Responding to an Internship Offer You Don't Want to Accept

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After weeks of searching, sending out résumés, and going to interviews, it is usually great news when you get an offer—but what about when you would really prefer to work at one of the other companies you interviewed with? On the outside looking in this may seem like a good problem to have and it may not be a bad thing if the internship you’ve been offered is a good opportunity.

On the other hand, if you applied to this company because you were playing a numbers game and applying to every internship out there, there may be other internships that would prove more valuable to achieving your career goals. Read on to get some advice on how to deal with this dilemma


First off, it would be wise to further evaluate the internship position being offered and the company before making a decision. You may need to call the company and ask questions that will give you a better understanding of what the internship involves. If you still feel like you would still like to pursue other options, one option is to get back to the company and let them know that you are interested in the position but would like a little more time to think before making a decision. Since most people do not accept an internship or job offer on the spot, the company will probably be more than willing to give you anywhere between a couple of days to a week before providing your final answer.

Actions to Take

At this point, time is of the essence. Contacting the other employer where you would rather work is the logical first step. You will want to let them know that you are still very interested in getting an internship with their company but you’ve received another offer and you’d much rather work for them. If they are interested in you as an intern, this may be enough to secure an offer; however, they may still be in the application process and won't be able to make a final decision until a future date.

You may be thinking about not accepting the position in the hopes that something else will come through or you may decide to take your chances and accept the position and make the best of the opportunity. Either of those choices would be acceptable, but what you don’t want to do is accept the position with the intent of withdrawing if something else comes along.

Accepting an internship or job with the intent of leaving if something else comes through is not a good way to handle this situation. Employers usually spend a great deal of time in the hiring process, so rescinding an acceptance once it has been made would not only leave the company in a lurch but would keep other candidates from getting an internship with the company. Additionally, actions such as this can seriously affect the path you take in your career if it becomes known by people in the field that you would do something so unprofessional.

Change Happens

Of course in the real world, people change jobs all the time. As you move forward in your career, this sometimes means leaving one company and going to another. However, when we are talking about internships, the length of time is usually pretty short and hopping around over the course of a summer will not provide you with enough time to learn the job and make connections in the field. Internships are also a great way to get references for your future job search and leaving under such circumstances will probably prevent you from getting professionals who will vouch for your work ethic and experience on the job.