With the fall recruiting season underway, you've probably spent a significant amount of time preparing to land an internship or full-time job offer. However, I’ve found that there is often less certainty about how to manage the actual process of receiving, accepting, or potentially declining an offer…and there are few resources out there helping students get through these (sometimes stressful!) conversations in a professional, graceful way.
Here, I'll walk through some of the common questions and uncertainties I've heard from students about how to manage the offer process. I hope that this provides you with some clarity on what is arguably the most important part of recruiting - the decision to join an organization!
Q: Is it disloyal for me to continue to interview and seek out new opportunities after receiving a return offer from my summer internship?
A: Absolutely not! College is your time to explore different careers and determine the things you both do and do not like to do. Even if you had an amazing experience at your first summer internship, it is ok to want to try something else. Once you graduate and accept a full-time role it will be considerably more challenging to make these switches, so the summer really is your time to experiment. Your mentors and co-workers will understand - they've been there before!
The key to navigating this situation is to be as open and honest with your company contacts as possible. Let them know you are excited about and appreciative of the opportunity to come back to the company, but you want to make sure you are giving yourself a wide view of the career landscape and you'd like to see what other options exist before making a commitment to return.
If you receive an offer but aren’t quite ready to say yes yet, you could say something similar to the below:
“Thank you for the kind words – I am very excited to have received my return offer to the firm! I really enjoyed the summer and got a lot out of my experience. Before I make a commitment to return next summer, I’d like to explore the career landscape a bit more and understand the other professional opportunities that may be a good fit for my interests and skills. I will definitely keep in touch and will have an answer for the company by xx date. Thanks again for all the support this summer, and I appreciate your understanding!”
Q: How can I ask for more time if I am not yet ready to accept/decline an offer? What might this look like?
A: Asking for an offer extension can be a really scary prospect. However, I guarantee that there is no equivalence between how nervous you feel asking for more time and what a recruiter feels when he or she hears the request! It is a standard ask and it will not affect your standing at the company. I would approach this in a very direct and honest way, and also state exactly what type of extension you would like:
"Annie, when you extended my offer, you asked for me to give you a response by October 1. While I'm really excited about the prospect of returning to the company I'd like to give myself some time to finish out the interview process at a few other places and so would like to see if I can have an extension until November 1."
A couple caveats here: if your deadline is October 1, don't wait until September 29 to ask for this extension. Do it as soon as you know you need one! And pick a date that you know will give you plenty of time so you don't have to ask for more when that day rolls around.
Q: My school has specific rules around how long I have to accept my summer internship/full time offer, and I’d like to take advantage of those. How do I convey that to my recruiter in a respectful way?
A: Most school career services have suggested guidelines for companies to follow when extending offers that set out the amount of time students can have to make decisions. Check on your career services website or, better yet, speak to a career services adviser in person to understand what these look like at your school. If your offer does not fall within those set timelines, and you'd like to take the amount of time that your school allows, I'd follow the same structure that I laid out above - keep it clear, honest, and direct!
"Annie, when you extended my offer, you gave me until September 15 to respond. My career services office has let me know that guidelines for X University students allow me to take two months after the offer extension to make a decision, which gives me until October 15. I am really excited about this offer but I would like to take the time allotted to make a decision, so would like to respond with my decision by October 15.”
If you get pushback from a company on this, I would definitely speak with someone at career services, as they will be able to provide guidance around how to navigate the situation. They are there to advocate for you and you should be utilizing their services! I will note that in my experience, I've never encountered a student who has had a reasonable extension request denied - while 3 months is excessive, asking for a few additional weeks is fair….And you will never know if you don't ask!
Q: Why do companies give these deadlines and “explode” offers?
A: Recruitment teams need to give deadlines so they have a good sense of when summer or full time classes will be filled. If they didn't, they would be conducting interviews up until the start of their summer or new analyst programs - which would be really inefficient. Exploding offers are unfortunately named, because in most cases, companies will not actually take away your offer on that date if you haven't responded. Offers truly ‘expire’ in only a small number of rare occasions - for example, if you interviewed extremely early in the season during an accelerated process.
The key here is to have a very good understanding of what a timeline looks like, and to be transparent and honest with your recruiters throughout the process. When you receive an invitation to an interview, ask up front what the offer timeline looks like: when should you expect to receive an offer, and how long will you have to make a decision? You should let your recruiters know if you anticipate any issues with that timeline. Feel free to say, "I'm so excited to interview with your company, but I do want to let you know that I have another interview with xxx company on xxx date." You don't have to keep this information secret - recruiters won't be insulted that you are interviewing elsewhere, and it will make it easier to ask for an extension if necessary.
Q: How do I sustain a relationship with an organization and its employees if I decline my offer?
A: Don't disappear! Just because you said no doesn't mean an organization hates you and never wants to be friends with you again. If the company extended you an offer, they are obviously excited about you as a potential employee either now or in the future, and they should be happy to keep in touch. Make sure you are reaching out with some regularity - let your contacts at the company know how your school year finished up, tell them about the type of work you are doing at your current internship and, if it's logistically possible, set up calls or in person meetings to check in. If you want to pursue full time opportunities at the company this is a great way to keep lines of communication open...and even if you don't, you'll be building some great contacts who can help you in your career (and who knows, maybe you will want a job there in a few years’ time!)