Recently I had an interview for a PhD position in Germany. After couple of days, I received a congrats email stating that I'm ranked 3rd candidate. Originally there was only single opening in the advert. So I am confused - actually I'm not selected - then why am I being congratulated? Is it something like if first two candidates do not accept the offer then I'll stand a chance? Should I ask this question directly? How to ask this with politeness?
Also, in the mail, it is mentioned that the group will have new opportunities and I should contact the respective person in a particular month. This sounds like a very promising statement, also from the internet research of the group, it is evident that they have few plans for near future.
I want to ask the question: How certain is this? I would want to listen a direct answer for e.g. 0.7% probability. Also, even though opportunity arises, will I be considered directly? Or will there be a formal evaluation process again? Because if yes, it is too time consuming and I might consider few other options rather than waiting for something in which prob of getting through is low.
This is a very good group and if I get an opportunity I would definitely work with them. So at any cost, I do not want to sound rude and/or idiot. So are these valid questions to ask? If yes, how to phrase them politely?