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Job Offers and Next Steps

Assessing and Comparing Offers

While you may be thrilled to have an academic job offer in hand (and even more so if you have two or more offers), it’s important to take your time and assess the offer(s) carefully before accepting a position.

For each offer, consider such factors as:

  • General "fit": How comfortable did you feel during your interview? Did you like your prospective colleagues and department head?  How did you feel about the campus? Could you picture yourself working and being happy there?  Considerations of the school’s size and location (rural vs. urban) are also important.
  • Opportunities for your family: If you are in a long-term relationship, are there job opportunities for your partner/spouse in the town or city where you would be working? If you have or are considering having children, what are schools are like in the area?
  • Facilities: What will your working conditions be like?  Will you have your own office, desk, and computer?  What are the library facilities like?  What are the research spaces like?
  • Salary: Does it seem fair?  Consider the cost of living in the relevant location and check out general salary information for faculty (available through the Chronicle of Higher Education).
  • Benefits package: What is included? How much of the premium are you expected to pay? When would your health care coverage start? If you have a partner/spouse and/or children, would the plan cover them? What type of retirement plan is offered?  What other benefits are available for you and your family (tuition discount, child care, etc.)?
  • Terms of the appointment: Are you being offered a nine- or twelve-month position? If a nine-month position, are you expected to support yourself during the summer?  Is the salary divided up over the course of a full year?
  • Start-up package: What is included?  How much research support is included and for how long?
  • Course load: If your position includes teaching responsibilities, how many classes will you be expected to teach each semester?  How many students are expected in each class?  Are you teaching undergraduate students, graduate students, or both?  Will you be expected to teach in the summer?
  • Other roles: Will you be expected to advise or mentor undergraduate students?  Graduate students?  Honors students?
  • Support: Will you have clerical support available to you?  Is there a faculty mentoring program?
  • Evaluation: How will your teaching and research be evaluated?  How often and by whom?
  • Tenure: If you are considering a tenure-track position, what are the requirements for tenure and promotion?  In general, what percentage of the faculty who go through the process are ultimately granted tenure?  If you are a woman who is planning to have children, does the tenure clock stop for a period of time after your child’s birth?

Negotiations

Before you decide whether or not to accept the job, you might be able to negotiate some aspects of your offer with the department, including:

  • A higher starting salary
  • A larger start-up package
  • More health benefits (although these are often fixed for all employees of an institution)
  • Help finding housing
  • Assistance with moving expenses, or a portion thereof
  • Assistance in getting a job for your partner/spouse

If you are going to negotiate, be sure to be professional and collaborative.  If the department agrees to change the offer as a result of your negotiations, ask for a copy of the amended offer in writing.

Making Your Decision

Ultimately you have to make a choice about your job offer or offers. Most institution will give you two to four weeks to consider an offer and may be willing to give you additional time if needed. If you feel that you need additional time before you can make a commitment, contact the person who made the offer to discuss how much extra time would be reasonable. If you want to discuss the pros and cons of your offers before accepting one, contact us to set up an appointment.

Once you have made your choice, notify the institution in writing (by email is fine).  Send the notification to the person who made you the offer and indicate that you accept all terms of the offer, including salary, benefits, and start date. Be sure to thank the contact for the opportunity and indicate that you are excited about the position.  Review the message carefully before sending to ensure that your spelling and grammar are flawless.

It’s equally important that you follow up in a timely way with any other institutions whose offers you have chosen not to accept (if applicable).  Send a brief email message to each individual who made you an offer, express your appreciation, and offer a general reason why you are not accepting the offer (for example, you received another offer for a position that was a better fit for you).  Never say anything negative about the institution.

If you have interviewed with any other institutions, even if you do not yet have offers, notify them that you have accepted a position and wish to withdraw your candidacy. Cancel any further interviews that you have scheduled.

It is dishonest to continue with the job search process once you have accepted a position.  Reneging on a job offer—that is, accepting the offer and then declining it at a later time—is unethical and can damage your professional reputation, both now and in the future as academic communities within individual engineering disciplines are relatively small.

 

Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032