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I was recently offered a term position (VAP) from a good school, and was given one week to respond. I am still waiting to hear about a tenure-track position from another school – I already emailed them about the offer I received, and told them my timeline to accept it was the end of the week. I haven’t heard back from them, although I sent the chair a thank you after my campus visit and he responded quickly. I assume they received my notice and are still deliberating and will hopefully get back to me in time, but I’m not sure if I should call soon.

I also was told I am a frontrunner for a pretty good postdoc, but I won’t hear back until early next week. In potentially the former and definitely the latter case, I won’t know until after I’m supposed to tell the first school about my decision. Would it be classless to ask for a small extension on the offer? Or will it put my chances for the position in jeopardy? I honestly went to the campus very recently and didn’t expect to hear back for a few weeks, so I don’t know what that means for their search either. I don’t want to jeopardize the offer but the two I’m waiting on are my other top contenders.

  • Could this question be edited to say, "When can I ask for an extension..." to make it more broadly applicable? (I'm not sure how broad is too broad.) – jvriesem Apr 19 '17 at 18:03
  • No; you are not allowed. – Jacob Murray Wakem Apr 19 '17 at 19:47
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Or will it put my chances for the position in jeopardy?

The position has been offered to you. The typical advice is the worst thing that can happen is they say no. There are some horror stories were an offer was revoked, but I would suggest you question wanting to work in any department that behaves that way.

It is completely reasonable to ask for a week or two week extension. When a school moves fast between visit and offer, it is unlikely you will get more than a week or two extension. That said, it cannot hurt to ask.

  • For the OP to remember - they want you, but likely have others who are also suitable who are 'dangling' waiting your response. Usually a week or two is fine, stretching it out by months means there is an unfilled position that needs to be filled. – Jon Custer Apr 19 '17 at 16:21
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    To be clear: the (horrible!) horror story of the revoked offer involved someone who was negotiating for a better offer. To revoke an offer just because someone asks about an extension -- it's really a stretch to view that as a form of negotiation, so I think that, while perhaps legal, it would be horrible on top of horrible to get the offer rescinded for that reason. As you say, if someone actually didn't get the job for that reason, it must be for the best, so I think this is not even worth worrying about. – Pete L. Clark Apr 19 '17 at 19:10
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I have chaired faculty search committees before and this is a common problem. Most likely, they are giving you a short deadline because they do not want to lose other candidates that they like and are willing to hire while you take time to consider the offer made to you.

In most cases, if you can give them a short and specific extension they would be willing to grant it. For instance, stating that you had a campus visit last week and that you believe that you expect to hear back within the next week is a reasonable and professional request to extent the offer by an additional week. We have had candidates ask for an extra month so that they can go on additional campus visits that were weeks into the future and have said "no" to that, but there is greater uncertainty.

At worst, if they decline the extension you have a decision to make. It's a gamble. With academic jobs, it's like the saying, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Being told you are a front runner for the post-doc, does not mean you have that job. I would call the chair of the search committee for the position you are waiting on and try to see when their decision will be made. You have a reason to call them, so don't feel like you are bothering him or her.

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