I am a international student who is in the midst of a US postdoctoral job search. I have two potential lab options, lab A and B, both of which I have interviewed with and received positive indications from.

Lab A is a perfect match for my research interests, and I also like the location. After delivering an online seminar for them, we discussed details like salary, housing, and a possible start date. It feels quite likely that I'll get a formal offer from them, and I'm very keen on accepting it if it comes through.

Meanwhile The PI of lab B recently reached out, suggesting they would initiate their hiring process if I'm still interested. Is this a verbal offer? I'm a bit confused they would think I've accepted the offer if I respond positively here. However, the research focus in Lab B doesn't align well with my interests, making Lab A my clear preference.

My dilemma is this: should I express continued interest in Lab B as a backup option, even though my intent to join is contingent on not receiving an offer from lab A? I worry about potentially misleading lab B or wasting their time. Is it more prudent to decline Lab B's offer now, given my strong inclination towards lab A, or should I keep it as a fallback option until I have a confirmed offer from lab A?

Thank you for your insights!

1 Answer 1


Until you receive an actual offer from Lab A, you do not have anything.

In the interest of full disclosure and professionalism, you can contact the other group and say you have recently interviewed for and are potentially also considering another position, nonetheless you are still interested in exploring your options within Lab B. This is under the assumption that you will indeed give them consideration should your other option not work out. If you are really not inclined to take that job, perhaps you should cast a wider net for other more suitable options.

I would expect any competitive postdoctoral candidate to be enquiring with a number of groups. I am also aware that the group that can make the best sales pitch and come up with the best package (or fastest package) wins.

  • Thank you for your opinion. On your advice, I emailed Lab B with transparency and asked for a short period for me to navigate options, and thankfully they understood.
    – oklu
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 5:48

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