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I've been on the US tenure-track job market. I finally got an offer (let's call it A) that I am happy with.

However, I have another interview scheduled (let's call it B). I think it is unlikely that I would prefer B over A. They are comparable in terms of academic strength, but there are strong non-academic reasons to prefer A.

I'm wondering if I should cancel my interview at B. On one hand, I feel like I should go ahead with the planned interview and it would be rude to cancel. On the other hand, it's potentially a waste of time (also rude) given that I am unlikely to take up a potential offer from them.

Of course, it's theoretically possible for me to pick B over A. For example, if the details of the offer from A aren't good (still waiting for those) and B really impresses me. But it seems unlikely given what I know.

What is the best course of action? If I do decide to cancel, how do I go about cancelling? What reason do I give?

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    If you decide to cancel, the reason you give is "I have an offer, and I have decided to accept it." That said, I agree with Pete that you should not cancel, given the degree of uncertainty you espouse in the question. – Dawn Mar 23 '18 at 18:33
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    Do not cancel anything until you have formally accepted a formal written offer. — If you don't have a formal written offer, you don't actually have an offer. If you haven't formally accepted the offer, you haven't actually decided to accept the offer. – JeffE Mar 23 '18 at 19:32
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    If it is not written, it is not there. – luizfzs Mar 23 '18 at 20:23
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    Also, you shouldn't feel that you're wasting someone's time during an academic interview. You get to meet people, talk about your work, maybe go out for a dinner or drinks. Time well spent. – Alexey B. Mar 23 '18 at 20:33
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    Without a written offer specifying salary, teaching load, etc., you don't truly know what the offer will turn out to be, and you should go see what "B" offers, if you are at all even remotely interested... – paul garrett Mar 24 '18 at 22:28
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I am answering based on a subtle but important point in your question. If I am misinterpreting, please let me know and I'll edit or remove my answer. You said:

I finally got an offer (let's call it A) that I am happy with

but you also said,

For example, if the details of the offer from A aren't good (still waiting for those)

To me, it sounds like you don't yet actually have an actual offer in the sense of a binding, written document - maybe it was a verbal offer? At any rate, you're admitting you don't yet have enough details to make a decision about offer A.

If that is true, I would absolutely continue pursuing option B, until such a time as you get the details (preferably written) from A that allow you to decide.

I do agree with the other answers that it would be more rude to waste their time in an interview if you already have an offer you like (versus being rude by declining the interview) but I think it is critically important to be clear with yourself about whether or not you do actually have an actual offer from A or just a verbal discussion that's gotten you excited about a potential offer you may or may not get in the near future. You have a responsibility to B to decline their interview and let them know you have another offer you're taking but you also have a responsibility to yourself to make sure you do have an official offer with terms you can agree to from A. It would be a huge shame to cancel your interview with B only to discover A retracted their offer, changed the details, or gave you additional info you were unhappy with.

  • I don't know about the specific case, but in general it is certainly possible to have an actual offer (in the sense that they have written that they are offering you the job, and would struggle to back out) with many missing details. Normally they don't produce a contract with your name in it until you have accepted the job. – Jessica B Mar 24 '18 at 7:11
  • It's not "produce a contract", but, rather "have a written (rather than verbal) offer"... – paul garrett Mar 24 '18 at 22:27
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    In my experience (not in academia) it's usual for employers to produce something they call an offer, but it's not an offer in terms of contract law, where an offer is something that if accepted automatically becomes a contract. A contract document that's only been signed by one of the parties is an offer. – bdsl Mar 25 '18 at 11:03
  • Yes, I think there can be distinctions made between "written," "formal," etc. in terms of the offer, but regardless of the legal/contractual sense, the point is, you shouldn't count your eggs before they've hatched. If there are details about A that remain outstanding, to the extent that these details turning out poorly would make the offer unattractive, then @user90332 should continue pursuing B (while pushing A for those details). At the same time, the minute you decide that offer A is acceptable and you're going to take it, you should absolutely stop pursuing B, and let them know. – dwizum Mar 26 '18 at 13:16
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    @bdsl I've seen a few employers with the (imo) bad habit of signing an employment contract that has a bunch of conditions (background check, references, etc) but having you start work right away. I've been in the situation of already working for a month by the time the contract is technically in effect... – mbrig Mar 26 '18 at 16:48
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As I see it, you should cancel if and only if you are sure that you prefer A to B. Not having seen the terms of A's offer sounds like a good enough reason to me to continue on with the interview at B: the terms may indeed not be what you were expecting, even based on what you already know. (Things can fall through sometimes, in both minor and major ways.) I feel that I should also remind you that having an offer at another school of comparable academic quality is just about the best possible leverage for improving the terms of a given offer. If you were completely sure that you would never prefer B to A then it is a bit ethically problematic to leverage B to improve A, but it doesn't sound like that is the case.

Concerning B's perspective, you write:

On one hand, I feel like I should go ahead with the planned interview and it would be rude to cancel. On the other hand, it's potentially a waste of time (also rude) given that I am unlikely to take up a potential offer from them.

From my experience (on the hiring end of about a dozen tenure track job searches), it is overwhelmingly more likely that wasting their time will be viewed as rude. If you cancel immediately, they can immediately move on to the next candidate. I would expect them to bear you no ill will. They may even invite you back later. I would have no qualms whatsoever about cancelling if you are sure you are no longer interested.

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    The first sentence threw me off because it had to do only with OP's preference. Then in the body of your answer you did make clear the importance of having a tangible offer. Could you edit your title sentence a bit? – aparente001 Mar 24 '18 at 4:26
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    This answer ignores the primary reason to go see B. That's that you don't know what you don't know. Always go see B because it will never be what you thought it was. Without going and preferring A over B is an underinformed preference that you should not base a decision on. – Christiaan Westerbeek Mar 24 '18 at 7:33
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The way I'd phrase it is, would you be interviewing at B "in good faith"? Are there reasonable circumstances in which you might end up taking their offer?

If A withdrew their offer, or some detail caused you to decline A, might you accept B? Or would you likely decline both, and keep searching?

I would decline B only if you're confident you do not foresee accepting any offer they're likely to make. But if B is a viable second choice, should A fall through, then by all means continue with the interview.

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I will go one step further than the other answers here. It sounds like B is a good school that you would go to if you did not get the job at A. Others have correctly said that you should not cancel the interview if you haven't received a written offer from A (and only a verbal one).

That doesn't go far enough. It is ethical to continue the interview process, even if you received the written offer from A. There are actual cases of Universities rescinding written offers, and although it opens them up to legal challenges (and the situation is rare), there are definitely scenarios where they are allowed to do this. This can happen during negotiations. For example, if they think you are asking for unreasonable terms, they can withdraw the written offer saying that the terms you were asking for showed you were a poor fit for the University. If you actually would consider B, you should continue the interview process until you signed an offer with A.

But I also agree with being completely honest and forthright as possible. One option that people have not mentioned is to inform school B that you have an informal verbal offer from another University. Tell them you are still interested in their position, and would just like to inform them of the other offer as a courtesy for both you and them, as it's in everyone's best interest to expedite the interview process if possible. If B really would be a great fit academically that you'd accept without an offer with A, you should try and speed up the process with B to see what they are like and what their offer is like.

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If you've decided that you prefer the offer that you have from A, then please cancel the interview at school B. School B can then offer the interview to another candidate who might actually want the job. It is not impolite to cancel an interview in this situation.

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    Without the "details" of the offer on the table, I think that cancelling is really bad advice. – Martin Argerami Mar 23 '18 at 19:32
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    If the author from A isn't really an offer, then I agree that it would probably be unwise to cancel the interview with B. That's really a different situation. – Brian Borchers Mar 23 '18 at 19:48
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    -1: No, this is a bad answer even if they did receive a written offer. Until the offer is literally signed by the candidate, sent in and confirmed, it is perfectly ethical to continue the search. Deals even fall through after an offer has been written by the University. That document isn't legally binding until it is signed. You are basically asking the candidate to go take a chance at going jobless, even if they did recieve the offer! – WetlabStudent Mar 24 '18 at 23:47
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Your rationale for not cancelling an interview that will waste your time and theirs makes so little sense that no rebuttal is necessary.

However, it would make sense to refrain from cancelling the interview in order to hedge your bets.

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    A possible reason for that, what the OP didn't mention, is that so he can collect some experience in the interviewing processes and communication. – peterh says reinstate Monica Mar 24 '18 at 2:43
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    @peterh Yes, that is another one. Or if he/she needs to attend a certain number of interviews in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits. But the point is that to attend a pointless interview just because you’re too embarrassed to cancel is to cede to one’s own social awkwardness. – Amy Dee Dempster Mar 25 '18 at 6:08
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If I would give an advice here is never say no before you hear an offer, and never say yes before you think an offer.

So I would suggest going to the interview and then you can judge with facts which offer is the best to you.

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