I had written a test, and had an interview 2 weeks ago. At the end of the interview the person had told me that an actual offer can take time, however, if things don't work out they can let me know sooner. I have mailed them after that, and each time been told that it can take 3-4 weeks. It's already 2 weeks and still I haven't heard anything negative or positive from them. I had mailed them saying that even if it's a no, I would like to find out.

The thing is I am okay with waiting, and I have had interviews elsewhere, but, I got accepted into a doctoral program, and must confirm with admissions by the end of this month. By the end of this month it will have been 4 weeks from my interview. If i don't hear from them then I will have to go to the university, which I don't want.

This job was my dream. Does all this waiting mean that I am not going to be called?

Also, I had contacted the person who had initially conducted the test, and she had told me that my "test obviously went well, but things can take time." She also said that my candidature is being processed...Is it all mumbo-jumbo or is there anything in the wait for me??

  • Also, I had contacted the person who had initially conducted the test, and she had told me that my "test obviously went well, but things can take time." She also said that my candidature is being processed...Is it all mumbo-jumbo or is there anything in the wait for me?? – Pallavi Sanyal Jun 15 '15 at 9:42
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    If you don't want to go to university, don't go. Entering a doctoral programme with less than whole-hearted commitment is a recipe for pain and failure (it's a tough gig at the best of times, if you're heart isn't in it it's going to be worse). On the other hand a doctoral programme can be left; if a job offer comes through and you really want to take it, you can take it. It's not a slave contract (even if it might feel like it at times ...). – Nigel Harper Jun 15 '15 at 10:49
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    Useful to read since they highlight the dangers of giving notice too soon: Long notice period, Giving notice with on-going background check. – Lilienthal Jun 15 '15 at 11:18
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    On another note, it's important to realise that there's no such thing as a dream job (or at the very least you won't be able to tell before actually doing the job). – Lilienthal Jun 15 '15 at 11:20
  • workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/111/… – user8036 Jun 15 '15 at 13:39

Yes, you should wait for the offer letter, otherwise you run the risk of not getting the job and not getting into the doctoral program.

In general, having to wait for an offer letter is never a good sign. The best case is that the company wants you, but is slow, inefficient and bureaucratic. Other options are that they want you, but can't sort out the budget; or that there's a better candidate, and they're stringing you along as their plan B.

But without inside knowledge, there's no way to tell which. All you can (and should) do is let the company know that you've been accepted to a doctoral program and have a non-negotiable deadline, and that you will not be able to accept the job if they don't get back to you in time. If you're lucky, this will spur them to action.

  • Even non-bureaucratic companies can sometimes leave you waiting for a long time, especially if the HQ is offshore. – JohnEye Jun 15 '15 at 15:58
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    @JohnEye, I would say that having HQ offshore defines a company as bureaucratic! – Ian Jun 15 '15 at 17:36
  • @Ian Multinational companies aren't necessarily bureaucratic... though certainly they tend to. – Joe Jun 15 '15 at 19:40
  • @Joe "you take a long time to pick decisions --> you are too bureaucratic". Pretty much by definition. I don't care why it happens, there's no excuse. – o0'. Jun 15 '15 at 21:09
  • @Joe, not letting the local office decide on who to hire is bureaucratic. – Ian Jun 15 '15 at 21:43

Have you been clear with the folks in charge of getting the offer paperwork done?

I'd be blunt:

I have the option to study in a doctoral program. I must give them my acceptance by <insert date here>. Your job is by far my preference, but with out a formal offer letter, it is unreasonable to give up on other opportunities. I understand that your process is time consuming, but I'm not willing to risk my career options by waiting in the hopes of an offer from your company. What can you do to accelerate your process so that I have a firm offer before the deadline? If you can't resolve your offer process, I may have to commit to the graduate program.

If they don't know that you have a serious alternative option and you have a fixed deadline on that option, then they have no reason to make sure you have the paperwork you need to feel confident in starting work. The reasons offers take time is that they go through all sorts of checks and approvals before being finalized. Many of those approvals can be blockers to you getting the job. So don't go with vague promises, lay down your requirements to them.

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    The verbiage given is just a little bit harsh, but I otherwise agree to let the company know they have a deadline before OP takes other offers. – Darrick Herwehe Jun 15 '15 at 17:12
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    I agree with Darrick, this gets the point across but with the subtlety of a cannonball. – Myles Jun 15 '15 at 18:06
  • I also agree that the wording is not advisable, but the idea is good. Simply dropping them a polite note saying that you need to tell the Ph.D. program yes or no by X date will convey the same important information without sounding rude and without risking offending someone who was otherwise about to make you a job offer. – reirab Jun 15 '15 at 20:06
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    I tend to write a draft for clarity and then tone it appropriately in my speech. But I also find if I don't plan to be pretty blunt with the recruiter, my point is not clear to them. I'm also writing with the assumption that I'm talking to the recruiter (whose job is to close an accepted offer) and not the hiring manager. I feel that if you don't say very, very cleary - "I have a deadline that means a great deal to me, therefore, you risk loosing me if you delay" then while it may have been a nice communication, it hasn't been sufficiently clear. – bethlakshmi Jun 15 '15 at 21:01
  • Don't get fobbed off in dealing with recruiters! Deal with the hiring manager directly! If you're not doing that, they're not taking you seriously. Recruiters have all sorts of incentives and reasons for stringing you along and lying to you, and you have no recourse if they do. – smci Jun 15 '15 at 21:34

With large or small firms it can indeed take a long time to get the offer in writing as then it is legally binding. Until you have something in writing you have nothing.

You should not be turning down other opportunities. Your optimal strategy is to continue to pursue all options and say nothing to any of them about any other options you are pursuing. If any of the other parities close an opportunity then reconsider your options. Until then you should try to maximise your upside which requires you wait until the job offer in writing. You should hold the university place open for as long as possible even going beyond their admissions deadline neither signing nor pulling out and still saying you intend to take the place.

The reality is that the university won't go out of business if you delay past their deadline and then take the job else withdraw. They are competing for talent with other universities and employers and they know it. Their worst outcome is no where near as bad for them as a bad outcome is to you. That's a guess on my part based on some knowledge and experiences; but the fact it is an estimation is salient. You do know the cost of a bad outcome to you; you don't know the cost of a bad outcome to them. They might not even be able to accurately figure out all their options as they may have multiple second choice candidates any of which may pull out at any point else fulfill the place months after the deadline.

Putting up a deadline and having you pull yourself out of the program at the deadline (possibly to end up with nothing) is a convenience to them. Don't do that. It is for them to figure out whether they pull the place from you at the deadline and offer it to a second choice candidate else hold the place open for you a while longer whilst you do whatever it is you are doing before you sign on the dotted line. It's their call. They are trying to push the ball to you to optimise their outcome. Their deadline is a strategy that they have setup to deal with the situations that arise such as the one you are in.

It is not for your to try to optimise the outcomes of other parties you are negotiating with. They negotiate for them; you negotiate for you. They look after themselves, have lawyers, professional admissions staff, a policy document, experience of such things. You have you looking out for yourself. Do so. Good luck.

(p.s. Sorry to point this out, but you might be the second choice candidate for your dream job, and they are waiting for their first choice candidate to accept or reject. Perhaps their first choice candidate is out of country and is having visa application issues and that could take many weeks or months to resolve. Perhaps that other candidate will not be able to take job and the job will come to you. Second guessing all the situations and outcomes doesn't change the optimal strategy; hold out for the dream job. Your best outcome is still your best outcome. Your worst outcome, that both opportunities fall through, don't actually mean much over the course of your career. You got short listed for your dream job and a doctoral place at a university. You will be get to where you want to be. The one thing you don't want at the end of life is regrets. So aim high.)


The company might just be trying to finish interviewing the candidates that they have so far. It's entirely possible that they really are likely to make you an offer, but just want to complete the interviews that they have scheduled before making anyone an offer. At some places, completing the interviews may even be a requirement of corporate policy or even the law (the latter can be the case in some U.S. government or government contractor jobs, for example.) On the other hand, it's entirely possible that one of the situations that jpatokal mentioned is the case, instead.

I agree with the others that I would let them know about the doctoral position and its associated acceptance deadline. However, do this politely. You don't want to risk offending the person who was about to make you a job offer.

Aside from politely letting them know about the deadline, though, I'd recommend not bothering them too frequently. You say it was 2 weeks since the interview and that you've already e-mailed them several times. Some people (myself included) would find that annoying. A friendly e-mail thanking them for an interview and asking if they have any updates will usually be appreciated. A friendly e-mail to let them know about your own status (i.e. the impending Ph.D. acceptance deadline) will also usually be appreciated. However, asking for updates every couple of days when it's been 2 weeks since the interview and they've told you repeatedly that it will probably be 3 or 4 weeks before they will be able to make an offer will often not be appreciated (though maybe this varies by culture... I'm speaking primarily from a U.S. standpoint.) Personally, I would consider that behavior to be pestering and would be less likely to recommend someone who does that for an offer if it were a case where I had input in the hiring process.

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