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On average, how long does it take from applying for a professorship to being invited to a lecture, provided that one is actually invited?

I am referring to an application for W2/W3 professorships in Germany (both Fachhochschulen and regular universities).

And what is the time before the lecture: "Hey, you're invited for next Monday"? or a little more time?

  • From sending your application to being invited? Long. The rule of thump that I heard in many places was that you can plan approx. 6 months from the point that the application closes until you get to sign your contract (if you get the position). Somewhere in between will be the lecture, but it is hard to say when exactly, especially because you might be first on the list or not. There are, however, a lot of governmental regulations in place regarding times, i.e. "you have to give the members of the committee at least X weeks before they can be asked to make a decision". – Dirk Oct 25 '19 at 10:33
  • I heard of cases (but might also just be stories), where the dean called a really good candidate and told them "we can't tell you anything for the next two months because we have to follow protocol, but you might expect to hear from us as soon as possible", because they didn't want to lose these candidates by not contacting them for so long. – Dirk Oct 25 '19 at 10:35
  • @Dirk 6 months from application deadline to a contract being signed is a large underestimate of the typical time ranges. If you're lucky you will have had the interview by then and heard some "non-official" feedback. – silvado Oct 29 '19 at 7:02
  • Ok, in my case I was invited about two months after the application deadline with about one month preparation time for the lecture. – Doc Brown Nov 21 '19 at 17:17
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I can offer a few data points here: being somewhat OCD, I've kept a log of all applications I've sent out over the years. Keep in mind that this mostly refers to computer science departments at German universities, but I guess it won't be wildly different for other departments.

So between 2015 and 2020, I've sent out 37 applications for W2/W3 (and some W1 tenure-track) professorships. Of these, I've only ever gotten an official response of any kind for 22 applications, which is a bit sad IMHO.

Anyway, the median time for these responses was 90.5 days, with a minimum of 25 days (for a "sorry, not interested" response) and a whopping maximum of 247 days (for a "sorry, we've hired someone else" response).

Last but not least, I was invited for an interview in 9 out of these 22 cases. Here, the median response time was 41 days, with a minimum of 33 days.

Based on this data, my rule of thumb is that if you haven't gotten any response to an application after two months, then you can assume they are not interested.

P.S. I didn't keep a record of how long I had until the interview after the invitation, but it was never less than three weeks, usually rather 4-6 weeks.

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  • Did you track how many positions were never filled? – Anonymous Physicist May 16 at 14:19
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    Thank you for your interesting numbers. I've noticed that some university procedures require a minimum of four weeks between invitation and lecture. – Doc Brown May 16 at 18:48
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    @AnonymousPhysicist I know of six cases out of the 37 where nobody was hired on that specific call, although I believe at least three of them were re-advertised. But given how secretive the committees usually are, that information is probably incomplete. – Florian Echtler May 16 at 20:50

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