Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Offer Timing

In most academic fields, departments, either formally or informally, have their interviews and make their junior faculty offers at about the same time. Faculty candidates know their options and decisions get made quickly. 

Not so in computer science, decentralized by design. Interview and offers are made from January through June (or beyond). Candidates sometimes will hold an offer for months to see if they will eventually get an offer that fits them better. Finding jobs in a the same location for partners further muddles the water. This is certainly a topic I've tackled before but I've lost hope that we'll ever see real reform in CS faculty recruiting. So how should departments time their offers.

I tried many different strategies when I was department chair at Georgia Tech. We tried making offers early, say in February, but by the time these candidates were ready to decide months later your university is out of their recent memory. Some department try to make early offers with short strict fuses. I don't like that approach--it puts undue stress on young candidates and creates resentment even if successful. Candidates will also use early offers as leverage to get offers out of other schools.

On the other hand if you hold off too long, you may lose the candidate to another university or not have time to find a position for the partner.

I found the sweet spot is early April to start making offers, though you need to hold off faculty chomping at the bit to make offers earlier. But that's the job as chair. As the saying goes, if a coach starts listening to the crowd, he soon becomes one of them.

I've heard the argument that not making an offer right after the interview makes the candidate feel they we didn't want them. That goes away if you say upfront you hold off offers until April and stick to it. 

If a candidate tells me that they have another offer with a "tight" deadline, I tell them to push back. Almost all departments will give an extension rather than losing a good candidate.

Every rule has their exceptions. If a candidate you want says they'll accept an offer if you make it now and you believe them, go ahead and lock them up. If there is a risk that holding on making an offer means that position might disappear for financial or other reasons, then make those offers earlier.

My secret plan is that every department steals this strategy, we all make offers at the same time, and the reason for this post goes away. 


  1. Sounds like an interesting game-theoretical problem!

  2. The strategy for hiring at top-N schools (N=10? 15?) seems to be quite different than the strategy at lower-ranked schools, because the latter are worried about losing candidates to the former and "wasting" an offer on someone who had a high probability of getting & taking an offer from a much higher-ranked schools. Of course all ranking systems are BS, and people choose to take jobs at places for many other reasons than ranking (location, family, etc), but "all else being equal"...

    It's unclear to me if having all schools make offers at the same time would help lower-ranked schools, hurt them, or neither. (And it presumably depends on what strategy the school is using now vs in a hypothetical scenario where everyone made offers at the same time.)

  3. you can work with chairs for top schools so all of them make the offer in April and have a deadline of June.