How to Politely Reject an Internship Offer (Tips from 8 Managers and HR Experts)

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What’s the best way to politely reject an internship offer?

We asked experts for some helpful advice.

Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish

Heather Rothbauer-Wanish

Owner, Feather Communications | Author, Getting Back in the Game: How to Build Your Resume After Taking a Break

When rejecting an internship offer, it is important to preserve a positive relationship; you never know when you may connect with that person or company in the future.

Send an email or a written letter stating your decision

Be positive in your response and thank the interviewer and company for the opportunity to be considered. Let the organization know that you appreciate the time they invested in getting to know you and understand your qualifications.

Next, decline the offer by stating that you have decided to pursue another opportunity. Finally, be sure to close the email or letter by mentioning that you would like to continue the professional relationship. A written decision to decline an internship doesn’t have to be lengthy; be sure to keep the response simple and to-the-point.

Jessica Glazer

Jessica Glazer

President & Strategic Recruitment Director, MindHR

Be honest to yourself and the company about your career goals if the internship doesn’t align with your goals. Politely say, “No, thank you and here’s why” from there the company will modify the internship or move on.

The key to rejecting any career is to do so in a respectful manner

One day, the people hiring you may change companies or eventually, the company offering the internship may have something else for you. They will remember if a candidate was rude or just didn’t answer them altogether.

Gina Curtis, SHRM-CP, aPHR

Gina Curtis

Executive Recruiting Manager, JMJ Phillip Group | Executive Trainer, Employment BOOST

Always thank them for their time and consideration and let them know you have decided to go with a different offer

Treat this the same as you would respond to any other job offer. You never want to burn a bridge because may want to work with this company in the future. By making a lasting impression with the hiring manager, even when declining, allows you to build rapport. On the chance you decide to seek employment with them after your internship, you will already have a professional connection.

Liza Andersin

Liza Andersin

HR Director, Find Courses

Candidates turning down internships is part of the process and happens more often than people think in companies. My advice would be to make sure you do it graciously, without severing ties with the company.

Pivotally, it is important to begin by just saying no.

A phrase like ‘I am so grateful to have been considered for this role’ is upfront and clear, whilst expressing gratitude in a direct but friendly manner.

I would recommend doing this by email but follow up with a phone call

This is to truly convey your value for the company, and the opportunity they were willing to give you. Don’t linger your no and be timely with your response, so the company has time to fill your position and give somebody else a chance.

Finally, leave room for future contact.

This can be done by sending a small thank you note, attaching a link to something you discussed in the interview or even asking follow-up questions about other future opportunities. Depending on the employee, this could result in a fantastic employment opportunity in the future or nothing but as the saying goes ‘if you don’t ask the answer is always no’.

Ryan Glick

Ryan Glick

Co-Founder, Pixelayn Innovations

When rejecting an internship offer, it’s important to be completely honest. If done incorrectly—especially in a negative way—you risk burning a bridge and reducing the likelihood of future employment with the company.

There are two different scenarios for rejecting an internship:

  1. You received a better internship offer from another company.
  2. Something came up personally that makes it difficult or impossible to accept the internship offer.

Regardless of your specific reason, you should tell your company contact why you are declining the offer

Ideally, you will do this quickly without stringing the company along. If you receive an offer from a company, be prepared to tell them yes or no within a few days. Don’t leave the decision hanging until you finish up several more interviews—especially if those interviews aren’t scheduled for a week or longer.

Remember, there is no guarantee that you’ll receive an offer from your future interviews. Therefore, if you keep an offer on the table too long, that offer may dry up and go to another candidate. Then, you may be left with no offers at all.

Of course, you want to find the best possible internship that fits your future goals and objectives; however, your search can’t go on forever. To avoid running into this issue of leaving an offer on the table too long, try to schedule your interviews as close together as possible—within the same week.

Bottom line, make your internship decisions as swiftly and as honestly as possible. The company offering you the position will appreciate your honesty—even if it’s not the answer they want to hear. 

Related: How to Tell a Potential Employer You Have Another Job Offer

Josh Wardini

Josh Wardini

Co-Founder, Serpwatch

To decline an internship offer, you need to follow a few rules.

Do not burn any bridges

You want to decline gracefully and politely. You never know if you’ll want to deal with the same company in the future.

Make a phone call with the recruiter as soon as you decide to decline the offer

Delaying it will only make it more difficult for the company – with which you want to stay in good relations. Thank the recruiter for their time and offer, and then tell them you made a difficult decision to decline the offer.

Explain briefly your reasons. Whether you plan on accepting a job position or an internship elsewhere, or you have other reasons, the best way to go is to be candid. No excuses, just reasons.

After the phone call, make sure to write a follow-up email

Thank the recruiter again for the offer, and repeat concisely what you’ve said during the phone call. This way you’ll make sure that you’ve done the best in the given situation, and that the declination will not mess up your reputation in any way.

Yaniv Masjedi

Yaniv Masjedi

CMO, Nextiva

You absolutely want to reach out with a direct email – a phone call is even better

If you’ve previously bridged those communication channels. At the worst, call your interviewer’s assistant to let them know your decision.

The last thing you want to do is neglect to follow up. It may be intimidating, but learning how to tactfully decline an offer is possibly even more important than applying yourself to “grind hard” or have a “strong work ethic.”

James Rice

james-rice

Head of Digital Marketing, WikiJob

An internship will give you vital skills and experience that could help you secure your first job. Understandably, you might want to apply for a few internships, for the best chance of getting accepted to one of them. This leaves the prospect of having to turn down offers if more than one is received.

The last thing you want to do is burn the bridges that have been newly acquired, but that doesn’t mean you need to accept an offer that isn’t right for you. It is possible to turn down an offer in a professional and courteous manner. After all, the employer will want you to take the path that is right for you.

If you have been conversing regularly by email, then sending an email back is just fine

Otherwise, phone your contact as soon as possible after you receive the internship offer. If you are phoning, follow up in writing. The important thing is to be considerate to the employer and other candidates and try to make your decision quickly; if you need more time, keep them fully informed.

Be honest and clear when giving your reasons, but not too honest. Don’t be negative or criticize the internship they are offering you, even if you have clear reasons to reject it.

End by offering to stay in touch, suggest connecting on LinkedIn or Twitter and continue to take an interest in what they are posting.

Make sure you thank them for considering you and emphasize how pleased you were to receive the offer. You can follow this by saying that a different offer is more suitable for your future career goals. They may be a potential employer in the future.

Joe Bailey

Joe Bailey

Operations Director, My Trading Skills

Once you have decided to decline an internship offer, best practice dictates that you do the following three things:

Call the hiring manager immediately

Let them know you will not be taking up the internship position. This gives the individual enough time to look for another suitable candidate.

Briefly and honestly explain why you cannot take up the position

Even if it’s because you have found a paying job somewhere. There is no need for excuses as most hiring managers will be able to see right through these, giving them a poor impression of you.

Follow up the call with a brief email

You can highlight what you spoke about on the phone as well as thanking the company for having selected you in the first place. This email serves as a formal notification that you have rejected the internship offer.

When rejecting an internship offer, call and email the recruiting manager informing them of your decision as soon as possible in order to protect a future job opportunity with the company, or a potentially valuable professional networking resource.

Matthew W. Burr

Matthew W. Burr

Human Resources Consultant, Burr Consulting, LLC

My advice is to call and deliver the message and follow up with a thank you email

This is the same as rejecting a job, be professional and ensure you close the loop on communication. Thank the organization for the opportunity. Treat people the way you want to be treated.