I had a face-to-face interview in a research institute for a PhD in BW, Germany (Don't want to mention city and institute for confidentiality) on the 16th of September 2019. The interview itself went quiet well, but I told them I could start from December onwards. I wrote to the Professor in November that I am available and the Prof. just responded "thanks for your patience". I wrote them (the Prof. and their secretariat) again a couple of weeks ago for an update on the application status and whether if I am still a candidate for the position (P.S. In very smart and polite way). I haven't received any response yet. Should I consider this a rejection? It has been almost 3 months since the interview and almost one year since my MSc graduation.

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    You need to explore other options and not rely on this.
    – Solar Mike
    Dec 21, 2019 at 5:53
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    If this was a position that was advertised by the university, you might try calling (not emailing) the relevant HR department. They may be willing to update you on the status of the post. Dec 21, 2019 at 10:05
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    This is most likely not due to German bureaucracy, there must be another reason. Otherwise they would tell you that you are the one, but making the contract takes some time, or something similar. Do you know if they actually have an open position? Please clarify this in your question. Dec 21, 2019 at 19:30

2 Answers 2


I was a candidate in an application process at a university in Bavaria a few years ago. After the interview, more than a year went by without me hearing anything from them. I wrote them a letter formally withdrawing my candidacy, since in this time I had already found a good job elsewhere.

I later learned through the grapevine that someone else was ranked first in the process, but negotiations between them and the university took forever. Once negotiations were finished, the official job offer still had to wait until the faculty council approved the offer, and this council met only every second month. Thereafter, the offer had to be sent out, and the offer had to be accepted. All this bureaucracy made things take forever.

"Thanks for your patience" tells me that you are still on the reserve list as a suitable candidate; you're not (yet) rejected. However, it's quite likely that someone else is the preferred candidate. Negotiations with this candidate are ongoing, and unless they don't manage to work it out, the job will not be yours. I would start looking elsewhere.

  • This does not sound like an application for being a PhD student, like in the OP's case. What kind of position did you apply for? Dec 23, 2019 at 12:02
  • In Germany, negotiating the conditions for a PhD position would be quite unheard of, there's more of a "take it or leave it" mentality. Of course, it's still a rather likely that the delay has to do with their top candidate needing more time to make the decision (due to second thoughts or alternative offers). Dec 23, 2019 at 13:06

This is German bureaucracy! Hiring someone is a very long drawn-out process, as there are many (at times conflicting) rules to follow and many people who must sign off on the process.

They are generally not allowed to correspond with you by email or snail mail during the selection process (as that could be used in court by someone not getting the job and starting a Konkurrentenklage. So the advice to give them a telephone call is excellent (although I think all German universites are now closed until Jan. 6 or 7).

Do explore other options, as competition for PhD positions (especially in "rich" states like Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg) is high. If you goal is a PhD at all costs, try some of the less popular universities.

  • I disagree. Hiring is not difficult at all if you have an open position. Dec 21, 2019 at 19:35
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    This is not true. The university needs a long time to make a contract, but the offer itself comes fast. No one would expect a great candidate to wait for two months in uncertainty. In companies, both offers and contracts come fast.
    – wimi
    Dec 21, 2019 at 21:26
  • I am certain contact is allowed and even asked for.
    – Rachel
    Dec 22, 2019 at 15:50
  • @wimi in companies, yes. I am only speaking about German public service. I've just had to spend 4 weeks just getting an ad out, just before Christmas, wonderful. Dec 22, 2019 at 20:17
  • @Rachel The answer mentions phone calls as an allowed means for contact. That's in line my own experience from a hiring process in Germany, where I applied for a post-doc: After the interview, the PI asked me per mail to have a phone call, in which he then informed me about their decision that they want to hire me. Dec 23, 2019 at 13:16

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