My question is all about academic job offers. This is my first time on the job market post PhD, so I'm completely new to this. Here's my dilemma:

I was interviewed for an academic position last month at University A and they made me an offer today, but want me to decide within the next two weeks. The job at University A is ok, and actually pays very well (more than I expected) but is in a location both my spouse (a non-academic) and I greatly dislike. And I am not completely thrilled about the job itself. I think for the most part I'd enjoy it, but there's a lot more "managerial" aspects that I am not particularly interested in.

I found my dream academic job at University B and applied there a couple of weeks ago. University B is in a location that both my spouse and I love, but it would pay less than the job at University A. I am extremely qualified for the position at University B and am confident that my application will stand out. But, they are still taking applications for another week. The problem is that the timelines are really not matching up here.

If I had both offers in hand, I'd take University B, even for less money. I am that much more excited about the position and the location. The problem is, I don't know when University B will really make decisions. I'd like to email or call someone to try to speed things up, but don't really know the correct etiquette in academia.

I guess what I'm asking is this: what's the most appropriate way to call University B and say "I recently applied for this position, and I think I'd be a great fit, but I have another offer in hand. I'd much rather be a part of University B's project, however. When might you know what candidates you are interested in?" I don't want to be rude or sound arrogant, but really think I have a good chance if they can move fast enough.

  • This isn't particularly specific to academics. There are a number of questions on The Workplace about similar situations (though this specific question would be off-topic there). They may help provide some insight. – Telastyn Feb 6 '15 at 16:52
  • What kind of position is it at Uni B? – Bill Barth Feb 6 '15 at 19:05
  • You can certainly ask University A for an extension. They might not grant it, but you might point out that your spouse loves City B and you promised him/her you would investigate this opportunity fully. – Anonymous Feb 7 '15 at 13:54

I recently applied for this position, and I think I'd be a great fit, but I have another offer in hand. I'd much rather be a part of University B's project, however. When might you know what candidates you are interested in?"

That is almost perfect. Instead of asking when they will know, tell them when you need to know by. With two weeks notice it is not clear what they can do, but they probably could tell you if you are ridiculously strong (think an associate professor who is ready to be promoted to full professor applying for an assistant professor position), a reasonable candidate, or not in the running. You may want to talk to the university that made the offer and see if the deadline can be extended.

For an extremely qualified candidate with an application that stands out, and I find that a dubious statement, a university could move you to the top of the short list, interview you, and make an offer in under a week. That said, it is extremely unlikely that a search committee would be so impressed that it decides to move that fast.

  • I don't find this claim dubious. If you are say an R1 level professor with great teaching experience and desire to be at a teaching college mentoring mainly undergrads (more common than you'd expect among people who do great research) this claim makes a lot of sense. – WetlabStudent Feb 6 '15 at 23:18
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    @WetLabStudent: Yes, the scenario you describe is relatively common...but such candidates often have a hard time convincing the "teaching college" that they're the right person for the job. In general, the job market is so competitive now that I raise an eyebrow at any candidate for any academic job who is confident that their application will stand out. Conversely, if the candidate is truly overqualified for a position then he will have to work to convince the hiring committee that he is sincerely interested: many departments do not simply offer the job to the strongest candidate! – Pete L. Clark Feb 7 '15 at 5:21
  • "For an extremely qualified candidate..." This is presumably true at some places, but unfortunately some places impose hoops to jump through, and the process can sometimes not be rushed. – Anonymous Feb 7 '15 at 13:51

this is my... time on the job market

... that says it all, really. Unfortunately, in the "job market" it's employers vs employees, manipulating each other to get the better of each other. In this capitalist world of ours, and with the dearth of tenured positions, this is almost unavoidable. So,

Can I use one job offer to speed up another offer...?

Yes, and it's customary to do so.

I guess what I'm asking is this: what's the most appropriate way to call University B and say etc. etc.

I basically agree with @StrongBad here. I'd change your text to:

I recently applied for this position, I think I'd be a great fit and I would really like to join the faculty at University B. However, I have an outstanding offer from University A to which I must reply soon. Do you believe you / the university / person X would be able to indicate already at this point whether you are likely to make me the offer?

That doesn't sound too arrogant IMHO. However, in many universities the hiring process is quite involved, long, and cannot be sped up much if at all; if that's the case at University B then, yes, you might come off as having an overly high opinion of yourself, so check before you ask.

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