I have a hypothetical dilemma for those of you who have hired people and/or have other insight into the hiring process. (I just sent the question to Ask a Manager, but I know she’s flooded with questions.) I’m applying for jobs in university support services; they’re not conventional teaching/research positions, but they are housed in small units, with the hiring typically done by faculty or academic directors. I’m applying left and right, as one does, and for visa (and monetary) reasons, I’m not picky - any job is a good job right now.

Anyways, I might be faced with a situation where I receive an offer for a term-limited position (four years) while waiting for another interview that’s still a few weeks out. What do I do? The interim period seems too long to reasonably request to “think about it.” That said, the job I’m waiting on would be a permanent position, so that alone is a pretty solid reason to prefer it to the temp one. How badly will I screw myself over if I accept the first offer, then still go through with the interviews and bail on them if I receive an offer from the other place? Is that even legal/possible once the papers are signed? Coming from a field where many jobs are “for life,” I have no concept of what kind of turn-around occurs in the wider world and how it’s perceived. These are entry-level-ish positions, so I would assume the supervisors wouldn’t assume me to stay forever, but of course two weeks is different from, say, two years.

This is all hypothetical and perhaps overly optimistic - so far, my second-round interviews haven’t panned out - but I’d like to be prepared. So any insight, anecdotes, etc., would be greatly appreciated!