COMMENT: You got a return offer from your banking internship. Now what?

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Over the month of August and beyond, summer internship programs across the investment banking industry will be drawing to a close.  After months - years, in some cases - of anticipation and preparation for this single 10-week period, somehow it seems to have come and gone in an instant.  But now it’s decision time - first for employers, then for the interns themselves.  

In conference rooms from Midtown Manhattan to the City of London, Hong Kong and beyond, roundtable meetings of hiring managers and recruiting leaders are being scheduled right now to review and vet the 2019 summer interns.  If history is any guide, some 70% or more of them will receive the coveted offer to return full-time, as members of next year’s analyst programs.   

For many, they’ll receive an offer for their dream job.  But for others, receiving the offer will present a different problem:  what if this isn’t the job they really want?

If you should find yourself in this position, consider the following:

  1. Top firms appreciate that the best candidates have options.  Always.  They’ll respect your right to look at different opportunities before deciding on the offer you have.

  1. Your offer letter will almost certainly specify a date by which you are to make your decision.   While the language may not suggest it, this is usually negotiable.  If you have a reasonable basis to ask for more time before committing, firms will usually be prepared to work with you.  You should feel free to be straightforward about your thought process:  “I’m excited about the offer, but there are a couple of other opportunities I’d like to explore to completion first before finalizing my decision.  I intend to make that decision by ...”  

  1. No firm that I’m aware of - or that you should want to work at - makes offers to candidates lightly.  And that means they don’t withdraw them lightly, either.  If you are professional, reasonable and respectful in the way you handle this process, they’ll give you the flexibility you need (within reason).

  1. Communication is key.  If you say you’re going to provide an update by a given date, make sure to follow through.  If someone reaches out to you to check in, respond.  Going ‘dark’ breeds distrust.

  1. In a different vein, if you are indeed of a mind to look at alternative opportunities, make a point of specifying on your CV that you received a return offer from your internship.  For prospective employers who know how investment banking hiring works, this is an important marker.  Since the majority of interns accept their return offers, other employers will generally assume you didn’t get one if you’re out looking at other opportunities.  

  1. All the above said, if there is some possibility that you’re going to accept the offer you have, be careful about running the clock out on your decision.  Contrary to what you may have heard, hiring managers are human beings, too.  They were excited about you when they made you the offer;  they want you to be excited about them.  Nothing will dampen the mood like going to a dance with a date who spent three months looking around for an alternative they liked better.  

In the end, this is a high class problem.  If you navigate the decision thoughtfully, there are no bad outcomes.

Jonathan Jones is the former head of investment talent development at Point72 Asset Management and a former head of recruiting at Blackrock and Goldman Sachs.

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