The 3 T’s to Declining an Internship Offer: Timely, Thankfully and Tactfully

From the Archives: This post has become very timely again recently, with recent graduates interviewing for jobs, summer internship season in full swing and fall internships approaching fast.

You’ve applied to several internships, interviewed and done the appropriate follow up.

Sometimes this will result in an “embarrassment of riches” where more than one recruiter wants to hire you. A very nice problem to have, indeed. Or you could be offered a position, but upon further consideration decide that the position isn’t right for you.

This is clearly a slippery slope. After we’ve worked so hard to impress a recruiter – and they us – how do we now gracefully decline an offer?

These three steps will help you decline an offer politely and professionally – and leave those bridges intact:

Timely: Don’t Delay Communicating Your Decision

The quickest way to alienate the recruiter: String them along while you decide how to say “no”.

A recruiter has people to answer to on a daily basis. They also have a string of communications to begin once you decline. Their supervisor, the hiring manager, department heads, team members – and their second and third candidate choices – all must be contacted.

Don’t wait until Friday afternoon at 4:55 to deliver the news. Take a deep breath, and notify them of your decision as soon as possible.

Thankfully: Exude Appreciation

Being sincerely appreciative of the recruiter’s time, and the offer, is absolutely critical. Both over the phone, and in a follow-up thank you email or letter, positively and confidently communicate how thankful you are for the opportunity. Include a statement similar to: “I consider myself fortunate to have received an offer from a fine company such as XYZ, Inc.” Also, include a “moving forward” sentence: “Moving forward, I would not hesitate to recommend XYZ, Inc. as a great place to work.”

By making the recruiter feel appreciated, you’ll potentially extend the relationship past the offer… and into networking (and perhaps a future offer!)

Tactfully: No Need for Details

No matter how you say it, a recruiter only hears one thing: “No”. From there, too many details will only derail your efforts to be timely and thankful:

  • “The other company made a better offer” means “I’m negotiating”
  • “The other manager and I just clicked” means “Your guy was a doof”
  • “I chose the company with the most potential” means “I didn’t believe you”

A generic statement is best: “At this time, I’m accepting an offer from another company”. If prompted for more information, suggest a follow-up meeting or call. “I would be happy to provide input, perhaps over coffee?”

By focusing on “timely, thankfully and tactfully” you’ll not only gracefully decline the offer, you’ll show appropriate respect for the recruiter – and perhaps gain a valuable networking contact in the process.

About the Author: A passionate supporter of Gen Y talent, CEO and Founder of YouTern Mark Babbitt is a serial entrepreneur and mentor. Mark has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO regarding internships, higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce and career development. Recently, Mark was honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors”. You can contact Mark via email or on Twitter: @YouTernMark.

This entry was posted in Internships and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.