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I am a rising Computer Science senior who will be finishing an internship at a software company at the end of this week. From what I understand, if this company is happy with the performance of a particular intern, it is customary for them to offer the intern a full time job, upon graduation, during or shortly after the exit interview.

I have been very happy at this company, as I have learned very much, and have found this internship to be very rewarding. I could certainly see myself enjoying the opportunity to come back to this job after I graduate. I am looking for a balanced way to respond to such an invitation, since I have two thoughts:

  1. I don't think it is wise for me to blindly say "yes" to a job offer, and potentially close myself off to other, better job opportunities which may arise between now and graduation.
  2. The drive is about 2 hours every day, so I'd ideally like to find something closer to home. I'm not necessarily looking to relocate right away after college.

The question: Given my above-mentioned thoughts, and if I am offered a full time job, how should I say "Yes, I'm intertested. Please hold a spot for me, but I'm going to keep my eyes open for other jobs, as well." Maybe that last part isn't necessary...

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Given my above-mentioned thoughts, how should I say "Yes, I'm interested. Please hold a spot for me, but I'm going to keep my eyes open for other jobs, as well."

You could say it exactly as you have indicated.

The company may or may not be able to hold a spot for you. Since you already have learned that it is customary for good interns to be offered a spot, perhaps you already know if the company will indeed hold a spot for you as you make your final decision.

You might choose to omit the "Please hold a spot" portion of your answer. Instead, you could simply say something like "Thank you! I've really enjoyed my internship here, and I've learned a lot. I'm very interested in a job here, but I feel that I really can't commit myself until after graduation. I wouldn't want to mislead you by just accepting a position now. Would it be acceptable to give you a call after graduation, and see where things stand at that time?"

That way, you aren't committing yourself, you aren't expecting them to commit themselves, but still leaving the door open to returning at a later date.

Doing this well should generate some good will. While you may not actually get a spot there upon graduation, you could still get a good recommendation. You have one huge advantage over "the pool of everyone else" - this company already knows you, and likes you (or they wouldn't offer you a job). That sets you apart from the crowd.

I think it's very wise that you aren't planning to just accept now, then keep on looking and dump them if you find something better before graduation. Very professional of you. I think this software company will appreciate that as well.

  • I see, thank you for your insight. If I did answer the interviewer the way you described above, doesn't that just put me back in the pool of everyone else? It could seem as though I have just as much interest or skill as Very Interested CS Graduate A, B, or C, who would also be vying for the same job. – Oliver Spryn Aug 13 '14 at 12:05
  • I don't think it shows a lack of interest. When I'm hiring, I'm more wary of people who will jump at the roles I'm offering as it makes them appear desperate. I prefer to hire people who're willing to tell me the truth, even if it's not what they think I want to hear. – Dave M Aug 13 '14 at 12:33
  • @JoeStrazzere Yes, you are right. Thank you for clarifying that. – Oliver Spryn Aug 13 '14 at 12:40
  • @DaveM That's good to know, and will certainly be helpful. – Oliver Spryn Aug 13 '14 at 12:41
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    If someone says "We're making you a job offer". Just reply "Great! I look forward to receiving it." This will remind them to actually work out what they're offering and put a contract together. Never just say yes or no. – TheMathemagician Aug 13 '14 at 13:15
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Go with how you put it. You loved the company, you're very happy to have the offer, but you are not ready to make a commitment right now.

I'd suggest either:

  • Ask for a date when they need a final answer from you.
  • Offer a date by which point you'd be willing to give a final answer.

Asking a company to hold a spot for an indefinite period of time is not particularly polite and I'd be surprised if the company would agree. The bonus of hiring a college intern that you like is that you know that you have a great person, and that you have filled a needed opening by a specific time that is far enough in the future that you can do wonderfully good long term planning.

Asking if you can give the answer later means you are reducing some the value that they would have gotten from an immediate acceptance. That's OK, to a point, but telling them that you'd like to accept the offer two weeks before you graduate, when you simply couldn't find anything better... is rather rude. Instead, something like "when do you need a final answer so you can prepare accordingly?" or "I want to think about it and how it fits with my family life -- can I let you know by this date or will that disrupt your planning?" is a more considerate approach.

In terms of college grads, I can say that when I recruited lots of them, we had a set number of openings planned every year. We knew the approximate number by around August and then:

  • made offers to interns - knowing that the number was not 100% certain, so being cautious
  • recruited at fall job fairs
  • firmed up the number to reality with budgeting
  • made a last round of offers in March
  • asked for start date commitments by April
  • expected new hires between the end of May and beginning of July

    • addendum - since I also worked in defense, we REALLY wanted a "yes" by 8 months before the start date, because we submitted new hires for clearances. 8 months was approximately the time it took to work through the clearance approval process. That was actual cost savings. A new hire with no clearance will have to wait for the paperwork before they can provide useful work.

The college graduation season in the US makes this a fairly static model.

If you say "no" and I'm your hiring manager, I really wanted the opportunity to hire someone for the work I have in December. If not, I want the last round to be done in March, so that I have the pick of the new grads. Asking me to do otherwise is asking me to risk having to hire a less ideal candidate, or to hire now one at all.

Having time with a deadline for you to think and research other options is fine, but it puts an onus on you to have a schedule that you and the job can agree on.

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