Guidelines for Academic Tenure-Track Job Offers in History (2024)

Adopted 2007; updated June 5, 2023, and January 4, 2024.

Academic job offers for tenure-track positions are conducted through a process of negotiation between the chair, or head, of the hiring department and the successful candidate. This document describes the contours of the hiring process including the role of department chairs, and what candidates should anticipate. In cases involving negotiations over family/partner hires please see also Guidelines for Family/Partner Hiring.

Department chairs making job offers must balance several sets of priorities, needs, and values. The chair represents the department, and their primary obligation is to complete a successful hire in order to build the teaching and research strengths of the department. The chair therefore has the right to request the top candidate to make and report a firm decision in a timely manner, so that the department can proceed to the next candidate if the first offer is not accepted. At the same time, the chair and department who make an offer are attempting to gain the services of a professional colleague with whom they may form a long-term collegial relationship. When making entry-level appointments, in particular, chairs must always bear in mind that they are introducing early career colleagues to professional life, and that they hold the balance of power in the transaction. It is always possible, and always wrong, to abuse this position.

A successful job candidate has the right to a firm, complete, and explicit offer in writing before making a final decision. In its final form, a formal offer should include information about tenure or eligibility for promotion to tenure, salary, paid and unpaid leave, office equipment, research support, and benefits. Initial offers should at least provide full information on the first three points, and candidates have an absolute right to ask for information about all of them.

Once the successful candidates in a search have been ranked by the department, and approval received from the Dean's office, an offer can be made. The chair is responsible for making a clear offer, stating financial terms, teaching obligations, and other benefits, fully and accurately to the top candidate. In many cases, the offer will be made orally in the first instance. If so, the conversation should be followed by an email that precisely states the salary and other primary conditions. The department will then produce a formal letter of intent, confirming the offer in writing and reiterating the conditions. The dean of faculty, or other responsible official, then sends the candidate a formal, binding offer letter. The final, binding offer should match or improve on the terms of the initial, verbal offer. Only after an offer has been made in a firm, explicit form, with conditions set down in writing, can a chair properly set a deadline for the candidate's decision. The candidate must be allowed a reasonable amount of time, from the receipt of the offer in its written form, to consider the matter, consult mentors and family members, formulate questions, and receive answers, before making a binding decision. This period should last a minimum of two weeks from receipt of the formal offer, although many institutions offer more time for such an important decision. In no circumstances should a chair demand that a candidate make a decision on the basis of a conversation unsupported by a written statement of conditions.