Accepting, Declining and Negotiating Offers

Posted on August 6, 2012. Filed under: Career, College, Internship, Jobs | Tags: , , , |

Most of the students that I work with don’t believe me when I tell them that they will likely be juggling multiple internship offers before settling on one that best fits what they are looking for.  However, that is exactly what happens to a large number of them…especially students with a great resume, and the ability to communicate well with internship sites.

But sure enough, every cycle I get panicked students with questions about how to manage this tricky situation.

So, how do you do it?  What do you do when your number one internship has not contacted you yet, but number three just made an offer, and you have an interview scheduled with number two?  Yikes!

Should I Accept the First Offer?

First, I usually ask students to be honest with themselves regarding their comfort level in turning down an offer. Do you feel confident that your skills and your current status with other with internship sites will lead to another offer?  If not, then I recommend that you accept the first offer that comes your way.  No shame in using this strategy. It’s efficient and allows you to refocus your energy on preparing for your internship experience by learning as much as you can about the company.  Also, if you’ve done your homework, all of the internships that you apply to will provide great experiences!

Can I Buy Some Time Before Making a Decision?

Let’s say that you have an offer on the table with your number three choice and a pending interview with number one.  The best scenario here is if number three provides you with a date that they need an answer that nicely accommodates your number one interview.  If they do not provide a date (they expect an immediate answer) you can ask them when they need your answer.  This tactfully lets them know that you are still in the process of interviewing without actually saying it.  Usually they will accommodate by allowing you a week or so to answer.  Avoid asking for more than a week to decide.

Be aware that asking for time to decide can put off some organizations, especially if the interviewer is inexperienced or just very busy.  However, don’t let this dissuade you.  This is an appropriate way to handle the situation, and a great opportunity to learn negotiation skills that you will need as a professional.

Do I Tell My Top Choice That I Have a Pending Offer?

So, now you have your interview with number one and all goes well.  At the end you ask them what their selection timeline is and they tell you that they’ll be making decisions in a week or so, or some other equally vague response.  Do you tell them that you have a pending offer?  Again, if you are comfortable doing this, go for it!  You do not need to tell them who the offer is from, but in this case I would recommend that you let them know that they are your number one choice.

How Do I Decline an Offer?

If you have already accepted an internship but are contacted for an interview or are offered an internship as a result of an earlier interview, you can turn that into a future opportunity!

Politely thank them for considering you for an internship, and inform them that you have recently accepted an offer with another organization. (Again, you do not need to reveal the organization.)  Let them know that you are interested in learning more about future opportunities with their organization (this could be a second internship or an entry level position). Ask your contact if he/she would be willing to meet for an informational interview. If they were interested enough to make an offer, they may want to learn more about you, too.  This is also a great way to build your network and learn more about a career field that you are considering.

It is also a nice touch to let those you have interviewed with know that you have accepted an offer and would no longer like to be considered for their internship position.  Again, thank them and ask if you might be able to schedule an informational interview at a later date.

Practice Makes it  Easier

To help make these sticky situations less awkward – REHEARSE!  You should practice accepting an offer, turning down an offer and negotiating an offer (asking for more time to decide).  You can do this in the mirror, with a friend, or by using software that allows you to webcam yourself in typical interview scenarios.  Try Interview Stream ( for this service.

Keep in mind that accepting, declining and negotiating offers are all valuable parts of the internship process.  However, the most important factor in the success of your internship experience is YOU.  Make the most of your internship by bringing energy, curiosity and a positive attitude, and you will succeed!


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