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When one is fortunate enough to have multiple tenure-track offers that are roughly similar (research-focused institutions, similar levels of prestige, salary offered and teaching load), what factors should one consider?

Naturally, the weight of different factors can be subjective, so I am more interested in what types of things to consider and why, rather than what is the final choice that should be made.

  • There's a pretty strong overlap with this question. – Bill Barth Jul 16 '15 at 16:44
  • @BillBarth thanks - I saw that question. My question is focused on which factors should be considered, some of which cannot be affected by negotiation (e.g. geographical location). – Bitwise Jul 16 '15 at 18:19
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    Howard Raiffa is one of the founders of Decision Theory, and he would talk about the time he was torn between competing offers from Harvard and Princeton. His colleagues asked him why he didn't apply his own methods to his decision, and he said, "But this is for real!" – Matthew Leingang Jul 16 '15 at 18:23
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    @MatthewLeingang nice anecdote. I guess this is why some people say that in this kind of situation you should just ignore all rational considerations and go with your gut feelings. – Bitwise Jul 16 '15 at 19:21
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You might want to check into details about "tenure track." At some institutions this means they won't automatically fire you at the end of your appointment period, but your chances of actually getting tenure are very low. At others, tenure-track faculty who do a reasonably good job are almost sure to get tenure. And of course, there's a whole spectrum of meanings for "tenure track" between these two extremes. (My own department's official policy is to make tenure-track offers only when we think there's at least a 50-50 chance of the person's getting tenure; in fact, our promotion record in recent times has been way better than 50-50.) I'd suggest you find out, from each of the departments that offered you a tenure-track position, what percentage of the people hired into such positions in, say, the last 15 years got tenure. (You might also ask what happened to the others. Were they denied tenure? Did they leave voluntarily for other jobs before coming up for tenure? Did they leave "voluntarily" because they realized they were unlikely to get tenure?)

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In the U.S., for a "state university", stability and robustness of the state's economy, and related political volatility (and popular/political attitudes about higher education) will have a significant long-term effect.

For that matter, ambient socio-political attitudes will have a direct impact on whether one "feels at home".

Relative price of real estate! Can you afford to buy a house (supposing you want to)?

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If both offers are roughly similar, I believe you should consider the following things: likability of department faculty (can I get along with these people and build lasting relationships?), where you will be living (example: Offer A has a better climate, more opportunities for R&R), family (will my significant other enjoy this location?, and if you have kids, will this be a great location to raise them?), etc. So basically, which location do you better see yourself?

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I'm not sure what field you are in, but you could compare opportunities for collaboration with external institutions. E.g. in Germany you'd look whether the relevant Max Planck Institute or DLR (German Aerospace Center) is located in your city or already has a collaboration with you university.

For some fields, it can also make a difference to be near relevant industry to ease getting collaboration and funding for research projects from them.

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