How long is too long?
February 23, 2012 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Academic Jobs Filter: What is a reasonable amount of time to ask for to make a decision about a job offer?

I am a TT faculty member who is desperate to leave my current job, for a number of reasons. I had an on campus interview on Monday, and was offered the job on Tuesday! Great - except that they want an answer by Friday (i.e. tomorrow). And I have had phone/Skype interviews at 3 other places, and have also been invited to a campus interview for one of those three. (This invitation was extended yesterday). I also think it's certainly possible that I might get another campus visit.

The job I've been offered is ok, but it's not my first choice (not in my real area of interest, less appealing school). The second campus visit (scheduled for 1st week of March) is at a more desirable school, and more to the point, is directly in my interest area. The other places I've had phone interviews with are also more directly related to my research and teaching. The job I've been offered is stuff that I *can* teach, but I'm not that interested in, and has almost nothing to do with my research. It involves a lot of program administration, though, which is something I have a lot of experience in and which is why I think they offered it to me.

I think it's a bit unreasonable to expect me to give them an answer in three days, although I know they want to move on with their process. Is it reasonable to ask for more time? Should I tell them I have another campus visit? How long should I ask for? My next visit would be two weeks after they offered me the job, but of course I would not know then if I were getting a second offer.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my field (English) two weeks is standard; my understanding is that giving people a minimum of two weeks to decide is an MLA requirement. Regardless of this, people try to give shorter deadlines all the time.

I think you are completely within your rights to ask for additional time, with the understanding that (1) they may say no (2) they could even pull the offer out of spite (I've heard about this happening on the Wiki). If you ask them for (say) a month to decide -- which might not even be enough time, given that your next visit isn't for two weeks -- you should do so with the understanding that they may just withdraw the offer.

Given that, you need to rank your options and decide whether definitely leaving your current job is worth giving up your chance at jobs #2 and #3. If you're willing to roll the dice on having to stay, ask for more time and hope they give it to you. If you have to leave or you'll lose your mind, consider that the definite offer may be more valuable to you than the chance of the even better jobs later on.
posted by gerryblog at 5:45 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yup, two weeks is pretty standard, at least in English. Anything less sounds fishy. Places that start out pulling such crap will likely continue once they hire. Beware....
posted by 5Q7 at 6:05 PM on February 23, 2012

I'd suggest asking The Professor Is In. (I used her and thought it was a tremendous investment that paid off in her assistance during my TT package negotiations.)

But my gut? Tell them, 'I'm sorry Janet, but I have already committed to interviewing at X next week. I cannot give you an answer until I visit them.'

And tell X that you have an offer in hand.

Offer U is being unreasonable. This is a bad sign. There are lots of other bad things about it. Don't move for that.

I guess I'd need to know how desperate you are to move - I.e. how much hyperbole is in your statement.
posted by k8t at 6:19 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

And when you tell X you have an offer in hand, ask them what their expected timeline is.

It is possible that you're their top and they'll make things happen for you.
posted by k8t at 6:21 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

1 week is about normal for junior hires in economics. I'd be very surprised if there were any harm in asking for an extension, or if they failed to give you at least a couple extra days. Doesn't sound like they'll give you the multiple extra weeks you need, however, but no harm in asking ("I'm not prepared to take your offer until I see how these other places play out").
posted by deadweightloss at 6:32 PM on February 23, 2012

We don't know what field you're in and the answer may vary. In mathematics, two weeks is standard, but it would be very unusual not to give a candidate an extension if they had another interview scheduled. After all, we want the people we hire to have chosen us because they want to come here, not because we bullied them into making a decision before knowing what their choices are!

So three days sounds weirdly short to me. Tell them about the second campus interview and say you need more time. If they balk at that, it might be a place you don't really want to work. It's hard to turn down a TT job in this environment, but think of it this way: a) you already have a TT job at a place you don't want to work; why you need another? and b) your success this year in an absolutely crappy job market suggests that you are not going to have a problem moving from your current job, whether it pans out for you this year or not.
posted by escabeche at 6:49 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I asked for an extension when I was offered the position I have now (TT math). It was a relatively early offer and I wanted to get to the national meetings and go on at least one other on-campus interview. They gave me, I think, one extra week before they said they'd pursue another applicant. I'm very happy I took the extra time and had more interviews since it solidified my decision. I'm also not burdened by "what if"s. I've been told the hiring committee was actually happy about it, too, since my decision to take the position meant that I really wanted to be here, but that may only be in retrospect. I don't think you have to mention that you have another campus visit; they'll guess that much. Two weeks might be a little long, but I'd be very surprised if just asking negatively affected your offer.
posted by monkeymadness at 6:50 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The (visiting) positions I've been offered in Physics have generally come with a time-frame of a week, plus or minus a day or two. This said, it may be a little awkward to call them tomorrow and say "I need more time"; they're probably expecting a yes or no. For future reference*, the time to ask for more decision time is when the offer is extended, not on the deadline.

* "Future reference" here meaning primarily for other folks who find this thread. One hopes that you won't have to do too many more academic job searches in your career. Good luck.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:01 PM on February 23, 2012

Oh, and you may find this article from the CHE, about the author's turning down a "bird in the hand" offer and waiting for a stronger one, to be interesting reading in your situation.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:04 PM on February 23, 2012

We talk about this every six weeks or so at the Chronicle of Higher Ed discussion boards (the AskMetafilter of the academy). There truly isn't any industry standard. 1-2 weeks is typical, but plenty of places measure the timeline in days. Some folks see short deadlines as abusive, most of us figure that is how the cookie crumbles. And in any case, it isn't something you can change--until you are the dean.

There are stalling tactics that might work, from the classics "can I have a few more days to think about this?" and "I need to talk about this with my spouse who needs to explore job opportunities..." to the ballsy "I need to make another visit before I decide and the soonest I can do so is [date]." There is also the provisionally-accept-and-negotiate tactic, where you attempt to go back and forth over your book allowance for a week or two.

Keep in mind that when you make a counteroffer, you are turning down the original offer and they can walk away. Unlikely to happen if you make some small and reasonable requests, but if they realize you are stringing them along it can happen.

In any case, you should continue to accept and go on interviews until you have a signed contract in hand. Verbal offers can disappear--it is rare but it happens.

At the end of the day, you are going to have to decide on the bird in hand against the ones in the bush--just like in any other industry. Good luck!
posted by LarryC at 7:31 PM on February 23, 2012

Ask for more time. They can say no, but most places won't. And if they pull the offer out of spite just because you asked, then there is something toxic about the institution/department and you might be better off, even if you hate your current TT job. But there is a chance you might not get enough time in the extension to have your other campus visit and for them to decide.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:17 AM on February 24, 2012

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