Best Practices for Academic Job Offers

Board Policy, 2008

Approved by the AAR Board of Directors in October 2008

The American Academy of Religion recognizes that the process of selecting new colleagues is one of the most important undertakings in the life of a department. The hiring process also represents a crucial and challenging moment in the lives of the candidates being considered for faculty positions. In order to balance the interests of both groups, the American Academy of Religion supports the following best practices concerning academic job offers. Institutions that have agreed to abide by these principles are listed at the end of this statement.

Competing Concerns

The circumstances under which job offers are made are so various that no rule will cover all cases, but norms of professional courtesy suggest some helpful advice. The employer and the prospective employee should be respectful of one another's legitimate concerns. Prospective employees are properly concerned to make important career decisions in the light of information about which offers they are actually going to receive. Employers are properly concerned about planning for the contingency of making another offer in a timely fashion if one is turned down. All parties should be concerned about the interests of other applicants for the position who may be awaiting timely information about the status of the opening so that they, in turn, may make informed decisions about their options. These considerations are further complicated by the fact that different employers, often due to budgetary and administrative factors beyond their control, can be on very different time schedules with regard to extending job offers. In some cases, these competing concerns may set employer and prospective employee at cross-purposes unless professional courtesy is exercised by both parties. Ideally, at the time an offer is made, if not earlier, employer and prospective employee should discuss their particular concerns with the aim of arriving at a mutually agreeable deadline for response.

Guidelines for Employers

In normal circumstances, offers for appointments for the subsequent fall should be made by employers no earlier than the closing day of the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. Typically, a prospective employee should have at least two weeks for consideration of a written offer from a properly authorized administrative officer. When an employer is unable to honor any of these conditions, the prospective employee should be given a written explanation of the special circumstances that warrant a deviation. At all times in the process, all applicants for the position have a right to frank and honest information about the status of their candidacies.

Guidelines for Job Candidates

Prospective employees should not delay unnecessarily in responding to an offer once it has been made and should recognize that it simply may not be possible to have information about all job possibilities before a decision about a particular offer must be rendered. When a prospective employee requests more time to consider an offer than the employer is inclined to give, a candid statement of the reasons for the request is in order. Whether positive or negative, the final response of the prospective employee to the job offer should be in writing (though an accompanying phone conversation is highly recommended and is considered a professional courtesy).

Oral Offers and Acceptances

There are at least two distinct types of situation that cause difficulties with oral offers and acceptances. The ideals of professional courtesy suggest advice for dealing with these circumstances.

One is the case in which a prospective employee orally receives what appears to be a job offer and subsequently learns that the offer does not in fact exist, for instance, because ultimate budgetary or administrative approval for the position is denied. In order to prevent misunderstandings on this sort, the prospective employer should make it absolutely clear to the prospective employee whether a formal offer is being extended or not. If a prospective employer is only in a position to say that a formal offer will be forthcoming provided that the departmental recommendation receives administrative approval, the prospective employee should be told explicitly that this is the situation. It is the responsibility of the employer to represent the circumstances fully and accurately to the prospective employee.

Another kind of difficulty arises when a formal offer is orally made and accepted and the prospective employee later receives and accepts another offer or declines the position for other reasons. Such cases can present both legal and moral problems. It is worth bearing in mind that there are circumstances in which oral contracts are legally binding. Oral acceptance of a formal offer by a prospective employee generates a strong obligation to take the job; highly extenuating reasons are needed to justify not doing so.

All institutions that use AAR’s Career Services, including Employment Listings and the Annual Meeting Employment Center, are asked to indicate whether they abide by these best practices. The institutions that have responded affirmatively are listed below. We encourage you to discuss these best practices with faculty in your department. To add your institution to the list of those supporting this statement, please contact the AAR staff at [email protected].

  • Allegheny College
  • Arizona State University
  • Ball State University
  • Barry University
  • Baylor University
  • Briar Cliff University
  • Carthage College
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Catholic University of America
  • Centre College
  • Chicago Theological Seminary
  • Christian Theological Seminary
  • Church Divinity School of the Pacific
  • Claremont Lincoln University
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Colgate University
  • College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University
  • College of Wooster
  • Colorado College
  • Cornell University
  • Creighton University
  • Denison University
  • Eden Theological Seminary
  • Fairfield University
  • Florida State University
  • Fordham University
  • Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgia Southern University
  • Grinnell College
  • Hamilton College
  • Hartford Seminary
  • Harvard Divinity School
  • Hope College
  • Iliff School of Theology
  • Interdenominational Theological Center
  • Ithaca College
  • Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto
  • John Carroll University
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Kenyon College
  • Lehigh University
  • Lexington Theological Seminary
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Loyola University Chicago
  • Luther College
  • Marquette University
  • Miami University
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Millsaps College
  • Missouri State University
  • Muhlenberg College
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Oberlin College
  • Occidental College
  • Ohio University, Athens, OH
  • Perkins School of Theology
  • Pfeiffer University
  • Phillips Theological Seminary
  • Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
  • Princeton University
  • Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
  • Rice University
  • Roanoke College
  • Saint Joseph's University
  • San Francisco Theological Seminary
  • Seattle University
  • Seminary of the Southwest
  • South Dakota State University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • St. Louis University
  • St. Thomas University
  • Stanford University
  • Texas Christian University
  • Thomas Jefferson Center at the University of Texas
  • Trinity College
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • United Theological Seminary
  • University of Alabama
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Miami
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Montreal
  • University of North Carolina, Asheville
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Saint Thomas
  • University of South Florida
  • University of Southern California
  • University of the Sciences
  • University of Toronto, Mississauga
  • Ursinus College
  • Vanderbilt Divinity School
  • Villanova University
  • Virginia Theological Seminary
  • Wake Forest University
  • Warren Wilson College
  • West Chester University, Pennsylvania
  • Western Kentucky University
  • Western Theological Seminary
  • Wheaton College
  • Whitworth University
  • Williams College
  • Wofford College
  • Xavier University
  • Yale University

(Board policy, October 2008)