The (ranked) short list of two to four (sometimes ex aequo) will be made based on the talks, interviews and expert reports (usually in that order, i.e., a subset of candidates from the long list will be refereed, and a subset of that makes the short list). –  Christian Clason Jul 6 at 15:54
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As xLeitix mentioned in his answer, I do indeed hold such a position, and have also sat in on a search committee (as a non-voting "interested bystander").

1) I notice that the application packages do not require inclusion of recommendation letters. In the US, the typical requirement is that the application package includes at least 3 letters. Will the schools require recommendation letters once selected for an interview or the job? Do letters or references play any significant role at all?

It could go either way, depending on the preferences of the chair of the committee. In my process, my references were asked for recommendations; for the committee I observed, they asked "neutral parties" who could comment on all of the finalists.

However, one thing is absolutely certain: your PhD advisor (or Doktorvater in German parlance) will never be asked to submit a letter of reference on your behalf.

2) Selection: I know this should vary by case, but how many people do they tend to put on their short list?

Typically four to six people are put on the list of interviews, while two or three usually make the final "ranked" list to be asked if they are interested in the position.

3) Interviews: I get a feeling that the interview process is brief and a lot less tiring than the American system (for a R1: Typically a 3-day campus visit, job talk, endless meetings with professors, deans, grad students, teaching demonstration, etc, etc). What do they focus on in Germany? (I am asking this as I was invited for an interview, but I was not even asked to do a job talk or teaching demonstration) Are there typically multiple rounds of interviews?

Typically, there is only a single interview, and it is indeed far briefer than a US-based job or faculty search interview. None of the interviews I've had have been longer than two hours in duration, including any teaching presentations.

The focus in such junior positions is almost always on research, with very limited emphasis on teaching. You should plan to talk about what you've already done, and what proposed work you'd want to start. You'd also want to give some thought as to how you would recruit students (always a challenge for junior faculty in Germany).

4) Selection committee: That some European departments practically have a one-person decision making body came as a surprise when I first came to Europe. How is the case in Germany? How many people in the department are typically involved in the decision making process?

It's not a one-person decision making process, but it's also not a very large group, either. Typically, there will be between five to nine voting members of the selection committee, including the chair, other professors, and possibly students and equal opportunity staff from the university (who can refuse to give permission for the hiring process to go forward if viable underrepresented candidates were not given due consideration).

5) Final decision: How fast do they move with their final decisions? For example, the job I am considering only has about a four-month gap between application deadline and position start date. This is significantly shorter than a typical US-Search where many schools begin examining applications a year before the position start date, and tells me that they should be moving fairly fast with the decision. Any inputs?

It took about six months after my interview to receive an "offer" from the university, which I found rather slow, but having had more experience with German academic bureaucracy, I no longer find that surprising. (I find the four-month timetable frankly overly aggressive, and would expect that the actual start date would be substantially later than their target date.) However, every university and faculty within a university has its own way of doing things, so what might take six months in one faculty might take two months in another.

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