Q: My question concerns how to handle one job offer for a less-than- ideal position while waiting (and hoping) for the job offer that I really want. Besides any other advice you can give, I would like to know how to handle the concrete offer. How much time is reasonable for “considering the offer?” Do I need to explain that I am seriously looking at another job and would probably take it if it were offered? Knowing how long the search process can sometimes take, if I accept the concrete offer, is it unprofessional to change my mind if I land the other job before I start work on the first? If the search process takes a long time, and I have already started the first job, how do I manage to get time off for the interview process when brand new in a position? Is it then a “black mark” to quit the first job after having already started it? If you can refer me to some good resources on the subject, particularly in the field of library employment, that would be great!
TA: This is actually a pretty common question, with a rather simple answer, so my comments will be brief. The actual decision-making and implementation are more difficult, though, and may take a good deal of time and thought.
So, you have an offer from “Institution A,” and you would like an interview/offer from “Institution B.” The first thing you need to do is ask for time from Institution A to consider their offer. You do not need to tell them you are considering other options. All you need to say is that you need to consider the offer, and you would like to take a few days. Human resources personnel expect you to take your time to think things over, so you could probably negotiate four or five days to consider the offer. Ask for the time you need, and take your cues from the HR person. If they ask for an answer sooner, ask them how much time they are willing to give you, and decide if that is enough.
Then, immediately turn around and contact Institution B. Tell them that you remain interested in their position, but that you have another offer on the table (without mentioning the name of Institution A). Ask Institution B if they can tell you where they are in the search process, and if you are still a viable candidate in the pool. You will be able to tell a lot from their answer. If they are still reviewing applications, it may be a while before they contact candidates. If they are interviewing applicants, and you are not one of them, they may be able to tell you if your application is still active or if you have been eliminated from further consideration. If they really want you in the pool, Institution B may tell you, and may be able to expedite the search process to keep you.
I would strongly caution against accepting a position simply to “bide your time” until you hear from Institution B. This is a real disservice to Institution A, and, depending on how quickly you leave the position, you may not leave the impression you’d like. If at all possible, once you accept a position, you should plan on being there at least one to three years. I cannot stress enough that the library profession is very small – people know people who know people. It would serve you well to be the ultimate professional in all that you do, even before you take the job.
For other articles on the job search process, specifically in the library and information science profession, take a look at LISCareer.com.