How do I tactfully withdraw my internship application to a past employer?
April 11, 2012 7:26 PM   Subscribe

How do I tactfully withdraw my internship application to a past employer?

I worked for a company last summer as an intern, and it was a great experience, so I applied to work for them again as an intern for this summer. I will be seeking full time employment upon graduation in June 2013, and they are definitely a company I would work for again.

However, I just accepted an internship offer with a rival company for this summer, so I'd like to know what the etiquette is for withdrawing my application. My main reasons for not going back to the same company were based on location and wanting to see what the culture is like at another company before I make the big decision about where I work full-time.

Any tips for how to navigate this would be much appreciated! I should note that I kept in friendly contact with the hiring manager and my past boss, so I am not sure how formal my response should be. My field is small enough that it will get back to them where I am working, even if I do not tell them now.
posted by pianohands to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not knowing the formality that your previous employer operates, or the competitiveness between the two employers involved, I'd suggest a short, polite, to-the-point message like this:

"Hi Bob: I'd like to update you on my plans for summer 2012. I decided to accept an internship with ________ in ________. Please withdraw me from the list of candidates for your internships this summer. I'll be sure to stay in touch with you though, and I would love to contact you (just prior to/after) my graduation in June 2013 when I'll be seeking full-time employment."

I recommend calling them (or if you can manage it in a short timeframe, visiting them) rather than sending a letter or email. If you're wishing to express a sense of apology, this is typically easier for you to convey and for them to understand with voice communication.
posted by germdisco at 7:36 PM on April 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

...Not completely related, but my brother was recently telling me about his experience changing jobs in the restaurant industry. When he told his old boss he was leaving, the boss said "Oh, okay, no problem. Good luck in your new job, learn as much as you can, and feel free to come back anytime." This friendly separation doesn't happen all the time of course, but employees/bosses may meet again later and work together again, so it's worth leaving things on the best possible terms.
posted by germdisco at 7:41 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's no reason to pull out your application. If and when they call you for an interview, explain that you've already accepted an offer somewhere else, but that you look forward to potentially working with them again in the future.

One of the things that people at the beginning of their career often don't understand is that the whole business of hiring is just part of the ordinary day to day of running a business, and no one is going to care one way or another about the employment status of one of the people who applied for an entry level job that lots of other people have applied to. Even if they thought you were great last summer.

So, in sum: Don't worry about it. Nobody at the company will notice either way. They don't care. For real.
posted by Kololo at 8:15 PM on April 11, 2012 [13 favorites]

At most, if you're in touch with them semi-socially ('friendly contact") just include the info within the context of one of those emails (or however you keep in touch with them.) But treat as a respectful politeness, if they're bothering to keep in touch with a student its likely they enjoy being a mentor and will be please to hear you've done well.
posted by Kololo at 8:17 PM on April 11, 2012

Don't withdraw your application. You'd get no benefit from withdrawing it, unless you truly do want to touch base with your former employer. But leaving the application out there could benefit you, on the off chance your new company doesn't work out for some reason (e.g. they go out of business or they withdraw their offer).

If they call you about an opportunity, simply say you're sorry but you're not available because you've taken the other position. Kololo is exactly right — they will care about this much, much less than you're expecting them to (no offense).
posted by John Cohen at 8:37 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I came to say what John Cohen said.
posted by jander03 at 10:54 PM on April 11, 2012

I wouldn't really call them about it. If they call you about your application, you can then at that point explain that you've already found something. But it might not even come up, honestly. They'll know that you worked for a rival company if/when you eventually send your resume to them during your post graduation job search...another case in which you'll be sending out a lot of applications. After one of them hires you, you probably wouldn't call and advise each company you applied to that "OH, BY THE WAY....NEVERMIND!!!"...right? In the worst case, it might come off kind of badly. And you never know when something might fall through--life is uncertain, and it's better to keep all options open. If your chosen internship actually ends up not working out for whatever reason, this way there's a chance that the first place will call you or you can call them and aggressively pursue the situation with a lot more room for maneuvering. (and it won't come off as "I know I said I was going to work for Y but that didn't work out for Z reasons sooooo I was wondering if maybe you would please have me back???" my experience, employers will either look down on or take advantage of your desperation, whenever possible.)

Another reason would be that if you withdraw your internship application, you'll never know if they would have called you or not. If you DON'T withdraw it, and they call you for interning purposes, it's another datapoint you can file away about where it might be strategic to apply for a fulltime position after college. Both in the "oh, they must have really liked me when I was there" sense, and that (depending on your relationship with the person) any brief conversation you have with the boss contacting you to offer you the position might give you more recent insider information that you can refer to when cover lettering/interviewing with them post graduation. If you want to go back to the company X after your internship with company Y is done with, you can easily spin it as having wanted to get diverse experience and perspective in your particular industry, but now having done so, you have firmly concluded that company X is the the place you want to start your career.
posted by Estraven at 11:29 PM on April 11, 2012

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