Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Exploding Offers--What are the Norms?

These devices are becoming more common is my impression.  Some schools have actually made them prior to the 'meat market,' and others make them afterwards.  In the typical case, the candidate is given two weeks, or some even shorter period of time, to accept or decline.  My impressions are that, as a strategy, these do not work well--candidates tend to decline them, or, if they accept, they accept with a plan to head out the door ASAP.  I'm curious what experiences others have had with these offers?

But that's not the main topic I wanted to address.  The main question is should schools utilize exploding offers at all and if so with what time frame?  My own view is that it is in the interest of both the hiring schools and the candidates to provide a 30-day window for any offer, and that anything much less than that is certainly unfair to the candidate, but will also backfire for the hiring school.

What do readers think?  Signed comments only:  full name and valid e-mail address.

UPDATE:  The AALS has officially endorsed a four-week standard.


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In many job markets, 2 weeks would be generous. The case for a longer period is stronger if the offer is very early or otherwise out of sync with other schools, but some candidates might actually welcome the early offer, depending on their tolerance for risk.

BL COMMENT: Is there an academic job market where 2 weeks is the norm? Genuine question, I'm not aware of one, but I may be mistaken.

Posted by: Kevin Outterson | Aug 28, 2012 6:48:57 PM

My observation of exploding offers is pretty much the same as BL's: they typically fail to land a candidate and when they do, they provoke resentment. But now that so many entry-level candidates have had the experience of accepting exploding offers to place their work in law journals, maybe we're transitioning to an era where rush-act pressure will be familiar and normal.

Meanwhile, for deans who make offers and faculty who help make hiring policy, there's the Golden Rule. If you were a prospect, how would you want to be treated? Me, I would have no problem with a short deadline if I understood the reason for it. "We'd like to hire you, but if we can't hire you, we'd like to hire someone else" makes sense to me and probably to others (even if the deadline is much shorter than BL's proposed 30 days). But candidates who think they're being played are likely to conclude that the offeror doesn't care about their welfare and, from there, that they don't owe that school their loyalty.

Posted by: Anita Bernstein | Aug 28, 2012 10:21:24 PM

Two-week deadlines are considered normal in political science, and the standard claim is that AAUP guidelines specify a minimum of two weeks for job offers (and many departments and disciplines follow that, as contained in the statement on the ethics of faculty recruitment and appointment). Both political science and history professional ethics guides point to two weeks as a "reasonable time" to be given to job candidates. Of course, job candidates are sometimes (often?) given more time than that. I've never heard of a deadline of two weeks being characterized as "exploding." I've heard the term used to refer to deadlines of one week or less.

Posted by: Keith Whittington | Aug 29, 2012 6:14:01 AM

Some law schools are rumored to give out multiple offers for the same slot, with the explicit understanding by all concerned that the first person to accept gets the job and everybody else is out of luck.

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Aug 29, 2012 2:13:38 PM

The AALS four-week standard is curious in that it says "it is unfair to the prospective appointee and to other member schools to make an offer of employment that ex­pires sooner than four weeks from the conclusion of the Faculty Recruitment Conference." Presumably, an offer made three weeks after the conference that expires four weeks after the conference, in other words a one week exploding offer, would be consistent with the language of the AALS standard. And presumably beyond four weeks after the conference, anything is fair game.

I've always thought that exploding offers work to the detriment of schools for the reasons Brian mentioned, but obviously from the school's perspective some deadline is necessary so that they can try to attain their hiring goals for the year. So perhaps one solution would be to have a set of dates by which entry level candidates have to decide to accept or reject offers in hand. It would be something similar to how I understand the lateral market works with the exception that there would need to be multiple dates to facilitate entry level hiring in cases where no candidates accepted the first round of offers from a particular school. Of course, there are probably several problems with this approach, such as how to predict yield, and it is too early here out west for me to spend time trying to identify. Plus there may be little incentives for schools lower down the proverbial food chain to give up a strategic advantage in extending exploding offers.

Posted by: Bertrall Ross | Aug 31, 2012 8:14:35 AM

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