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I was invited for an interview for a postdoc position at a research institution in another country. At the end, the panel told me that the HR will reach out early next week. I didn't hear back from the HR and decided to follow up the next week, in which the HR told me that "the panel are yet to confirm their decision" and I should expect an update in the next three days maximum.

Today was the last day of that deadline. The issue is that in a few weeks from now, I might start other activities in other universities (teaching and research on another project). I didn't confirm anything until I receive a response for that postdoc position. Can I follow up again and told them that I might have another engagement next week?

I am afraid that this might backfire, because they're asking me to wait and this gives me the impression that I'm plan B or something.

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    Of course you can ask, and of course it may backfire. Which job do you want? When would the other one start (given in another country do you need to travel during Covid, need a work visa, ...) and could it be after your engagement ends? – Jon Custer Jan 27 at 18:00
  • I want the postdoc, it offers a lot of opportunities for me, but as you can guess, it's very tricky in COVID times, and that alone might be a rejection factor for me. The other one is teaching for one semestre (4 - 6 months) and research for 1 year (I might need to sign a contract). – U. User Jan 27 at 18:06
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    You can set whatever deadlines or other conditions you like, but it should be obvious that you can't enforce them, so they are meaningless. (And don't forget that an organization may have a simple way to deal with people who keep pestering them: every new communication automatically sends your application to the back of the queue of work they are processing.) – alephzero Jan 28 at 13:12
  • I just informed them about my current situation. – U. User Jan 28 at 13:16
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You should let them know that you have other opportunities at other universities that you need to respond to, and what those deadlines are.

If they can, they will try to avoid the situation where they can not hire you because you have been forced to agree to another job. That does not mean they can.

Generally speaking, people being informed is good. Setting deadlines that look arbitrary is not.

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  • Thank you for your response. So, perhaps a gentle email where I inform them about the other opportunities without focusing much about the deadlines but also expressing my interest on the postdoc might not backfire? – U. User Jan 27 at 20:57
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    But don't lie to them about "other opportunities". And, you might also lessen your chances with some people: "Oh, they have another offer, no reason to press on". – Buffy Jan 27 at 21:12
  • @Buffy I will wait a day or two before sending the email. There is no need for me to lie. – U. User Jan 27 at 22:18
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    @Buffy While there might be the occasional supervisor who would think "Oh, they have another offer, no reason to press on," there will be far more supervisors that see the other offer as a positive. Other people wanting you can confirm your value. If I was the supervisor, and you were candidate B and close to candidate A, I would be more interested, and I would mention to candidate A, "You are my first choice, but there is another qualified candidate who I need to inform by X date of your decision". Don't give the supervisor ultimatums, or lie, but do inform them of deadlines for other offers. – WetlabStudent Jan 28 at 4:35
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    I have sent the email this morning (without creating any urgency). They've appreciated the update which they forwarded it to the Hiring Team. They said that I should expect another email with their response by the end of the day. – U. User Jan 28 at 10:53
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Maybe you are plan B, but I think that setting a deadline for them is more likely to backfire than help. The easy thing for them to do is to withdraw your name from consideration - especially if you aren't the top candidate.

Don't give up other opportunities and make your own decisions on what you think best for your career, but I urge patience here. They may have entirely different reasons for delay.

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  • Yes, best option is just wait and not keep my hopes high. It is most likely that they're in the middle of negotiation with candidate A or perhaps they're waiting for his/her decision given that they gave me two deadlines.. – U. User Jan 27 at 19:26
  • I've been the 2nd choice for at least 2-3 jobs. Because I didn't set any ultimatums they called me back when their first choice didn't work out. This includes when the first choice even starts and ends up not working out immediately. – computercarguy Jan 28 at 20:42
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You can't and shouldn't try to "set a deadline". Instead, just let them know gently..."I am getting other offers and need to decide soon". Also, "I am very interested in this position, but may need to accept another one, if your offer is delayed too long". Given the market imbalance, I don't think competing INTERVIEWS are important or compelling. However, other OFFERS obviously are. And you are being responsible to let them know you may become off the market to them.

Realistically, you're probably not getting contacted because you are not high on their list.

But there is some chance they are just slow or bureaucratic. So, yeah...reach out gently to inform/check with them. But it should be more in the mode of letting them know you are in demand. Not "setting a deadline". Of course, if you have an exploding offer from someone else, let them know. But again, you are not "setting a deadline". Just letting them know when the great candidate might become unavailable.

My experience in hiring/getting hired is that this is generally positive...to let people know that you are in demand. "Speculation drives the market." But be gentle and smooth about it.

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  • I've had interviews that didn't appear to go anywhere, even after a few calls, so I gave up. Several silent months went by and I eventually got hired. You can never tell when there will be an internal candidate that gets preference, but enters their resume late and needs to go through a full process before a decision is made. – computercarguy Jan 28 at 20:45

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