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I am concerned that an email I sent can be interpreted as an (informal) acceptance of a postdoc offer.

The email was in response to a PI who emailed saying that he hoped to have an official offer out soon, and then asked about an ideal starting date.

I replied,"Thanks for the update! I could start at the beginning of xxx."

My intention with my wording was to give the information requested without accepting the offer, but also without explicitly stating that I was looking into other options. After sending this email I applied to other laboratories, and received a couple offers. All the offers, including the one referenced in the email, are almost equally attractive and I would like to select the option that works best for me. However, I do not want to be guilty of any dishonesty with regards to the original offer. Does my email pass as a firm commitment? I have since clarified to the PI during a call that I was considering other options and he did not seem too bothered, but I do want to make sure I am acting ethically.

I can provide more details but I have tried to include the most relevant.

Thanks!

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I replied,"Thanks for the update! I could start at the beginning of xxx."

You're almost certainly okay. You haven't gotten the actual official offer, and though you've shown clear interest you haven't accepted anything. Of course, the PI involved could be disappointed, and if they're a jerk they could even retaliate by speaking badly about you. Unfortunately, though, just about anyone can choose to be a jerk whenever they want and it doesn't necessarily have to be a consequence of something you've actually done wrong.

I have since clarified to the PI during a call that I was considering other options and he did not seem too bothered

Now you are definitely okay. Some people would suggest this level of honesty is somehow not strategic; personally I think in most cases it's better to be clear. People who are hiring for a position should always assume the people they recruit are pursuing other offers, just as people applying for one should always assume there are other candidates.

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