I'm currently working at an internship that started at the beginning of the summer. The internship was only supposed to last for the length of the summer, but my company decided to keep me and a few other interns to work part time for the fall semester. The company expressed that they wanted to keep us because we were good performers, and I accepted because I hoped it would streamline the process from intern to full time employee for next year when I graduate college.

However, I have since reconsidered and no longer want to work at this company after I graduate. Among other concerns, they push excessive overtime onto their full time employees, and that is the exact opposite of the workplace I want to be a part of. I have luckily been spared any hardships as an intern, but I expect that to change if I take a job with this company. Unfortunately, I have somewhat trapped myself since I have told both my boss and HR multiple times that I hope I can work there after I graduate.

I do not plan on bringing up this issue to my boss or HR (or anyone I work with for that matter), and I want to hold onto my internship until it ends in December. They start their college graduate hiring process around January, so I should be able to avoid questions until it gets closer to the end of my internship.

What reason do I give them for not wanting to work at their company next year if/when they setup an interview or ask me about it at work?

I don't want to point towards the bad facets of the company if they ask me why I don't want to return. I'm especially afraid of a face-to-face confrontation in which they might question my reasons further. How do I handle the situation?

  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Current employer wants to know my reasons for resigning, what should I say?
    – gnat
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 4:30
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? How much should I say in an exit interview? Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 9:13
  • Even if you don't want to work there it is usually easier to find a job if you already have one. So start looking for the job you want. Don't give this one up until you have the place you want to go. Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 16:01
  • "Anything you say will be used against you" is not just a cop/lawyer thing. It's true for all aspects of life. Be careful not to emit (purposefully or not) information that might compromise you, even something innocuous as "Wow, Jeff always brings in lunches that stink up the office" unless you've considered the consequences.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 17:38
  • @corsika, I understand the sentiment, but I disagree completely. You're entitled to your thoughts and opinions and you're entitled to express them if asked about them, so long as you don't recklessly disparage others in so doing. Why shackle yourself with the perpetual burden of having to consider the ramifications of everything you say when you know your words are true and honest? You should speak your mind not because it's good strategy but because, ahem, it's your mind. Would you really want to live like a marketing agent, saying things not because they're true but because they "pay"?
    – user121137
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 2:53

7 Answers 7


What reason do I give them for not wanting to work at their company next year if/when they setup an interview or ask me about it at work?

None. You don't owe them an explanation or a justification. They're not going to press you about it. Even if they do press you, the statement below is sufficient.

"Thank you for the opportunity, but I've decided to pursue other opportunities at this time."

Here's some advice for your burgeoning career:

Your career belongs to you. Your success is your responsibility. You owe no explanations or justifications for choosing your own path. The only thing you owe your employer is your honesty, your professionalism, and the work they pay you to do.

  • 54
    This seems so obvious now I'm 15 years into my career, but would have loved someone to give me this advice when I was 18 years old !
    – PeterH
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 15:24
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    The only thing you owe your employer is your honesty... I really don't think this is the case for most advice here. Most often it's about NOT telling your true opinion, NOT telling the reasoning, NOT do anything that could infringe on yourself even if it could help others. In this case the advice is literally about secrecy and obfuscation... how would you reconcile it with "owing honesty"? If anything, it's about being honest about strictly work related issues, but deceptive anywhere outside of it, if it serves yourself.
    – Battle
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 8:52
  • 2
    "The only thing you owe your employer is your honesty" So if your boss says "no bs, no 'opportunities', why are you really leaving?" what do you reply?
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 12:11
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    @Michael I think in this case all "honesty" actually means is "no lying". So a reasonably reply in that case could be "Like I said, I want to pursue another opportunity". Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 12:58
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    @Battle There's a difference between honesty and candor. Just because you are being honest with your employer doesn't mean you are telling them everything. It just means that what you are telling them is the honest truth.
    – Abion47
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 18:28


You wait till it's time, and if you don't want to apply, you don't apply.

You don't owe anyone an explanation - and frankly, being a college intern, they don't expect one, "the shrooms are better in Arizona" is the expected level of college student motivation. Given the timescale you're talking about you'll be gone before applications even start. In the worst case where someone reaches out to you about it, you just say "Oh, I'd like to try a variety of things in my career, I enjoyed working there, thanks!" and that's it.

  • 2
    But then if they offer you a stipend for your imported shrooms then your excuse falls apart.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 1:43
  • LOL - "The shrooms are better in Arizona". Did you make this up? I've never heard it before.
    – jwir3
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 15:51
  • @DKNguyen: you tell them "I only want shrooms picked on the open desert early in the morning during the dark of the moon while the dew is still fresh upon them - picked while the coyotes howl and the jackrabbits scamper and the gila monsters roar from the butte-tops. For only these shrooms, and no other, will allow me to ascend to the clouds where I can join with the spirits of the ancient Aztec medicine-men, learn their secrets, and then sell them for $19.95+shipping on Ebay". Say that with a sufficiently crazed glow in your eyes and your employer will be glad to see you go. :-) Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 17:25
  • I made it up. Glad it went over this well!
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 17:40

Not long ago I had an intern in my department. He did an excellent job. One day he was approached by a supervisor and asked to prepare a presentation. One could have seen this in a broader sense as an appreciation of his work. However, when it comes to these extra tasks all colleagues are expected to do them after their regular working hours and unpaid.

The intern declined politely but firmly.

He was asked by the supervisor why he did not take advantage of this “opportunity”. He referred to his limited free time and other professional interests. A few days later, also the boss questioned him. He had never experienced anything like that. He received the same answer.

My department pushes excessive overtime on its employees with side tasks like this. It took a courageous intern to reject this practice.

You too can give a specific reason why you won’t work with this company in the future, if you want.

  • 11
    This. This is how it should be done. You are not corporate property. You're a person, and like other people, your interests and responsibilities (and your good sense of your personal boundaries) may keep you from taking on overtime, especially when it isn't paid. Frankly, the employer should feel ashamed in this case for trying to push unpaid work on an intern. There is this pervasive attitude that employees are to blindly follow their employers off a cliff. It's your right to say no when you see you're headed for a cliff.
    – user121137
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 2:36
  • This is, unfortunately, de rigeur for those who wish to ascend the corporate ladder. At each rung of the ladder more and more unpaid overtime is expected, as meetings and task forces and other non-working work fill the "work day", so that to get anything done one must do the real work after everyone else has gone home. I guess the view is pretty good from the top of the ladder. Me? I can't see it... :-) Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 17:31

You don't really owe them an explanation, but if you find another job, you can give them an answer in terms of that. "I found another opportunity that looks promising", "I'd like to explore different roles to see what's the best fit", etc.

If you can't find another job, I recommend that you seriously reconsider your decision to not continue working there.


I agree that you are not obliged to provide any reason for not wanting to work there. However, based on my experience I believe it's good to be clear about why you don't want to work there. This could be a good opportunity for self-reflection for you as well as for the company.

I would advise you to think well about the main reasons why you don't want to work there and note them down. Now try to convey these in a way that makes it about you. For example, you mentioned that you are not happy to work long hours. So what you could say is, you are "looking for a more flexible work culture". You can word your response in a way that the company understands why an employee (who presumably is sort after by the company) cannot be retained. My opinion is that you owe it to the organisation to tell them why you are leaving, and this also allows you to leave a positive impression with the organisation. In my experience, this can help you down the line in the most unexpected situations.

Another reason why I encourage you to be clear about why you want to leave is for your own benefit. Sometimes we get clouded by the judgment of others, or by situations we perceive about the organisation. You mentioned that you didn't have to work long hours as an intern, but saw many others in the organisation doing so. When you question yourself as to what are the significant reasons that led to your decision of leaving, you can be sure that you are making an informed decision. And if someday you feel like regretting the decision, you will know that you made it with the information, and experience that was available for you at the time.

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    The single reason I see from the OP is that excessive overtime is being pushed to full-time employees. Agree that this would be a reason for not wanting to work there. My suggestion is that the OP verifies their source for this information. Sometimes the culture may be different within departments of the organisation. Moreover, it could be a few employees that are consistently working overtime. My post points out that it will be beneficial to the OP to use this opportunity to make an informed decision, and also about the merits of providing a reason.
    – Hawklaz
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 5:22
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    Couldn’t disagree more. You are leaving, no critique you supply will be of any interest to the people you are leaving and has the chance to burn a bridge you may need to cross in the future. Leaving a job is like breaking up from a romantic partner, excessive honesty or over sharing are just indulging your own ego for no purpose. Just break clean with as little discussion as possible and get on with your life and let them get on with their lives.
    – jwpfox
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 11:53
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    @jwpfox "no critique you supply will be of any interest to the people you are leaving" This isn't true. If talented prospects are routinely leaving, something is wrong with the process or the company, and they will want to know why they're not able to retain people so that they can make changes which mean that they do. As a manager, while the reason an individual leaves may not be immediately relevant, it's certainly information which is worth keeping in the back of your mind. Saying "looking for a more flexible work culture" is not going to burn any bridges, that's absurd
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 10:32
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    @jwpfox "Leaving a job is like breaking up from a romantic partner" then you should agree that you owe them a basic explanation. No one breaks up with someone by saying "I want to pursue opportunities with other women". You say "I don't love you any more", "I want to travel", "I have a new job in another city, and I don't want to do long distance", "we want different things". Yes, excessive honestly can be detrimental, but you are advocating for no honesty. There's no need to be so binary. There's an acceptable (and IMO preferable) middle ground.
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 10:37
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    @Michael I can assure you that you are simply wrong. If a company was the sort of place that listens to employees it listens to the ones that stay, not the ones that leave.
    – jwpfox
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 11:57

If you like the company but not their treatment of workers you should let them know, because the only way something is ever going to change is if they see that they are losing opportunities.

They want you, but you have your conditions: why would that be a problem? It is your right to preserve your physical and mental health, and if they cannot provide the best environment it's their problem, not yours.

  • 1
    It depends on whether you sense that the company cares if its losing opportunities or if it is knowingly going through people. For example, a company I worked at laid me off which was fine. But then called me back to work for 2 weeks and but then took that pay as extra income tax I was supposed to pay because they messed up on their cross-border tax program 3 years ago. They blamed it on government incompetence when it was their fault and when I declined to work on additional projects they asked me the reason twice, unsatisfied with my vague answer, as if they could not figure out the reason.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 1:39
  • You are right, some companies just don't care about quality workers and they just want to squeeze them until they go away. I guess it's a matter of deciding if it's a company worthy of your attention and suggestions, or not. But if it's not i would not be too careful about how you exit, if it's a polite justification or a just a vague answer and a smile. Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 2:05

I don't want to point towards the bad facets of the company if they ask me why I don't want to return. I'm especially afraid of a face-to-face confrontation in which they might question my reasons further. How do I handle the situation?

Is it primarily a matter of avoiding an interpersonal situation you're not comfortable with? That's something different from making a choice out of career perspective.

If that's true then maybe the better question to ask is how to improve your ability to have meetings about tough subjects. That this is about an exit interview is just incidental and only because that's one of those meetings you just can't get out of.

It's not unreasonable for an employer to want to know why you leave. A lot of answers to your question assume an employer to be unreasonable and acting in bad faith, but why not be clear about your reasons for your own sake? You have the right to speak your mind and if you ever want an employer to learn (willingly or unwillingly) why they have high churn, you have the chance.

I wouldn't be afraid of burning bridges, because you are leaving these people for a reason. Some employers see a resignation as a personal attack and you'll have burned a bridge regardless of the reason for leaving.

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