How to Reject an Internship Offer

Decline the offer over the phone rather than email.

Decline the offer over the phone rather than email.

You’ve done the interviews, thanked the appropriate people and feel confident you put your best foot forward. Fingers crossed, you’re going to land an internship. But then the day comes when not one, but two offers are on the table. Now, you must decide which one to choose – and which one to let go with a courteous “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Notify the organization in a timely fashion to avoid alienating a potential contact for future job opportunities. Once you decline, they still need to fill the role – hopefully with their second choice. Stringing them along could put them in a position where their third or even fourth choice is the only option. Call your contact as soon as you make your decision.

Express genuine gratitude for the opportunity, as well as an appreciation for all the time spent during the interview process – and do it over the phone. Nothing rings unprofessional more than an email of declination.

Keep your remarks brief and resist the urge to go into great detail. Outlining your decision to pass can sound like an excuse, and you run the risk of saying something that could later be read into. For example, an innocent statement like, “I felt the other offer had a better opportunity for growth” could be misconstrued as, “I just didn’t trust what you're telling me.” Instead, say something generic like, “I’ve decided to accept an internship with another company.”

Follow up with a thank you note – or email, for that matter – reiterating your appreciation for the internship offer and regret for not being able to take advantage of the opportunity. The extra effort could help build a relationship that later proves beneficial for both of you.

Tips

  • If the internship recruiter presses you for a reason why you’re declining the offer, consider setting up a follow-up meeting where you can discuss the reason. At that time, you can provide feedback – if you have any, that is.
  • If you have another candidate that could fill the role, consider offering the name to the organization. Even if they don’t take you up on the offer, the gesture will likely be appreciated.
 

About the Author

Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.

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