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>> No. 6437 Anonymous
1st September 2021
Wednesday 3:13 pm
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Academiclads, am I doing something wrong in my PhD applications?

I applied for a fairly niche PhD on a topic I already have a working paper in, due to be published in a decent journal this year. It's an infectious disease (no, not that one), with a well-established -- but not massive -- research community.

I sent in well constructed, one page letter of intention and a pretty lavish eight page CV with loads of clinical research projects listed, including a draft of the manuscript I mentioned and the output of a bit of consultation work I did. I also included three references and have a decent bit of project management experience to boot.

An entire nine weeks after the application I find that I've had a two sentence reply (from the HR manager, not the potential supervisors) saying "Thank you for applying for x. We're proceeding with other candidates". Literally, two sentences.

I have to wonder at this point if there's something seriously wrong with my approach, if I'm off with my estimates of how much competition there is, or whether I've genuinely upset someone along the way. I admit I am a bit more used to the corporate world -- am I placing "polish" of the application over personal connections? Should I be reaching out to supervisors directly rather than applying for PhD vacancies? Is this just a case of a bad interaction with a third party with the social skills of ... well, an HR manager?
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>> No. 6438 Anonymous
1st September 2021
Wednesday 3:23 pm
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There's a very high chance that if it's a PhD studentship at some institution you have no connection with, they've already had someone lined up internally (or via a collaborator) for the project, and are just advertising the position because policy says they have to. Truthfully, this is how the majority of academic positions are generated and filled. A lot of institutions do have a waiver process for the advertisements, but they'd rather not bother using it because it's more work for them than just ignoring anyone who applies -- honestly the fact that you got an email at all is surprising.

I've been on both ends of this schtick myself, and in fact I currently am waiting on a contract "offer" for a job that was decided on months ago.

Have you considered striking up a conversation with a specific academic? Even if you apply for something on FindaPhD.com, it's best to email your CV over to the academic directly in addition, and establish yourself as a real person. Otherwise, just finding someone whose research interests match what you want to do, and then outright emailing them to see if they have funding for a student (or could get funding) is a much better tactic, and much more agreeable for academics as people than the more formal application processes.

Shit one that you've been blanked, mate, but they're practically giving PhDs away these days so I'm sure you'll find something.
>> No. 6439 Anonymous
1st September 2021
Wednesday 3:33 pm
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Just from curiosity, if what you're saying applies directly here, what are the odds that any of the things I sent never actually crossed the eyes of either of the supervisors?
>> No. 6440 Anonymous
1st September 2021
Wednesday 3:52 pm
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If they're not entertaining applicants because they've designed the entire project with a student in mind - as is often the case - then the odds they didn't see your application at all are fairly high, though a lot of them will look anyway even though they've verbally committed to taking on a particular student.

My PhD was one of those. I approached the lecturer as he was new and I knew that my uni had programmes for new staff to get funding for students to help establish their research, and we had been in communication about it for about a year before the formal studentship was posted online. I'm fairly sure that him getting the funding in the first place was contingent on having an appropriate student lined up, which makes the university policy of advertising even more stupid.

The informal route is best in academia, especially for junior positions like studentships and postdocs. If you thought you were a good candidate for the group you applied for, there's no harm in emailing the PI directly with a copy of your CV and expressing your interest, they may have some funding somewhere else, or they may seek some out on the basis that they have a student and project in mind.

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