3

I got an offer for a postdoc in a great US university A. I am still waiting to hear from another postdoc position also in a great US university B. The search committee at university B mentioned that their decisions would be made by a deadline that is prior to the deadline I have to decide about university A's offer.

I know that the usual advice about Tenure Track positions is to inform all places you are still waiting to hear from, about the offer(s) one gets. It is often said that it can even help one's chances of receiving other offers.

What isn't clear to me is whether the same applies to postdocs. That is, strategically speaking, should I inform university B of the offer I received from university A in this particular postdoc case? I have the impression that for a postdoc, it may harm more than help the chances of getting an offer from university B (which would be my preferred place).

Note: my goal is not to enforce negotiations. Rather, it is to make sure that, if university B was to make me an offer, they indeed would let me know before I have to reply to A. Like I said, theoretically, by their informed schedule, that should happen - but I have rarely seen such job-search schedules be respected. On the other hand, my concern is that such an email informing B of A's offer may harm my chances of getting the offer from B. For example because they prefer to give to another candidate slightly below in their preference rank but with no second disputing offer. I know that in Tenure Track searches that would not be likely, I am not so sure about postdoc searches.

4
  • As a hiring manager for postdocs, I would not object to a quick email saying that you have another offer in hand. I may not be able to speed up our internal processes to meet the other offer deadline. I'm certainly not going to hold it against you - you are looking for a job and want to know if you have options, a position most of us have been in...
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 21 at 22:45
  • @JonCuster thanks! Quick follow-up. Even if you're choosing just between me and another candidate that did not notify of another offer, wouldn't my notification tend to make you more inclined to choose the other candidate? For whatever reason, e.g. the greater likelihood that he, among the two good options, would be more inclined to accept the offer? I think that in particular in the postdoc context where there's little to no room to negotiating offers
    – hannah
    Feb 21 at 23:56
  • 2
    If I make an offer I want to hire that person. Don’t overthink this.
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 22 at 2:09
  • If you are not negotiating or suspecting there will be delay in offering offer letter from B, I won’t bother to inform. But still I suggest to inform both parties so that you can negotiate salary and benefits. You can always negotiate these things in your favor. I recommend negotiating without being forceful. Feb 23 at 14:38

3 Answers 3

6

Generally speaking, postdoc offers are not significantly negotiable. There is no advantage to collecting additional offers. Also, offers are generally comparable to each other in terms of salary and benefits.

If you would prefer Department B to Department A, then by all means let Department B know that you have an offer from A but would prefer to work at B. Let them know when your deadline for A is. (This is not a binding commitment; if the offer at B turns out to be terrible you don't have to accept it.)

If you're unlikely to accept an offer at B because you generally prefer A anyway, don't bother.

3
  • Thanks! My question came not really from the idea of negotiating offers, but more like to make sure that, if university B was to make me an offer, they let me know before I have to reply to A. However, both being postdocs, I am concerned that such an email may harm my chances of getting the offer from B. For example because they prefer to give to another candidate slightly below in their preference rank but with no second disputing offer.
    – hannah
    Feb 21 at 20:43
  • @hannah, they might not know of any "second" offers. Don't overthink it.
    – Buffy
    Feb 21 at 20:51
  • 1
    @hannah They're hiring someone to do a job for them; their top priority is hiring the best person for the job. Why would it change who you think is the best person to know that someone else also thinks they're qualified for their job?
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 23 at 14:47
2

This carries some risk unless you word any such letter carefully. Don't make it sound like you aren't interested and don't make it sound like extortion.

Personally, I would wait until you need to make a decision if the place making the offer would please you.

And, I'd guess your information about "helping you get other offers" is a bit misplaced and far from universal. If they have ranked the candidates already this information isn't likely to change that. If you are at the top of their ranking, you might get a somewhat earlier offer, but not one you wouldn't get in due course.

Risky.

Since B's finalization is promised (sort of) before your decision on A is due, I'd wait to send a mail until close to B's date (or close to the A decision point), letting them know that you have a decision to make elsewhere. If you are at the top of the rank they might put out the offer soonest, but you might still have different drop-dead dates to deal with.

2
  • Thanks for you answer! Do you think that only regarding postdocs or also regarding Tenure Track positions? I got the impression that you think that also about Tenure Track searches - in which case I would be a bit surprised given that I nearly universally found the advice of notifying places about a receiving offer.
    – hannah
    Feb 21 at 20:29
  • My guess/opinion is that it applies to both. I wouldn't be swayed in a TT application. If we already really wanted you we might speed it up a bit (after application deadlines, of course), but if others fit our criteria better than candidate X the news wouldn't change that. Your mileage may differ. Different story if you have two offers, perhaps.
    – Buffy
    Feb 21 at 20:32
0

If you know for certain that you would prefer University B to A, all other things being equal, write a brief email to B expressing your enthusiasm and let them know you have a deadline. Do the same if you are not sure and it would depend on details of B's offer (salary etc.).

If you are certain you'll prefer A to B, do nothing.

I realize this is very similar to a previous answer. Where this differs is in the following:

  1. Postdocs are often not negotiable, but occasionally this is not the case. You have very little leverage even with an additional offer, but it can hardly hurt.

  2. Postdoc offers can vary widely in their underlying job particulars. Over the course of a search I did 4 years ago I had offers ranging from 0 teaching to 2-1, durations from 1.5 to 3 years, salaries from $45k-60k (this was math), 0-$5k relocation, 0-$5k annual travel stipend, and a solo office vs a shared office. These were nowhere close to equally comparable.

It never hurts to have more information. If Uni B throws out your application over a polite email informing them you now have a deadline, you don't want to work there anyways.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .