1. Straggler 1 has told me that they have invited one of the candidates back for a second interview. They called me up, and they told me that, and that everyone was still in play. I said okay, and waited to hear for more about their game plan. They said, again, "So we invited one of the candidates back and it's not you." And I think they may have repeated it a third time in case I didn't understand. "We just want to make sure the fit is right," she explained. That mysterious fit.
I'm not sure what the etiquette is in this type of situation. I just like to hear as much information as possible so didn't want to interrupt her.
It's an interesting thing, "fit". Looking at the candidates, they were surprisingly regional given that this school is in the top 50 of US News: one from the same university, two from the same metro area, and one was a commuter flight away. I'm in a different time zone. A few of them wondered whether I would be happy in that region of the country, and even asked me whether I am a "[their region] person".
I am guessing that the reason that they invited me in the first place was because I had a long paragraph at the end of my cover letter about how much I liked their school, specific features that I had picked up on a past visit there, and I meant every word.
I have my doubts, but I also have reasons why I would really like it. I have two close friends and a couple other friends nearby, one of whom I might date if I were living there, plus there's an absolutely fantastic ethnic supermarket chain I just discovered, and there are some good recreational opportunities in the area. But it's true I feel more at home in other regions of the country, and I'm sure likewise. A friend of mine who grew up close to that university thinks that I would hate it there. I'm guessing that the ones from the area are probably better "fit" for them.
2. Straggler 2 emailed me back, a week after I emailed them with possible dates, that they will let me know when they have figured out which dates are good ones for them. So I'm holding open the entire month of June for them.
I'm also not sure what to tell the postdoc. I accepted them conditional on Straggler 1, and said that I would let them know what Straggler 1's decision was, and gave them a time-frame that has probably long since past. Meanwhile, I hadn't mentioned Straggler 2 at all to them.
I want to tell them exactly what I know, and that I plan to find an apartment and sign a lease in their city. That's a signal that I am committed to their program, but not absolutely until I find out.
Most importantly, I want them to feel like I really want them, and that I am not hesitating to accept them. That's really important in them wanting to work with me. And honestly I'm increasingly excited about coming. It's a famous place, and last night I even met a guy who is moving there soon too. Okay. Rah rah rah! I'm going. Rah rah!
I will tell Straggler 1 that I've committed to the postdoc definitively for the coming year. But I'm curious about Straggler 2. It's located pretty close to my postdoc, so at the very least it's a source of free airfare out there, which I could definitely stand to accept.