I am in contact with institution A about a potential tenure track position. Meanwhile another institution, let's call it B, has offered me a position. Naturally, I have to mention to A that B has made an offer.

Should I mention the name of B to A when being asked? Or should I just say "another institution has made an offer?

  • It depends. Is the other institution Harvard, or the local community college? – Corvus Feb 13 '15 at 2:55
  • I think it is sufficient to say which institution you would prefer to work for, and the deadline by which you need to decide. I suppose there is a risk A might contact B and tell them you are a terrible person. – Anonymous Physicist Feb 13 '15 at 3:01
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    Presumably you prefer A to B, because otherwise you could just accept B's offer and withdraw your application from A. Then you should inform A that, although you have another offer, you prefer A. I don't see any reason why you need to tell A that the other offer is from B, though I think that people have done so in analogous situations that I've seen. – Andreas Blass Feb 13 '15 at 3:19
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    @Corvus: I would say institution B is the higher ranking one (compared to A), but my preference is towards A for family reasons. – quirlyburly Feb 13 '15 at 3:51
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    Then you should not be the least bit afraid to let them know that you have an offer from B. See my comment to Bob Brown below. – Corvus Feb 13 '15 at 5:20

You may not have a choice. If I were A and you were to tell me you had an offer from another school, I would immediately ask the name of the school B.

Your refusing to tell me B's name may raise some red flags for me (indicating a level of shiftiness about your candidacy that I may not have been aware of). I cannot think of a good reason why you wouldn't tell me -- other than B is so far below my institution's rank that it'd be laughable (aka, A=MIT and B=Poconos Community College).

However, if B=CalTech and A=MIT, then I would very much make sure that we were processing your application with all due haste.

With the new details that A=preferred for personal reasons but B=higher ranked, then certainly you can tell A that you have an offer from B. It would likely lead to increased interest in your candidacy if A is at least somewhere the same ballpark as B.

That is, if A were Poconos Comm College and B were CalTech, then A may feel that there is no possibility of getting you and drop you even before an offer for being overqualified. You need to emphasize why you are so interested in A.

Note that lying is a bad idea. If we phoned our colleague at CalTech and they had no idea who you were, you'd be immediately dropped.

  • Well, I'm a bit worried about faculty from A calling up the colleagues of B with whom I've come pretty far along in the process and who so far had no idea about me also applying at A... – quirlyburly Feb 13 '15 at 7:08
  • People assume that when you're on the job market, you are applying to other jobs. I wouldn't be worried. – RoboKaren Feb 13 '15 at 11:24

Tell A that you would prefer to work for them, but that you have another offer which you must accept or decline by [date certain] and ask whether they can help you. It is neither necessary nor helpful to name B.

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    I disagree that it is not helpful to name B. In all likelihood, we'd want to know B to know if it's a comparable offer, better offer, etc. – Geoff Hutchison Feb 13 '15 at 4:43
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    This seems wrong to me. If I know that a candidate has an offer at an equally-ranked or higher-ranked school, that can be very useful leverage as I negotiate with the dean to provide the candidate with the best possible salary and startup package. – Corvus Feb 13 '15 at 5:20

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