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I’m a graduate student about to finish his dissertation. During the last two months, I applied to several jobs, one of which, is the most exciting and well-paid of the bunch. I had an interview and everything seemed OK. However, I didn’t hear back from the employer in almost two months later and assumed that, since the position was so attractive, there had been many applicants and someone with better qualifications had been chosen.

As any person in need of a job, I did what was most logical and continued applying to other posts. One of these applications went well, but just in the verge of signing the contract, I got an email from the employer I had been excited about telling me to “formalize” my application in their online portal.

I’m unsure if this means they are offering me the job or just that further selection will take place with a narrower set of applications. In the former case, I’d decline the contract I’m about to sign and go for the offer from my preferred employer; in the latter, I’d better play safe and stick to the position I’m about to get signed to.

Is it acceptable to ask and employer if his offer is definitive? How to do it without embarrassing myself?

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Perhaps what could be more useful for you is to clarify in which part of the process you are so that you are sure what are they offering to you. It is important to also to ask about timing: e.g. you need to fill that online form but we need to know when are they getting back to you because you are considering other offers and you are urged to make a decision.

I wouldn't bother too much about the silence in the line. There could be many reasons, just focus on having them clarifying what are they offering and in which conditions. It is unnecessary to mention the term "definitive", you simple need to say you are very interested in the company but since you have other offers on the table you would need to make a decision really soon.

Good luck with your decision

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Good job on not putting your life on hold for Position X.

So, let me get this straight:

You are looking for a job. You have a single, formal offer and you want to know if you should throw that away and wait for a flaky company who doesn't value your time (or you) in the hopes that they maybe offer you a job and maybe offer you the salary they originally stated.

There are a few red flags that would make me hesitant about continuing with Company X. The period of interviewing is like courtship in that both parties need to be on their best behavior.

Let's look at the facts:

  • They went dark for two months!
  • Suddenly they decide you exist, are worth [bringing on? moving to the next level?] and let you know to do something in their online portal
  • They are unclear in their intent

Pay attention here: you do not have an offer from Company X and the other company made you a formal offer.

  • I would apply the same rules if this was a flaky/unknown/sketchy company, but it is indeed a major employer in the state, recognized at the national and international levels, and believe or not, it is common knowledge in my area that employers take their time to make decisions (excess of qualified applicants, maybe? It's awful, but that's where the job market has gone). – je_b Aug 2 '17 at 19:06
  • @je_b It is about self-respect, too. Major Employer or not, smart companies recognize that if they want to hire the best, they need to move quickly when they find someone because their competitors are busy recruiting as well! – BryanH Aug 4 '17 at 15:33
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It sounds like you application is not complete which is why he is asking you to formalize it. Only after the application is complete can an official/formal offer even be made. If you are not sure what he meant by "formalize" the application then that is the question to ask before asking if the offer is formal.

  • This could be a comment rather than an answer. Could you please elaborate your post @MisterMister ? – DarkCygnus Aug 2 '17 at 20:01

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