I was wondering how common it is that advertised PhD positions have actually already been given to internal candidates and if there are any signs indicative of this.
I am currently looking for a PhD position in microbiology and had this happen to me and some friends. I find this rather frustrating. Nothing feels particularly “fair” about having students spend their time and thoughts on submitting an application thinking they stand an honest chance, when really the position has already been promised to someone. My research area is quite specific, so there are by default not that many positions available. Now after a lot of research and patience, I found two positions that fit quite well, but the application periods are only two weeks long and one of them is supposed to start in “only” three months time. Is this a signal that the positions are already taken? I also had a professor tell me this is very common and I should contact potential supervisors directly, but another I actually mailed directly told me to look out for job postings. So what’s the truth here? How many advertisements are actually genuine? And what’s the better approach to land a position: apply to posted vacancies or asked supervisors directly? Also, do I need to write a cover letter for the latter? Seems like a lot of effort for not knowing if there’s even funding available.