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One of the toughest parts of a job search is deciding which offer to accept. The lack of a consistent hiring timeline by public service employers and the fact that every situation differs makes decision making a difficult part of the search process. Consider the following as you make your decision.

Remember:  you can review the entire Career Exploration E-Advising series on The OPIA Blog, including our post on resumes, cover letters, and interviews.

Responding to Employer Communications

As you begin to receive interview requests from employers, remember to always respond to employer emails and voicemails promptly and professionally. Your emails and phone calls should be formal in address, tone, and content, and all written communications should be double-checked for typographical and grammatical errors. Make sure your outgoing voicemail is clear and professional, and uses the same name as on your resume.

Planning Your Summer Work Schedule

As you may already know, participating in certain activities open to 2Ls, like the Harvard Law Review, the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and the Early Interview Program will shorten the amount of time you have available for a summer internship. Information about key summer planning dates will be forthcoming later this month; in the meantime, if you have questions about scheduling your summer internship, schedule an appointment with an OPIA advisor.

Make sure you’re aware of the time commitment required by an employer before accepting. If there is a chance you will have to cut your internship short (e.g., to return to campus for EIP), be sure to discuss this with your employer after you receive your offer. 

Responding to Internship Offers

One of the toughest parts of a job search is deciding which offer to accept. There are no easy answers, as almost every situation differs. The lack of a consistent hiring timeline by public service employers makes decision making a difficult part of the search process.

Upon receiving an offer, thank your employer for the good news, enthusiastically reiterate your interest in the job and ask when the office needs to hear back from you. You may automatically have a week or more to decide. If you need additional time, do not be afraid to politely ask the employer for it; employers may agree to your request. You can also extend your decision-making time by asking to visit the office (if possible) or by requesting the names and contact information of students who worked at that office in the past in order to speak with them about their summer experiences. Employers are aware that students are weighing offers and are often flexible; however, it’s critical that you respect their timelines and handle any negotiations professionally and courteously.

If you receive an offer from an employer but would prefer to work elsewhere, call or e-mail your top-choice employer, tell them that you have received an offer, and ask whether there is any way they might be able to make a decision before your acceptance deadline. Employers may speed up their selection process if they risk losing a worthy and interested candidate.

Remember that you may not withdraw from an internship after you’ve accepted it.  Doing so is unacceptable and can harm your professional reputation. If you are unsure of what to do, make an appointment to speak with an advisor before accepting.

Turning down an Internship Offer

Always make an effort to turn down an employer without burning any bridges. Remember, the public service world is not boundless; you may find yourself looking for a job with the same employer or hoping to make a networking contact through someone from the office. Just because you will not be working there now, do not assume you will never be in touch with the office again.

First of all, keep your promises. If you said you would call the employer with your answer by a certain date, do so. Always contact the person who offered you the job directly to let him or her know your decision.

Never leave a rejection on voice mail, email, or with an assistant unless you have been instructed to do so. Make sure to thank the employer for his or her time and offer an explanation for your refusal. Follow up on your final conversation with an email. If you are still interested in working for the organization in the future, leave the option open by noting in the letter or conversation that you remain interested in their work and hope they will consider a future application from you.