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Best Practices for Academic Job Offers

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 Amy Yandell at careers@aarsbl.org.

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. 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 resolution, October 2008)