I Have an Offer! Now What?

By Barbara Hewitt

Many Penn students have begun to receive offers through the on-campus recruiting process. If you are one of these students, congratulations!  It is gratifying to see that your hard work has paid off and resulted in an offer.

Although receiving an employment offer is a happy experience for most students, it can also be stressful.  You may not be ready to accept the offer, but could be receiving pressure from the employer to quickly make up your mind. After all, recruiters usually want to wrap up their recruiting and finalize their hiring as quickly as possible. In a tight economy, employers don’t have the liberty of over-hiring, so need to manage their candidate numbers very carefully.  If they wait too long for a candidate to mull over an offer and then the candidate decides not to accept it’s likely the employer will have lost out on other potential new hires in the process.  Unfortunately, this is a case where the best path for the candidate and the best path for the employer are often not in alignment, which can make it a difficult negotiation for both parties.

Be sure to stay in contact with recruiters....

So….what’s the best way for a candidate to handle this situation? In two words, tactfully and with enthusiasm.  Given that you might ultimately end up working with the employer (either immediately after graduation or perhaps in the future) you don’t want to leave a bad impression by coming across as demanding or unreasonable.  However, the only way to get additional time to decide on an offer from an employer is to ask for it.  As most of you know, Career Services requests that on-campus recruiting employers give students until November 1 to decide on offers (if they were summer interns at the particular employer) or until December 1 if the offer was received during the fall on-campus recruiting process.  If you need the time, by all means tactfully bring up the subject with the employer.  By tactful, I mean that it is important to express gratitude and enthusiasm for the offer and try not to come across as demanding.  Indicate to the employer that you understand that they would like a response as soon as possible, but that you want to make sure that you are making the right choice and that you feel you need a little more time to finalize your plans. Give the employer a date that you think would work for you.  While you may ask for the December 1 deadline, it is unlikely that many of you will need that much time, so you might consider requesting a shorter timeframe.  Before accepting an offer, reach out to other employers with whom you have interviewed, if you have not yet heard from them.  They may still be considering you, and you should clarify your status with all your prospects before committing.  You should also check to see what their timeline is for conducting second round interviews and extending offers so that you will have a clear idea of how much time you will realistically need to finish up the process.

One of the worst things you can do is to simply stop communicating with the employer in the hopes of avoiding the discussion.  A frequent complaint we receive from recruiters is that students stop returning phone calls or replying to  emails, giving the employer very little insight into where the student is in the decision process. This is extremely frustrating for recruiters, and also demonstrates a lack of professionalism on the student’s part.

Please feel free to visit Career Services to speak with a counselor if you would like guidance on negotiating a timeline for deciding on an offer.  We are happy to discuss your specific situation with you.  While we generally suggest that students reach out to prospective employers for the initial conversation, if an OCR employer seems unwilling or unable to abide by our offer policies we are certainly happy to reach out to them to discuss the situation and negotiate on your behalf.

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