"offers" and "in writing" issues

Kathleen Ann Sindt kas4e at galen.med.Virginia.EDU
Wed Jun 26 09:13:49 EST 1996

Sarah Boomer  writes:

> finished) basically turned down several excellent post doc "offers" (all
> verbal, following interviews) in favor of her top pick.  He flew her out
> and promised her there was money, etc. etc.  All their correspondence was
> either verbal or via email. Well - now that she's ready to go, he doesn't
> have money (a few months have passed) and the whole picture has changed.
> 	I want to know what other advisors think of this in particular.  I

Well, I'm not an advisor - but I think that is terrible.
However - I think it is also the student's responsibility to
make sure things are VERY clear.  If a student doesn't make it
clear that he/she is accepting an offer, and gives them a
tentative start date - and is clear that is fine by the advisor
- then the advisor is in limbo and that's not polite.

> am interested in whether most people looking for post-docs rely on such
> verbal agreements.  A male post doc in our lab said his boss counseled him
> repeatedly never to (1)  give a lab that delays or forget to call back a
> second consideration or (2)  accept an offer from someone who won't offer
> EVERYTHING in writing.  My limited impression dealing with people in
> academics, though, is that the "in writing" idea is considered bad
> etiquette, an insult to the profession (this was actually said to another
> collegue of mine).

Actually - the place I have an offer asked about putting it in
writing - but wanted a potential start date that I couldn't
give at the time - though I can now.  I am going to ask about
getting a formal letter.  I don't feel the need to have
EVERYTHING in writing - just the offer of the position and
salary - I think little details are fine verbally.  It is
old-fashioned good etiquette to put things like job offers in
writing - not an insult.  I wrote a thank-you note for the
intital interview and I'll write a brief follow up note after I
visit.  Why - because it's the polite thing to do.

I'm thinking that advice about the lab that delays or forgets
to call back is good.  I've got a lab stringing me along like
that and I hate it.  If it wasn't a good lab with alot of money
to offer - I would have totally written it off by now.  

> being supported by our understanding boss).   I'd also like to hear
> (politely would be nice) people's honest opinion of whether students
> should know this already, be counseled openly, should expect everything in
> writing, etc.

I don't think all students know about proper job searching
"rules."  Some do, but others don't.  I would feel comfortable
talking to my advisor about this - but I received most of my
advice and guidance from a handful of post-docs.  I personally
have very limited experience in finding "real" employment -
most jobs I've had have been scientific apprenticeships - so
I've been inexperienced in the whole process.  Other students
have worked and may not feel they need advice.  

I personally feel it would have been NICE if my advisor had
initiated a conversation about what I wanted to do for a
post-doc, some advice, and just generally broaching the subject
so I knew I had his support and could ask questions. 

Kathie Sindt
kas4e at virginia.edu

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