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I am currently looking for Post-doctoral positions after finishing my PhD. I have recently visited a potential lab for a lab visit. It has already been two weeks since I came back from there. Since then, I have not received any communication negative or positive. I also reached out to the Group leader with no response.

I am in an extremely specialised and competitive sub-field, so I cannot keep on sending out applications, because most of them come back positive with a pre-emptive interview call. Later on, I might have to send decline mails for any or all positions that are offered. And, I know that even as a Group leader it doesn't feel nice to get snubbed.

Right now, I feel a bit angry. The response from the Group Leader was extremely prompt while setting up the visit. Now, I do not get any response. And, I have no indication of when one might be forthcoming. So here is my question.

If I as a potential Post-doctoral fellow am expected to send out decline emails for positions that are offered, is it too much for me to ask the same of a Group Leader? Mind you, I am not expecting them to reply to the first introductory email. But, if I have made it to the last screening round, shouldn't I expect a response, be it positive or negative?

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    I suspect they are interviewing more than one candidate. Some patience is good and keeping your other options open is also good, Having to decline offers is much better than having no offers to decline. – Buffy Sep 24 '19 at 10:01
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    Regarding "I cannot keep on sending out applications", I am confused, what is the problem? It is certainly acceptable to apply for jobs, even if you might need to decline any offers later. – academic Sep 24 '19 at 22:15
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As I have come to do again and again lately, I completely agree with @Buffy. You need to calm down and take it easy.

You have no idea what might be the reason for them delaying a response, it could due to:

  • delays with the paperwork to the rest of the faculty,
  • delays with interview all candidates,
  • delays due to other urgent matters such as grant/paper deadlines,
  • or simply some sort of personal emergency

2 weeks is not an insultingly long time, so you have no basis on which you can demand an answer. These are busy people we are talking about.

On a different note, it wouldn't prevent me from applying to somewhere else. Everyone who has ever applied to a position, or hired a person, knows the dynamics of this "game". Apply to other places if the wait stresses you, and you can always say that you had a more favorable position when you turn down a position. As long as you haven't played foul (i.e. lying, withholding important information etc) nobody should get upset.

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    Excellent response and a +2 (just kidding, I can give only +1) for "As long as you haven't played foul, nobody would get upset." With "would" -> "should", it would elevate the sentence even to a life truth. – Captain Emacs Sep 24 '19 at 10:49
  • @CaptainEmacs thanks, and good point :) – posdef Sep 24 '19 at 11:24
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From the point of view of the employer, there are only two points at which they have useful information to give you:

  1. if they decide to offer you the job

  2. if they have successfully hired another candidate (or decided not to fill the position at all).

Up until one of those things happen, your status is still "under consideration". Even if they really didn't think you were a good fit, they'd keep you "under consideration" until #2 happens, because in theory they might still decide you were better than any alternative.

It can take quite a while until #1 or #2 is attained. They might interview several more candidates, choose someone else, get approval from their dean to make an offer, wait for the candidate to consider the offer, be turned down, make an offer to someone else, etc. This can easily take far more than two weeks.

So while I agree that it would have been nice for them to answer your email, their reply almost surely would not have told you anything useful. Had they reached #1, they'd have told you, obviously. It's very unlikely they'd have reached #2 within two weeks, but if they had, they should have told you that too (though admittedly this might sometimes fall through the cracks). So if they replied, it would only have said "our search is continuing and you are still in consideration, we will let you know when something happens".

Thus there is not really much point in you contacting them for updates, unless you have new information to give them. For instance, "I have received another offer with a deadline of X, so if you want to be able to hire me, you'd better get your act together and send me your offer before then." (Only don't phrase it quite like that.)

On the other hand:

I am in an extremely specialised and competitive sub-field, so I cannot keep on sending out applications, because most of them come back positive with a pre-emptive interview call.

I disagree. You can and should keep sending out applications. If they invite you to interview, that's a good thing.

Later on, I might have to send decline mails for any or all positions that are offered.

That is fine and normal.

And, I know that even as a Group leader it doesn't feel nice to get snubbed.

Declining a job offer isn't a "snub", and no reasonable group leader will take it that way. It's just business. It's not like by interviewing you, they are doing you some special favor that puts you in their debt. They know that good candidates are in demand and will have multiple offers, and interviewing a candidate comes with an inherent risk that the candidate will like some other offer better. It is on them to make an attractive offer if they want to get you.

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    +1 for everything, especially You can and should keep sending out applications. This cannot be emphasized enough. – Dan Romik Sep 24 '19 at 20:49
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... are my expectations too high?

Well, No, but also Yes.

No - because there is no good reason for a potential employing group, which has had you visit them, not to give you a reply within a few weeks. The reply could just be "we will only be able to make a decision about your candidacy within X days/weeks/months because of " - that is not a great reply, but it's fair (for reasonable values of X). This is true in and out of academia and for any position.

Yes - Because this is, unfortunately, not uncommon. I personally, and a few other people I know, have had the experience of not hearing from potential employers/research groups they were interested in, for months - and sometimes not at all.

I am in an extremely specialized and competitive sub-field, so I cannot keep on sending out applications ... because... later on, I might have to send decline mails

Yes you can. If you want to be extra polite and fair, in your applications or interview calls you can make the situation clear, with a due disclosure that you are applying to several positions in parallel. You can even explain you are doing this because you know that some places take a long time to respond, so you can't just serialize. edit: On the other hand, commenters suggest this might come off as overly apologetic and insecure. It's up to you.

Right now, I feel a bit angry.

Your anger is justified. If and when you are in the position of being involved with somebody's candidacy (for a post-doc, PhD-candidate or other position) - make sure you get the relevant person to send out a reply on time. When that happens, you'll remember how you felt now, and be able to pat yourself on the back for having done the right thing.

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    The “extra polite and fair” steps are completely unnecessary and will make OP seem a bit clueless IMO. Every employer knows that every job applicant is applying for multiple jobs. This reveals nothing except that the person explaining this redundant information in a needlessly apologetic tone has misguided notions about how the job market works. – Dan Romik Sep 25 '19 at 0:16
  • @DanRomik: See edit. – einpoklum Sep 25 '19 at 6:56

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