How long can I wait on a job offer?
May 15, 2015 7:16 AM   Subscribe

I recently interviewed for two tenure track positions in a STEM field at two local community colleges. The one I want less is probably going to make a decision first. How long can I ask them to wait?

I recently interviewed for a tenure track faculty position in my field at two local community colleges. College A (where I'm currently adjunct faculty) is likely to get back to me first, and College B (the job I'd rather have) will probably take longer.
  1. If College A offers me the job first, how long could I ask them to wait?
  2. If A offers me a job and B doesn't, I'm guessing it would be a bad idea to take the job at A with hopes of eventually getting a job at B some time in the uncertain future. How bad an idea would that be?
  3. If I take a tenure-track position at A and I get tenured, is that pretty much a commitment for life?
I'd ask other community college faculty I know these questions, but they all work at either A or B.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total)
In these circumstances, your best option is to call College B once College A offers you the job, say that you have received another offer, and ask how far along they are in their decision-making process. If they want you, they will probably ask you for 24 hours to put an offer together. If they don't want you, they'll wish you good luck. So certainly ask for at least two business days plus a weekend to give a little wiggle room to College B.

College A's offer can be a useful tool for you here.
posted by rachelpapers at 7:57 AM on May 15, 2015 [10 favorites]

You get a week, maybe more. You can leave College A at any time; it isn't a lifetime commitment. Please read this.
posted by studioaudience at 7:57 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Tenure is not a commitment for life, and it will not keep you from moving on to bigger and better jobs. Look at job ads in your field. In many fields you'll see that they're looking to hire an assistant/associate professor (you become associate prof. when you get tenure). A lot of colleges would rather hire people who have proven themselves both in the classroom and in the publish-or-perish world than newly-minted PhDs.
posted by mareli at 7:59 AM on May 15, 2015

This is when you call you contact and say "Profuse thanks for the offer, I am strongly considering it but need a little while to understand all of my options. When do you need a decision from me?"
posted by entropone at 8:28 AM on May 15, 2015

One thing to keep in mind: if A offers you the job and you say what entropone suggests, this will likely make you seem more attractive to them. If they know someone else wants you too, that just goes to show that you're a good candidate and they should be lucky to have you, if you end up accepting the offer.

For the love of all things holy and good, though: if it comes to this, do not turn down a TT job offer on the hope that another one is coming.
posted by meese at 8:42 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Community colleges might be a little different, but in my experience tenure-track job offers come with a formal contract and a deadline for returning it (typically two weeks). You could try negotiating for a little more time, but it's probably best to start with rachelpapers' advice and see where that leads you.
posted by yarntheory at 9:17 AM on May 15, 2015

Only answering because I see one or two of your questions not addressed.

No longer in academia, but I had job offers/accepted some, etc., for at least a few years at colleges/unis.

As an anecdotal data point, I have also done what rachelpapers suggests and it always worked that way for me. It was probably the only time that I could get a university to speed up the process.

If College A offers me the job first, how long could I ask them to wait?

After first calling institution B to know their timeline (ie, maybe you have not even interviewed yet, or they need a few days), I have called college and used the script, "I am really excited about this opportunity. I liked (x) and (Y) about this institution. I am also applying for another position and that interview process has not finished yet. I would like to see it through to enable me to pick the place that is the best fit. Can I have [X] weeks." I have had places agree from between a month and even longer. I know it is a lot to ask, but usually universities took that long or more to decide. YMMV. I have never had any one refuse, but I have only done that a couple times and when I was in the situation of having an offer and/or having started the interview process somewhere else.

If A offers me a job and B doesn't, I'm guessing it would be a bad idea to take the job at A with hopes of eventually getting a job at B some time in the uncertain future. How bad an idea would that be?

I have never done this and never would do this (ie, if you are thinking of doing this within the same year).

I don't know if you have had a chance to watch how job searches for universities work, but they invest a lot of time and money. They fly out a few candidates, put them up at hotels, etc. It is a phenomenally lengthy and time consuming process. (I know universities, not CCs, but my guess is that some of this would be the same).

However, if it is a few years from now, I would feel comfortable doing this. People move around and then you can give them several months to interview a job candidate if you get a job offer somewhere else.

Just as another data point I have turned down other job offers, including TT, if it was a poor fit and there were other interviews in the pipeline. It worked out for me, but everyone has their own stress/tolerance level and way that they evaluate faculty positions. YMMV.
posted by Wolfster at 9:33 AM on May 15, 2015

I only know research universities, not ccs. But at a university moving from one tenure-track job to another, *before* tenure, is not a big deal. However, given that both are local, there may be relationships between the relevant department chairs, or relevant deans, that might make moving harder. Or if they're both part of the same system (ie two campuses of COUNTYNAME Community College, then there could conceivably be things or people at the system level that might make moving harder.

At least at universities, moving after tenure is MUCH more difficult than moving before. The pool of openings is drastically smaller, for one thing. Obvs this will vary by field and probably by CC vs university, but in my field and at universities I would guess that maybe 5% of positions are for tenured hires. While someone with tenure can apply for an untenured line, doing so is not immediately credible and making it credible would take a lot of work and communication. But this isn't relevant until your department suggests you go up.

If A offers me a job and B doesn't, I'm guessing it would be a bad idea to take the job at A with hopes of eventually getting a job at B some time in the uncertain future. How bad an idea would that be?

So if A offers you a tenure track job and B doesn't, what you're asking is:

Should I take the tenure-track line at A, and have a decent salary and benefits and whatnot, or should I just keep adjuncting wherever and get shit pay and no benefits and the longer I keep doing it the harder it will be to ever move into a tenure track line?

You're on the market. If A is your best offer, and the offer is acceptable, then take it. Maybe you can move to B from there. Maybe not. In the meantime, eating ramen is a choice instead of a necessity.

But if your tenure clock is a 5 or six year clock like at universities, remember that your prime times to move will be right around your third year review and as you're coming up. So do whatever gets rewarded by your market, and lots of it, in those early years.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:24 AM on May 15, 2015

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
Both community colleges have faculty unions that negotiate pay and benefits, so I already know that both pay/benefit packages will be pretty much the same, as will teaching load and other responsibilities. This question is really just about how log I can keep College A waiting, and how big/long a commitment tenure/tenure-track is at a two year college.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:52 PM on May 15, 2015

There's not some set amount you can ask them to wait. Here's the algorithm you should use:
  1. You get the written offer from College A
  2. If College A has not already specified a deadline, ask College A when they need your answer by.
  3. Tell College B that College A expects your response by day X. Ask College B if it would it be possible to get their decision in time for you to decide by then?
  4. If College B asks for more time, then you should in turn ask College A for more time.
  5. If College A won't give further time or College B won't give you a timetable on their decision, then you can just put things off until College A's deadline.

posted by grouse at 1:03 PM on May 15, 2015

You can ask for whatever you like, but they are unlikely to give you more than an extra week, maybe two.

That said, we recently hired a dude who started by asking for three weeks longer, as he had another interview then (at a university that is miles more prestigious than us, so it was obvious why he wanted to see what happened there.) Then it turned out they had scheduled other candidates for an interview a month after THAT, so he asked us for another month before making his decision. Then the fancy university didn't make a decision for a further month, so it was nearly three months in total between our offer and when he let us know.

The only way he got away with this is because he was objectively awesome, and we are a not very prestigious university, and the other candidates were kind of meh, and gave out signals that they might turn us down too, and the other university was fancy enough that we thought even our awesome candidate was unlikely to get an offer there, so if we just waited, we could have him.

If these sorts of factors are at play for you too, you might have a chance at getting them to wait more than the one or two weeks.

Another delaying tactic after the week or two they give you to think about it, is negotiation. If you negotiate by email instead of phone calls, you can expect a day or two delay between each step of the negotiation, e.g. You ask for extra salary and start up money, wait a day or two for them to check with the dean, then they come back with a small salary bump and no start up, and you wait a day and then say, okay but then you need a sabbatical in your third year, and they take another day or two to agree, and then you've bought yourself another five or so days. Then it will be the weekend. Then they take a few days to get you the forms to sign, and all of this time, you can still pull out (although it will make you unpopular).
posted by lollusc at 6:21 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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