This handbook of placement practices is prepared as a guide to job candidates, departments attempting to place their students, and departments attempting to appoint new faculty members. It should be recognized that candidate and department needs and resources will vary and that different practices may be appropriate depending on the context. However, it is the judgment of the APA that the practices recommended below represent best practices for candidates and departments to work to attain. There are three sections to this document: practices for candidates, practices for placing departments, and practices for hiring departments.
The current job market in philosophy is poor, and is anticipated to remain so for the near-term future. It is important for departments that maintain graduate programs to provide as much support for their graduate students as possible in negotiating these circumstances.
Some departments are experimenting with electronic placement services. This may be a helpful development for candidates and departments, although its use is not widespread as yet. The APA encourages candidates and departments to monitor this development and update the Committee on Academic Career Opportunities and Placement concerning whether to recommend the use of these services.
The material in this Handbook is based on the collective wisdom of the APA’s Committee on Academic Career Opportunities and Placement and has been approved by the APA Board of Officers. The suggestions in this Handbook may not fit all circumstances. Nonetheless, we hope that some of what we recommend will prove helpful. Job seeking and running a search are among the most difficult things that people can engage in. Anything that reduces that difficulty has value.
Table of Contents
See also, Guidance for Philosophy Job Seekers.
I. Best Practices for Placing Departments
A. Responsibilities of placement director
B. Candidate preparation and dossier
C. Unethical practices
II. Best Practices for Hiring Departments
A. Advertising positions
B. Arranging interviews
C. On campus visits and offers
Throughout this document, there are comments about research-focused positions and teaching-focused positions. One of the major recent shifts in the profession of philosophy is a focus on making faculty at community colleges feel more like a part of the profession. In any given year, there are probably more philosophers hired at community colleges than at any other type of institution. Another recent development is the creation of "teaching-track” positions at research institutions. These are positions with little or no research expectations but higher teaching loads. Whatever one thinks of the desirability of this second development, candidates need to be aware that the process for applying for teaching-track jobs and for community college jobs is significantly different from applying for positions with significant research expectations. The division between research-focused positions and teaching-focused positions is, of course, a matter of degree, not kind. Very few institutions have no teaching mission and very few have no research mission. Nevertheless, there are important differences between hiring practices at institutions at various places on this continuum. One goal of this Handbook is to help all philosophers become more informed about the variety of placement practices.
I. Best Practice for Placing Departments
The primary responsibilities of a placing department are for their junior candidates. Departments should be encouraged, however, to offer continued support for more advanced candidates to the extent possible. The placement advice provided here refers primarily to junior candidates.
The timing of the recruitment cycle at many research-focused philosophy departments in the U.S. is tightly constrained by the need to have all hiring for the Fall completed in the Spring, by the competitive nature of the recruitment process, and by the tradition of performing initial screening of applicants at the APA’s Eastern Division annual meeting. The timing of recruitment at many teaching-focused institutions is significantly later and more varied than at research-focused institutions. In this market, it is not uncommon for positions to start in January and the recruitment cycle is essentially going on year-round. This combination of constraints and diversity puts a heavy burden on new Ph.D.s and ABDs on the market. Students will be finishing or only recently have finished their dissertations and need help making the abrupt transition from student to faculty. It is important that departments that maintain Ph.D. programs to provide as much support for job candidates as possible. Naturally resources available to departments will vary, however every effort should be made to make this transition at least less mysterious if not less onerous.
A. Responsibilities of Placement Directors
The responsibilities of placement directors include orienting each new cohort of graduate students; advising individual students about all aspects of jobs in philosophy; assisting job seekers with the preparation of dossiers, mock off-campus interviews, the APA process, and preparation for on-campus visits; and keeping up to date with current APA policies.
Orienting each new cohort of graduate students.
Each incoming group of graduate students should be made aware of the difficulty of finding jobs in philosophy. The "professionalization” of graduate students should begin early: they should be advised about preparation of a curriculum vita, the need to publish, and the need to have teaching experience for many if not most positions. Given the poor job market in philosophy, graduate students should also be advised to keep open minds about alternatives to a career in philosophy.
Advising individual graduate students about all aspects of jobs in philosophy.
Placement directors should recommend that job seekers become members of the APA and aware of the APA’s placement services, statements, and literature. Placement directors should advise job seekers to consult PhilJobs: Jobs For Philosophers, as well as The Chronicle of Higher Education, web resources, and job-related publications from other disciplines, as appropriate.
Placement directors should forward e-mailed job ads to candidates that are publicized via various professional listservs.
Placement directors should advise job seekers about differences in job expectations, given differences in the kinds of jobs in philosophy (e.g., tenure track vs. multiple-year non-tenure track; community college positions vs. four-year college or university positions; teaching vs. research institutions). Placement directors should also provide advice about collegiality, service expectations, what departments look for in a candidate, and so on.
Placement directors should maintain, to the extent possible, good communication links with all graduate students. Good communication is especially important for those students currently on the market. Regular e-mail contact is often a source of moral support for job seekers, as well as of information for placement directors.
Assisting job-seekers in the preparation of their dossiers.
Placement directors should advise job seekers about appropriate content and length of cover letters, when and how to solicit letters for their confidential files, and the creation of a curriculum vita, a teaching folio, and research statement.
Confidential letters of reference should be reviewed for consistency about important dates (e.g., the date of the dissertation defense) and for inaccuracies (e.g., in statements about when the candidate entered the program or what courses the candidate has taught). Any clear inaccuracies should be brought to the attention of the letter writer and corrected if possible. Placement directors also should review letters for significantly inappropriate material (e.g., intentional or unintentional "poison pills,” unprofessional comments) and confer if possible with the author of the letter about the advisability of removing or revising this material.
Placement directors should be aware that the letters of reference prepared for research-focused institutions may be inappropriate for some teaching-focused institutions. Letters that focus on research and include a standard line such as "while I have never seen her teach, Dr. X is an outgoing person so I am sure that she will teach well” can be unintentional "poison pills.” The best practice is for candidates to have two sets of letters: one for research-focused institutions and another for teaching-focused institutions. The best letters of reference for teaching-focused institutions will show a solid knowledge of a candidate’s teaching abilities based on review of course materials (e.g., syllabi, handouts, etc.), analysis of teaching evaluations, and multiple personal classroom observations.
Arranging mock interviews and mock job talks for candidates.
Placement directors should arrange at least one mock interview for job candidates, and ensure that appropriate feedback is provided. At least one mock job talk should also be arranged, again, with appropriate feedback. The best practice for candidates planning to apply for jobs at both researched-focused and teaching-focused institutions is to arrange two mock interviews. Placement directors should consider asking faculty at local teaching-focused institutions (e.g., a local community college) to participate in a mock interview. Placement directors should also be aware of the increasing frequency of telephone or internet-based interviews, and help candidates prepare for interviews in these formats.
Attending APA meetings where the Department’s graduates are seeking jobs.
If they have candidates with interviews at an APA meeting, placement directors should try to attend the meetings, should attend receptions, and be available to candidates as needed at these events. If placement directors are unavailable to attend these meetings, they should attempt to identify other faculty members who will be present and provide them with information about department candidates seeking placement at the meeting. When no faculty members from a department are attending a given APA meeting, any candidates seeking jobs at that meeting should be informed of this fact and counseled in advance about what to expect at the meeting, what resources are available at the meeting (e.g., the APA placement ombudsperson), and how to contact the department should the need arise for advice during the meeting.
Staying up-to-date with APA statements and statistics about placement, as well as placement procedures.
Placement directors should be aware of the current situation in the philosophy job market, as well as current APA placement procedures, and should be able to advise job seekers accordingly. They should not assume that their experiences on the market are representative. In particular, many faculty at Ph.D. granting departments will need to make efforts to become and stay informed about the hiring practices at teaching-focused institutions (including community colleges).
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B. Candidate and Dossier Preparation
Candidates should be made aware of the contents of a proper dossier and should work with the placement director to ensure that all needed materials are included.
A standard dossier will contain: CV with contact information, the title of the dissertation and the committee membership, higher educational history, AOS(s) and AOC(s), a list of publications, graduate courses taken, and courses the candidate is now prepared to teach; lettersfrom advisors and teaching mentors; waivers of the candidates’ right to examine letters of reference to the extent that these waivers are legally recognized; writing sample(s) that are stand alone documents indicating the candidate’s special expertise but which are accessible to general audiences; research interests statement; teaching statement outlining both the candidates approach to teaching and areas of teaching interest; syllabusesfor courses taught as well as for courses the candidate is now prepared to teach; course teaching evaluations if available (numerical and written);transcripts, which may at early stages be unofficial copies, and which are needed only at a small number of departments.
Candidates who are applying to both research-focused and teaching-focused institutions will need to have two dossiers. The CVs, research interest statement, and teaching statement should be revised for these two different types of institutions. See Section I for more information on this issue.
It is preferable for departments to hold at least copies of the candidate’s letters of reference to be sent out to schools at the candidate’s request. This will give candidates some measure of control over the timing of letters being sent out (rather than relying on multiple faculty to send many letters with a variety of deadlines) and ease the burden on faculty (who are otherwise required to send many copies of the same letter with a variety of deadlines).
In addition to managing letters, departments can help candidates by keeping the entire dossier ready for copying and shipping. This does, however, substantially increase the administrative burden on departments. As an alternative to direct management of dossiers by departments, there are also now commercial dossier management systems online which will store and ship dossiers at the candidate’s request. These can be expensive for candidates applying to many positions, but do save work for home departments.
Cover letters are best kept separate and written by the candidate for each individual school.
The placement director should at a minimum communicate with each candidate regarding the process of hiring in the profession. This communication should address: key moments of the process, especially APA and campus interviews; letter solicitation and timing; CV preparation; cover letter writing; selection of writing sample(s); the production of statements regarding teaching and research. Preparing these documents is a demanding task and junior candidates will often lack necessary experience in their preparation. Oversight by the placement committee is an important part of preparing candidates for the market.
Letters of reference.
Many students do not have experience asking faculty for letters of reference, and indeed many are unsure whom they should ask to write letters. With first applications now due at the end of October students will need to be approaching their faculty for letters at more or less the beginning of Fall term.
Interviews are daunting, especially the first few times. If resources allow, candidates should be offered mock interviews (both convention and phone, and later campus style) and feedback on these interviews. At a minimum, candidates should be acquainted with the basic structure of these interviews.
Students will need to present evidence of their teaching abilities in the dossier. An important part of this evidence is a letter from a teaching mentor or other faculty member who has observed and can report on a candidate’s abilities. It is best if there are multiple observations over an extended time, allowing for a more complete evaluation and for candidate growth in response to feedback.
In general, candidates should realize that hiring departments will receive a great many applications and it is in their interest to make their dossiers as clear and complete as reasonably possible. Candidates should take seriously the areas of specialization and competence noted by the hiring departments. While candidates understandably want to apply broadly, it is a waste of money and time to apply for positions if one has to "shoehorn” oneself into the AOS/AOC.
Candidates should carefully follow the instructions for applying and be sure to submit all requested material in a timely fashion. Candidates should be aware that, due to human limits on attention span, dossiers that arrive in the last minute rush immediately before the deadline sometimes do not get reviewed as carefully as dossiers that arrive a bit before the deadline.
In general, hiring departments prefer to receive one and only one writing sample. Members of hiring committees are sometimes annoyed by candidates who send it several samples and request that departments pick the one they like best. Given time constraints, it is usually not possible for hiring committees to do this. However, it is to candidates’ advantage to make all works mentioned on their CV easily accessible. Personal web pages are ideal for this purpose.
Candidates should be aware of their web presence. Members of hiring committees and university officials sometimes search the web for information about candidates. Personal web pages should be professional and graduate students should reflect on the fact that items put on the web are often difficult to remove. Candidates should review the privacy settings on their social networking accounts.
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C. Unethical Practices for Placing Departments
Placement officers should not let their personal relationships with candidates affect the advice they give to candidates about positions. Only a candidate’s (1) philosophical ability, (2) work ethic, (3) teaching ability, and (4) any other information that can affect the candidate’s ability as a professional philosopher should influence this advice. Personal information such as race, gender identity, religion, political conviction, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, and actual or perceived medical condition, is irrelevant.
Departments should publish complete and accurate placement records on their websites.
These statistics should include, at a minimum:
- the number of students applying to the program by year.
- the number of students accepted into the program by year.
- information about the profile of accepted students (GRE scores, sending institution, etc.)
- the number of students enrolling into the program by year.
- the graduation rate of each cohort of incoming students.
- the placement of each and every graduating student.
Departments should not mislead prospective students by reporting only those successful candidates who found jobs.
Departments should submit a candidate’s dossier and information only for positions which the candidate is interested in and has given his/her consent for. Applying for positions which the candidate is not interested in can not only harm the university conducting the search, but also the chances of those candidates who knowingly apply for the position. Graduate departments submitting dossiers on behalf of job seekers should either attest explicitly that the job seekers wish to be considered for the positions in question or (preferably) ensure that the job seekers themselves submit personal letters of application for these positions. Departments should follow the APA Statement on Placement Practices (1994), which reads: "The APA discourages the nomination by graduate departments of job seekers for positions in philosophy, and the submission of their dossiers in response to announcements of positions, without their knowledge or interest. This may seriously mislead those who are conducting searches, and may have unfortunate consequences both for them and for genuinely interested applicants.”
Letters of Recommendation.
Letters of recommendation should be honest evaluations of a candidate’s philosophical and professional abilities. Faculty should only write letters of recommendation when they have good knowledge of a candidate’s abilities. Faculty who write letters of recommendation should limit their statements to the candidate’s (1) philosophical ability, (2) work ethic, (3) teaching ability, and (4) any other information that can affect the candidate’s ability as a professional philosopher and member of an academic community.
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II. Best Practices for Hiring Departments
A. Advertising Positions
Job advertisements should be consistent with the APA Nondiscrimination Statement. The advertisements should list all of the key criteria that will be used by the search committee and the department in evaluating applications. For instance, for the sake of transparency the advertisement should specify whether the department has a preference for candidates with a particular pedigree. See the APA’s statement on Clarification of Qualifications. Information for preparing a job advertisement is available at PhilJobs: Jobs for Philosophers.
The best practice is for all full-time positions to be advertised in PhilJobs: Jobs for Philosophers. The fact that many teaching-focused institutions do not advertise in PhilJobs: Jobs for Philosophers is a significant barrier both to qualified candidates learning of positions that are of interest to them and to philosopher programs getting the best quality candidates in their pools.
B. Off-campus interviews
Practices for Hiring Departments.
The traditional practice of having off-campus interviews at an APA meeting has recently been questioned. Some argue that the physical meetings provided by APA interviews allow for a better sense of candidates and that candidates benefit from attending APA meetings. Others argue that video interviews (aka Skype interviews) provide a better sense of candidates because both candidates and interviewers do not suffer from the fatigue of conducting many interviews in a compressed time frame. They also argue that the benefits of attending APA meetings do not justify its significant costs. The Committee recognizes that this is an area where reasonable minds can come to different conclusions.
Evidence indicates that interviews with a definite (but flexible) structure are more likely to provide good information. Hiring departments should take some time before the interviews to set up a structure for the interviews. As a courtesy, they should run over this structure with each candidate at the start of each interview.
Upon arrival at the APA meetings to interview, hiring departments should register with the APA placement service and indicate where interviews will take place. While emailing and calling candidates to provide this information can be useful, they are not a substitute for official information held with the APA placement service.
In 2004, the Board of Officers of the APA adopted a policy that "departments should not conduct job interviews in non-suite hotel rooms. Candidates who are subject to such interviews can appeal to the APA and are guaranteed anonymity.” Departments should be aware that many hotels label certain rooms as "suites” (e.g., "Executive Suite,” "Junior Suite”) when room are not suites but merely larger rooms. The key point is that a bed should not be visible. Departments should make inquiries about this point when reserving a suite. If no suite is available in the conference hotel, acceptable alternatives include: a suite at a near-by hotel, a meeting room, or the APA placement tables. Interviewing in a room with a bed is not an acceptable alternative.
If the interview takes place in a hotel suite, it should be orderly. Interviewees should be offered water and be seated in a chair (not, e.g., on a coffee table).
Both candidates and departments should test their video technology before an interview to insure that lighting, sound, and other arrangements are adequate. They should exchange (non-Skype) phone numbers so that contact can be made in the event of technical problems. Both candidates and departments should make sure that both interview settings are appropriately professional and take steps to insure a distraction free interview. For example, pets should be closed out of the interview space and people should not walk across the field of vision. Background noise should be minimized.
Practices for Candidates.
Candidates should arrive/login on time to interviews. To avoid disturbing other interviews, if the interview is in a suite, candidates should not knock on the door until the time scheduled for the interview. Dress should be professional but need not reach the level that might be required for a job interview with, for example, a bank. Dress for video interviews should be as professional as dress for APA interviews. Candidates should be prepared to discuss their research with philosophers who do not know their area. In particular, it is important that candidates be able make the importance of their research clear and be prepared to offer arguments for their views that are accessible to a wide range of philosophers.
Candidates often fail to prepare adequately for questions regarding teaching. Many departments spend more than half the interview discussing teaching. Some departments will spend the entire interview discussing teaching.
Candidates should have reviewed the web site of the hiring department before the interview. They should be prepared with two or three questions about the hiring department that reflect knowledge of that department.
Candidates should be aware that hiring departments are usually on strict interview schedules so their answers to questions should be reasonably brief. It is normal for members of the interview team to interrupt and candidates should not take offense at this. (In fact, it is often a sign that the member of the team is interested in the candidate’s point.) Due to time constraints, interviews often end abruptly and candidates should quickly (but politely) leave the interview room/logout so that the next interview can take place on time.
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C. On-Campus Interviews and Offers
Suggestions for Candidates.
In general, candidates should be aware that on-campus interviews, while primarily focused on a particular job, are also part of developing one’s reputation. Even if not hired in a position, a candidate’s performance at on-campus interviews and/or in the offer process can lead to future contacts (e.g., inviting a candidate to campus is significant outlay of resources (in both money and time) for the hiring department. Candidates should respect this and try to minimize expenses. For example, candidates should keep travel expenses to a reasonable level and should not order extravagantly at restaurants.
Candidates who receive offers should make their decisions as quickly as reasonably possible. Candidates should be aware that other candidates are affected by their decisions and slow decisions on offers can have negative impacts on others.
Suggestions for the Hiring Department.
Successful campus visits require advance planning. These visits may involve a variety of activities, depending on the interest of the hiring department. Typical activities might include some or all of: meetings with members of the department, meetings with the dean or other members of the institution’s administration, meetings with graduate and undergraduate students, a job talk based on the candidate’s research, a sample course session of the candidate’s choosing, a course section of an existing course, tours of the campus or the local area, and social activities such as meals. Hiring departments should clearly communicate to candidates what is expected during the visit—e.g., length of time for the job talk, content of class session, likely audience size, and so on.
The host institution should arrange for candidates’ visits to occur over a short time frame. Candidates should meet with a variety of faculty and students in both formal and informal settings, keeping in mind a candidate’s specialization and interests. A candidate will appreciate an agenda for the visit well in advance, specifying the audiences (size and nature) for any presentations. The agenda should include meals and breaks for the candidate, and restaurants should be chosen according to the candidate’s dietary restrictions. At meals, the host should balance the conversation sothat the candidate has time to eat. The agenda should pay attention to the timing of early and late meetings, leaving adequate time for the candidate to sleep at night in comfortable accommodations. It is practical to designate a faculty member as host for a candidate’s visit. The candidate may then, for example, contact that faculty member in case something goes wrong during transit.
The hiring institution should pay the travel expenses of a candidate invited to its campus for an interview. These expenses include airfare, ground transportation, lodging, and meals. A new Ph.D. is generally short of funds for campus visits, and an institution that desires such visits before making an offer is better positioned to cover expenses. A host department should make it clear in advance how reimbursements will be handled, and then reimburse promptly after the visit.
Some departments are now requiring candidates who wish to be interviewed to pay their own expenses. The APA believes that this practice should be strongly discouraged, although it may be all that is available to institutions with limited funds for campus visits by candidates. Institutions who cannot pay full expenses for candidates should consider paying partial expenses or expenses up to a cap. In addition, institutions who cannot pay for campus visits should consider using alternative interview methods for as much as possible of the interview process, such as Skype, the Internet, or a candidate’s filming of a class at his/her home institution. Candidates who do encounter this situation should be given as much information as possible about the interview process, for example, how many candidates are being invited to interview if they pay their own expenses.
The host should maintain a professional relationship with the candidate. Job candidates are apt to agree to requests from the host, so the host should make only requests considerate of the candidate’s interests. For example, it would be inappropriate to suggest impromptu late night activities when the candidate has early morning commitments. If the host knows someone in the department is likely to behave inappropriately, the host should take steps to minimize harm, for example, by warning the candidate and by not scheduling the candidate to meet that person alone.
The host institution should provide full information about the institution, in particular, the faculty handbook, expectations that apply to the hire, and also available resources such as career development opportunities and opportunities for modified duties. It should explain the institution’s policies and procedures for evaluation and promotion, mentoring resources for junior and tenured faculty, policies concerning parental leave, and spousal and partner accommodation. It should provide this information to all job candidates regardless of gender, partner or parent status, and race or ethnicity.
The host institution also gathers information about candidates. Those conducting interviews should be aware of laws regarding questions about race, ethnic background, religion, marital or familial status, age, disability, sexual orientation, or veteran status. Hiring institutions should not request information that encourages discrimination, even unintentional discrimination. The information the host gathers is primarily, but not exclusively, about the candidate’s qualifications. Hiring institutions have a legitimate interest in a candidate’s likelihood of accepting an offer if made and likelihood of continuing employment if started. Making an offer and hiring are institutional investments that an institution rightfully strives to make successful.
A candidate may not want to reveal conditions of acceptance of an offer, for example, a job for a spouse, until after receiving an offer. However, if a candidate has a partner who will need placement help, taking steps early in the hiring process may have advantages for both sides. The hiring department should explain how the negotiation process works at its campus, so that the candidate knows what to expect if an offer is made.
The host institution should have prepared in advance a method of evaluating the candidates invited to campus. It should solicit feedback from faculty and students who met the candidates and should gather comparable information from all candidates so that it can evaluate them all using the same criteria.
Candidates and hiring institutions alike seek a good match but have some divergent interests. The candidate’s position, especially if the candidate is a new Ph.D., is likely in many cases to be weaker than the hiring institution’s position, and fairness requires that the hiring institution not exploit the candidate’s being in a weaker position.
The circumstances under which offers are made are so varied that no rule will cover all cases, but norms of professional courtesy suggest some helpful advice. Employer and prospective employee should be respectful of one another’s legitimate concerns. Employers are properly concerned about planning for the contingency of making another offer in a timely fashion if one is turned down. Prospective employees are properly concerned to make important career decisions in the light of fairly complete information about which offers they are actually going to receive. In some cases such concerns may set employer and prospective employee at cross-purposes unless both parties exercise professional courtesy. Ideally, at the time an offer is made, employer and prospective employee should discuss their concerns with the aim of arriving at a mutually agreeable deadline for response. Candidates should be informed when a recommendation to hire is made by a department to the administrative officer authorized to extend offers. In normal circumstances a prospective employee should have at least two weeks for consideration of a written offer from this administrative officer, and responses to offers of a position whose duties begin in the succeeding fall should not be required before February 1. (See the APA Statement on the Job Market Calendar.) If the candidate has had an unofficial offer that is simply confirmed by the formal written offer, and if there has been a considerable length of time for the candidate to consider the unofficial offer, it may be reasonable for the institution to expect a more rapid decision from the candidate if other candidates are waiting to hear. When an employer is unable to honor these conditions, the prospective employee should be given an explanation of the special circumstances that warrant insistence on an earlier decision. By the same token, a prospective employee should not delay unnecessarily in responding to an offer once it has been made. When a prospective employee requests more time to consider an offer than the employer is inclined to give, a candid statement of the reasons for the request is in order.
In some cases, negotiations after receipt of an offer are possible, although time pressure often limits negotiations. A candidate may, for example, request modifying an offer’s provisions concerning salary and benefits, reimbursement of moving expenses, provision of computer and peripherals, teaching duties, course release time, research assistants, clerical or administrative support, and office space. The hiring department should have told the candidate in advance what items are negotiable. Candidates should be aware that, at many institutions, offers are non-negotiable.
Oral offers and acceptances are highly problematic and inappropriate, given the availability of email as an official means of communication. Informal communication that an offer or acceptance will be forthcoming may be reasonable, but should not be relied upon by either party. At least two distinct types of situation cause difficulties with oral offers and acceptances. One is the case in which a prospective employee received what appears to be an oral job offer and on that account forgoes other opportunities only to learn later that the prospective employer has no job to offer because, for instance, a position does not receive final administrative approval. In order to prevent misunderstandings on this score, the prospective employer should make it very clear to the prospective employee whether a formal offer is being extended or not. If a prospective employer is only in a position to say that a formal offer will be forthcoming provided a departmental recommendation received administrative approval and to predict such approval, the prospective employee should be told explicitly that this is the situation. Another kind of difficulty arises when a formal offer is orally made and accepted and the prospective employee later receives and accepts another offer. Such cases can present both legal and moral problems. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that there are circumstances in which oral contracts are legally binding (this is a matter of state law, and will vary). In addition, oral acceptance of a formal offer, like making a serious promise, generates a strong prima facieobligation to take the job thus accepted, and weighty reasons are needed to justify not doing so.
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