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UPDATE: I have decided to provide an update in order to show other job seekers how confusing these things can get. Plus, show people that patience and respect are very important during your job search. Long story short, I have got the job. I am informed that an official job offer is being prepared for me right now. I will likely accept it, as I really like this research group and what they hope to achieve in their field. I would like to thank everyone for their replies. I believe it actually helped. I really think if I didn't follow some of the advice here, I wouldn't get the job.

Cheers!


I am in a weird situation that I don't really know what this means. I had a postdoc interview on-site late May. It was two days long. I gave two presentations and a 6 hour long hands-on lab demonstration. Prof. seemed satisfied with the results and said "thank you for the successful demonstration."

Fast-forward to a month later, no news. So I send a follow up and get this reply "yes, we are positive on you for a position and we are still checking for some internal part for further official process." prof also send some questions about when is the earliest I could start and if I can abide by this and that lab rules, etc...

This was almost two months ago. Still no news. Did I get it, did I not? What's the hold up? I am very confused.

EDIT: I am located in Canada and this is a Canadian university.

EDIT #2: I wanted to give you guys an update. I emailed the prof based on comments here and relayed my concerns over the lengthy process with no updates. Well, long story short, the prof avoided giving an explanation and threw a distraction. Final communication was a conduct document that team members supposed to sign and abide. I requested a day and emailed back confirming that I can abide by those rules. But the way I see it, I am being stalled. My money is on non-availability of funds or something. I don't understand how it is acceptable to leave someone in a limbo like this. I am pretending I won't have the job. I have already begun applying other positions. Thanks all.

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    Maybe the Prof. does not have the money right now and he/she does not want to communicate it explicitly. Did you discuss about possible funding during the interview? – Dr. H. Lecter Aug 17 at 20:20
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    Thank you for your reply. She said during the initial Skype interview that she doesn't have money problem but people problem, as in finding the right people for the job. Thats all I know in terms of funding. – Stdoggy Aug 17 at 20:22
  • Do you know the school/institute? Maybe they have a bureaucratic lengthy procedure for hiring a postdoc. – seteropere Aug 17 at 20:24
  • Could you specify the country? – Dmitry Savostyanov Aug 17 at 20:24
  • Country is Canada. I don't know anything specific to this institution. I had applied to a Pdf job post. So I would think there would be money in the pot. Unless the prof decided to hire me but for a separate project and has no readily available funds for it. I am speculating here. – Stdoggy Aug 17 at 20:26
4

The PI told you that you got the job, so you should contact them again. I'd suggest you start being more pressing, something along the lines of "I would like to know when the contract will start, since I have to make arrangements..."

It's quite common for the internal hiring process to take a long time so there's no reason to be alarmed, but you've been quite patient already. In case you have other opportunities available you can mention it, it might speed things up if they worry that they might lose you.

  • I am planning on sending an email and ask about status of my application. – Stdoggy Aug 17 at 20:55
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    From the material in the question, it's not clear that the PI has offered a job. The phrase "we are positive on you" (Stdoggy -- is that a quote?) could mean either "We are certain about you" ("Are you sure?" "Positive.") or "We view you favourably" ("We have a positive opinion"). – David Richerby Aug 18 at 9:24
  • Yeah, it was a direct quote. I am not interpreting her reply as a job offer but more like an intention or desire to hire. But something is holding back the process. I will still email to find out. 3 months is a long time to wait. – Stdoggy Aug 18 at 11:27
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    In my experience it's unlikely that they would organize 2 days on-site interviews (expenses paid I guess?) without being 99% sure about the funding. And I interpret "we are positive on you" as a job offer: I agree that it's a bit ambiguous but I would expect an honest PI to be more careful if they are not sure or haven't decided yet. My guess is that the contract is simply stuck somewhere in the administration pipeline, it happens a lot. – Erwan Aug 18 at 13:18
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    @lighthousekeeper Or might not be a native speaker. Or might be a native speaker who didn't notice that "we are positive on you" could be taken two different ways. – David Richerby Aug 18 at 14:12
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One possible scenario is that they have a preferred candidate, who has not yet accepted or rejected their offer.

Another possible scenario is that there is an uncertainty about funding. For example, they may be trying to hire you using some complicated scheme in which your position is co-funded by a third body. It takes time to organize such things. Or they may be waiting for an announcement of the outcome of their grant application submitted long ago. They may have decided to hire you anyway, but may not yet know which grant to fund your position from. Or they may have been unable to hire you in the intended way and may be looking for an alternative method to hire you.

It is rather a bad sign that they did not take the initiative to contact you and keep you updated, and such a delay seems to be too long to be caused by any official process unless this process is related to an application for some funding.

If I were you, I would be rather pessimistic and would send a frank email expressing my concern. I would ask them to frankly explain what is going on and to tell me the probability of me getting an official offer. I would also ask them when I should expect to receive an official offer. If I did not receive a convincing and credible response, I would immediately start looking for another position.

  • I am inclined to agree that official process shouldn't take this long. I will send the prof an email when I get the chance and ask about the status of my application. I have already started applying around. – Stdoggy Aug 17 at 20:54
  • My advice is: Assume the worst and make a strong impression in your email that you consider yourself not to have gotten the position. Make an impression that you are giving them a chance to prove the opposite. I think this is the best way to find out the truth. – Sandra Aug 17 at 20:57
  • That's a good advice. I will formulate my email in way. – Stdoggy Aug 17 at 20:58
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    I've never heard of a preferred candidate being given two months to decide: if you allow your first choice that long, and they say no, there's a good chance that your second choice is no longer available. For comparison, I was recently offered a job and, on the same day, had a preliminary Skype interview for another position. The first position wanted a decision within two weeks; the second was going to take at least a month. While I could probably have negotiated a small extension to the two weeks, I'm not convinced about one month, and certainly not two. – David Richerby Aug 18 at 9:27
  • @DavidRicherby Yes, it is unlikely that they gave someone two months to decide, but it is possible that they, for example, accidentally found a better candidate just one-and-a-half month ago. The candidate might be sending them positive signals, but be unsure about when he can start. Overall, the professor may be uncertain about two different things: the candidate choice and funding. I tried to make my answer exhaustive by mentioning both possibilities. – Sandra Aug 18 at 9:48
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I am in a weird situation that I don't really know what this means.

Weird, perhaps, but not entirely uncommon. Something similar happened to me (for well over 3 months actually).

I had a postdoc interview on-site late May. It was two days long. I gave two presentations and a 6 hour long hands-on lab demonstration. Prof. seemed satisfied with the results and said "thank you for the successful demonstration."

If that was the peak of his/her reaction and engagement following your visit - s/he wasn't very impressed, or had some issues with you, or is kind of a cold fish (the latter is quite possible).

"yes, we are positive on you for a position and we are still checking for some internal part for further official process."

That sounds like "we're trying to get somebody else but we want to keep you on stand-by", honestly.

prof also send some questions about when is the earliest I could start and if I can abide by this and that lab rules, etc...

So, this sounds more positive, but then:

This was almost two months ago. Still no news. Did I get it, did I not?

Looks like you haven't gotten it. But - it's not certain. Sometimes academics, and academic institutions, act weirdly. So, you need to pester the Professor and/or the relevant administrator. Don't worry about the impression of you checking - it's perfectly acceptable. Be polite, of course. Also, when you ask for an update, ask more specific questions, either already on the first email or as a reply to their vague update.

  • I appreciate you answer. But, was she supposed to do a backflip as an appreciation of my demonstration? I have synthesized two different kinds of piezoelectric nanomaterials and showed that they function as intended in a 6 hour span. Thanks for a successful demo is pretty important as it could very easily fail when you are synthesizing in a rush. – Stdoggy Aug 18 at 16:46
  • @Stdoggy: I would expect something like a follow up like "why did you do X?" and "have you tried Y?" "does this also work when Z?" Also, note there was no praise in the feedback - no "impressive", no "I think the team really liked it" or anything like that. – einpoklum Aug 18 at 19:09
  • I had got such questions, comments like "impressive", "wow" and etc... But I didn't mention it here as her declaring the demo "successful" feels more important to me. – Stdoggy Aug 19 at 1:47

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