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I have applied for a postdoc position in October 2021 by sending my application to the responsible professor by email (as it's the only way to apply) as announced in the poster (in Germany). I got an instant automatic reply email from the professor mentioning that she was away for 10 days. I never heard from them after that.

After five months, yesterday, I emailed the prof again asking about the position and if there are any updates. Today I got an email from her secretary saying that they have already chosen someone and my application document will be destroyed.

The question is, how to make sure that my application was even on the list for the competition (because I didn't get a rejection email or any feedback until I wrote them yesterday)? Is there anything I can make it to make sure the process was fair and indeed they evaluated my application? I believe the professor just forgot my application completely as she was on holiday the day I have applied.

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    I don't know about Germany, but in my country selection proceedings are public documents, and any candidate can ask to review them. You can check if there is a similar law also in Germany.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Feb 8 at 11:05
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    It is unfortunately very common in academia to never receive any kind of rejection after sending an application. In hindsight, it would have been wise to send an email immediately after the 10 days were up, rather than five months later.
    – astronat
    Feb 8 at 11:20
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    My unsolicited advice here is to forget about them and move on. Even if you had evidence that the hiring decision was unfair (the chances of which to happen are basically zero since public institutions in Germany are not transparent about these things), this information would not be useful for you in any way when it comes to building your scientific career. Maybe you could sue your way into a position, but your experience would surely be terrible and they might try to get rid of you as soon as they can. Feb 8 at 12:41
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    It's common even in the regular job market to not receive a rejection after applying for a job, hence ''don't call us, we'll call you'' etc.
    – Tom
    Feb 8 at 19:43
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    Define 'Fair'. Or do you want to know if you were treated 'Equally'. If the institution followed their process, you were treated 'Equally'. Whether the result was what you consider 'Fair' is a totally different question...
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 8 at 20:59

2 Answers 2

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In theory, the Personalrat is informed about hiring processes for open positions and is eligible to see a list of all applicants. However, I am not sure if they would tell you if your application was on the list or not if you contacted them. Besides, what would you do with this information?

Unfortunately, it is not unusual to not receive a rejection letter. It's typically not done before the preferred applicant has signed the contract and once that's done they have probably already forgotten about the rest or just don't care anymore. I wouldn't take this as a sign that they didn't consider your application.

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Is there anything I can make it to make sure the process was fair and indeed they evaluated my application?

No. I do not know about your local laws, but in most places there is no requirement to evaluate every application. Some might argue that hiring the first qualified applicant found is "fair." Others might argue that, so long as no discrimination law was violated, the process is "fair."

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    in fact many job descriptions are written so that a known person will qualify, and the process of reviewing applications is just pro forma. Feb 9 at 0:00
  • @ZeroTheHero Yes, but that isn’t generally regarded as “fair,” most notably by the people who decided what the “form” in question is: the requirement to advertise the position publicly exists precisely to prevent that sort of behavior
    – KRyan
    Feb 9 at 2:52
  • @KRyan regrettably true IMO although I’ve heard this issue debated: “fair” is in the eye of the beholder Feb 9 at 3:16
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    This is not true in generality in Germany - for instance, for professor positions, they can't just hire the first qualified candidate. And also for postdoc positions, the rules will depend on the type of position (university funded vs. third party, civil servant vs. employee).
    – user151413
    Feb 11 at 19:00

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