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I have been applying for tenure-track positions this year, and just received an offer from University A that I'm pretty happy with (I was relieved to get any offer at all, in this particularly difficult year). I have been given just over a week to make a decision, and have been told that this isn't really negotiable, because the next candidate in line has a different deadline shortly afterwards, and the university doesn't want to lose that candidate.

However, I have a different application in progress for University B (in a different country), which I am much more interested in. It's not necessarily a better university, but it already has a presence in my research area and there are other people in the department I know quite well and would be excited to work with, and in addition it's in a city I much prefer. I've spoken to a professor at University B, who said there is strong support for my application and I should expect an interview invitation very soon, but that they don't think it's possible that an offer can be made before the decision deadline for University A (it seems that both universities were affected in different ways by COVID, and University A brought forward their process while University B delayed it).

So, it seems like I have a few obvious options:

  1. accept the offer from University A and withdraw my application from University B
  2. give up the offer from University A and cross my fingers for University B (I have already been told by a much less desirable university that they will make me a non-tenure-track offer, so at least I have this as a backup)
  3. accept the offer from University A, but continue with the University B application process, and renege on my agreement with A if get an offer from B (presumably this would come with a rather hefty hit to my reputation, and I would definitely feel uncomfortable about doing it).

There are also some slightly less obvious things I am considering:

  1. accept A's offer, and if I get an offer from B, ask them if I can delay it by a year. So at least I would have spent a year at University A, and technically not have violated my agreement (though I imagine I would still upset some people by doing this?)
  2. do some snooping to find out who is next in line for University A, and try to speak to them directly, in case they themselves are not that serious about University A or have some way of negotiating more time to decide on their current offer.

Are there any viable options I am not considering? Is there some way I might be able to pressure University A into giving me more time? Does anyone have any thoughts on the relative costs/benefits of the various options?

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    For most fields, highly qualified applicants are exceptionally plentiful this year thanks to recent layoffs. Accepting the offer you have is probably smart. – Anonymous Physicist Jan 26 at 11:09
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    An interview invitation simply indicates that the change of an offer is less small. It's still small. – Anonymous Physicist Jan 26 at 11:10
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    Hearing that you have “strong support” in a department isn’t necessarily as positive and reassuring as it might sound to you. In the U.S. at least, these days positive expressions like this one tend to be overused to the point of meaninglessness. I know of applicants being rejected who had “strong support” by a faculty “enthusiastic about an applicant.” Just keep that in mind. – gnometorule Jan 26 at 13:21
  • I would advise you to not even consider speaking to other candidates. There is high likelihood of ending up in very hot water. – Scott Seidman Jan 26 at 21:53
  • I would accept the offer. As others have mentioned, there may be no other offers. Also if you know the group in university B well, then you can continue to collaborate. In addition, university B may have an offer further down the line. So, the door is not closed entirely. – Prof. Santa Claus Jan 27 at 0:05
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There are numerous other questions on this forum that ask the same question. In the end, it comes down to your risk tolerance. You can also accept A's offer, and if you should get one from B, talk to them to see whether you can defer the start of your work by a year and quit your job at A after the first year.

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  • thanks for the answer, and the suggestion. I saw some fairly similar questions but thought it was worth a try in case there was different advice or suggestions with the specifics of my situation or the COVID situation this year. – Henry Jan 27 at 0:35

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