I have had two PhD interviews. One of the position (position A) I like more than the other (position B).

Now, I have gotton a reply from position B saying that they will offer me the PhD. However, before replying yes/no, I would like to know what the response is from position A.

Will it be good practice to let position B know that I will answer them once I know what the status is of my other application? Or is this sharing too much information?

  • 8
    This isn't quite answering the question, but - IMHO it would usually be perfectly reasonable to contact A, explain the situation, and ask when they will be able to let you know. It might hurry them up a bit ;-)
    – Flyto
    Oct 12, 2013 at 8:42
  • 1
    "I'm still waiting to hear from another department."
    – JeffE
    Oct 13, 2013 at 15:49
  • 4
    My wife was in that position. She preferred A but took B and there we met. Moral of the story: life can take unexpected turns.
    – gerrit
    Oct 13, 2013 at 19:15

3 Answers 3


The usual thing to do in this situation is to ask B when they need your response. If that isn't enough time to hear back from A, then it's fine to ask B if you can have more time to decide (you don't need to say why). Of course, they might say that they cannot give you more time, in which case you'll have to make a decision on B without knowing about A.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to consider all your options, and the people from B will undoubtedly read between the lines and understand that this is the situation, but you don't need to rub their nose in the fact that you'd rather be somewhere else.

To echo Pavel's answer, whatever decision you do give to B, you should stick with. If B gives you a short deadline, and you decide to accept their offer before hearing from A, you're committed, and you need to immediately contact A and withdraw your application. It's not appropriate to accept B while planning to back out if A later says yes. Doing that would burn your bridges with people at B (and anyone who they talk to), and it could even be cause for A to rescind your acceptance, leaving you with nothing.


Our research group has an experience of dealing with students who accepted the offer and then declined it because of the better offer received. This is often considered as an impolite behaviour and I will explain why.

Supervisors and heads of a research group usually have ideas of projects to propose to new students before they arrive. When you accept the offer, supervisors are making plans already how to integrate you in the work of the group. When it suddenly appears that you are not coming to the group, because you received another offer or whatever reason, this requires substantial resources for a group to recover and to change their plans accordingly.

  • The group needs to start recruiting process again, what is time-consuming.
  • If too much time passes, it often happens that the position can be lost, what literally means that the group wastes money and reputation.

To sum up, don't underestimate people. Everyone understands that you can look for positions in many places simultaneously. Be honest, and accept the offer conditionally. If possible, provide the final decision date when you should know application results from all other places. The research group will plan their projects accordingly. Also this will help you to save the reputation.

P.S. Industry is more tolerant to people who change their mind. Usually they have a team of recruiters and their daily business is to solve this kind of problems. Research groups usually don't have so much resources.

  • 3
    This is a very good answer, except for the "P.S." at the end. Perhaps I'm misreading, but it seems to be suggesting that industry is more tolerant of say, accepting an offer at Company A while job interviewing, then suddenly accepting an offer at Company B and ignoring your signed contract with Company A. I would definitely not call industry "tolerant" of this behavior by any means.
    – MikeS
    Oct 11, 2013 at 21:17
  • Quite right, it is very poor form to change your mind after committing. But there's nothing wrong with asking for more time before you commit. Oct 11, 2013 at 21:21
  • @MikeS I think this question is about verbal commitments before a formal contract is signed. (Once this happens, the situation is of course quite different, even in academia.) Jun 6, 2014 at 13:17

I have been in a similar situation in the past. I told the people concerned very honestly about my choices and that I was waiting to hear back from other programs. They were, in general, very understanding about them.

I did make sure to note down the formal dates by which I would have to notify each such department and stuck to them.

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