My current situation is thus:
A little over two weeks ago, I had two interviews. Both of the places were very positive but told me they had other interviews to conduct and would let me know by Friday (November 25). Friday came and was almost gone, and I contacted both firms to ask if they had reached a decision. Firm 1 didn't get back to me, Firm 2 told me they would let me know on Monday (November 28).
On Monday, Firm 1 sent an email saying they were still conducting interviews but would make a decision by Wenesday (today). Firm 2 was completely silent. I thought, okay, Firm 2 is still deciding. I'll give them another day and hopefully I'll hear back from both on Wednesday.
It is now Wednesday afternoon. What should I do? Do I call them both again and ask for a decision?
I understand that people are busy and maybe making a decision about this is the last thing on their minds. But it's also inconsiderate to keep putting off the decision. If they don't want to hire me, I'd rather they tell me right away instead of waiting to see if something better (i.e. same skills but more German) comes along. That's what I feel is going on here--they both were really positive about my designs and drawings, the only downer is that I don't speak German. And I get that... but I can't afford to invest in German lessons until I have a job.
It always seems like everything is just on the verge of happening... and I know I've been really fortunate with getting responses and interviews. It has only been 2 months of real job-searching and I know the process for some can go on for 6 months or more. Some firms need at least 1 month to review applications before they even get back to you. But from this end, it feels like it's been forever.
It's tempting to think that it would be easier to do this in Canada--where at least we could work an unrelated in-between job just to pay the bills. I just don't know. I guess it will be hard anywhere you go, and we probably won't find a cheaper city with more firms to choose from then Berlin.
UPDATE - July 2012
From the perspective of someone who is working full time now, I can totally see why it takes so long to respond to applicants and interviewees.
At my firm, the partners are only in the office about 50% of the time. And of that most hours are spent in meetings. They do not look at email applications at all - we have a person who typically responds to email applicants, but only if she has time. Our secretary does not respond because she does not speak English and, considering she is not trained in design, cannot tell when an application is good or bad.
The partners only look at an email application if it has been forwarded by someone they know - a friend in another design firm, or a colleague from the university.
I feel fairly confident that the reason my application was responded to by so many firms was because I sent hard-copy prints of my portfolio directly to the partners themselves. I then sent a follow-up email so they could easily respond to me without composing an email themselves.
You have to remember that the people in charge of hiring are very, very busy. You have to make it really simple for them to understand who you are, what you are capable of, and how to contact you.
Since I've worked at my firm, only one new person has been hired and only 2 people have been contacted for interviews. In all cases they were people who were recommended by friends or employees directly to the partners.
You cannot underestimate the power of connection and recommendation in this field.
But if, like me, you have no connections to speak of then you have to be really, really good at what you do.
Also, if you haven't spent time researching each firm you work for and tailoring every cover letter appropriately, then you are straight up wasting everyone's time.