Undercover applicant: getting an internship offer

The Gateway gets a real-life account from a student who's just accepted one

Congratulations! You've been successful during the application process and received an offer, but there may still be a few steps to go through before your first day. We spoke to a student who recently received an internship offer from an investment bank. Here's what they had to say about their experience of accepting it.

The application

I started my application over three months ago, in the autumn term. I filled out an online application form, and was then invited to take several online tests. After completing the tests, I didn't hear anything from the bank for about six weeks, until I was invited to attend an assessment centre in London in January. The assessment day involved a series of interviews for roles in different departments. Then, at the end of the day, I was told I would hear from the bank within the next two weeks.

Getting the offer

When I was on the train going back to university, my phone rang and it was the bank's graduate recruiter. He said, "Just following on from this morning, I'd like to say that -", and then my signal disappeared. I was in pieces for about 20 minutes until I got off the train and was able to call him back. When I did, he offered me the internship. I was absolutely over the moon!

Two of the departments I'd interviewed with had expressed an interest in hiring me, so first of all he asked which of the two roles I would prefer. I told him, and he said, "That's fantastic, we can offer you that position." He then asked if I would like to accept the offer. I didn't feel under pressure and could have said I needed a couple of days to think about it, as I had five or six other applications in the pipeline, but I knew from the beginning that this was the one I really wanted, so I didn't hesitate to say, "Yes".

I was then asked a few standard questions, such as whether I had any criminal convictions, and I had to confirm that everything on my CV was accurate and truthful. That was the end of our conversation, and the recruiter said I'd receive a contract to sign and return to them.

Negotiating the terms

My contract arrived in the post about a week later. I expected my start date to be in early July, but the date on the contract was in mid-June. I panicked, because I'd already booked a holiday that meant I'd be away until the end of the month. As soon as I realised, I emailed the recruiter who'd offered me the position and explained my situation. I expressed that I didn't want to jeopardise my position in any way, but asked if they'd be able to accommodate a later start date. He replied straight away and said he'd ask the head of the department I was due to join.

Two days later I received an email saying it wouldn't be a problem to postpone my start date until when I got back. I was relieved that I didn't have to cancel my holiday, and found that everyone was very understanding. Fortunately, I won't fall behind in training because I'll actually still join my department before the advertised start date, and before the other interns start. After we agreed a new start date, I was sent a new contract to sign and return.

Declining other offers

I had made several other applications and, although I hadn't received any other offers yet, I had an assessment day and two other interviews scheduled. I was confident that I'd accepted the right position, and I knew that I wouldn't accept another offer over this one, so I decided to cancel the other ones.

I received a reminder email about the assessment centre, to which I replied to say I would no longer be attending and wished to withdraw my application. I also emailed the other two companies to cancel the interviews that had been arranged. One of them then phoned to thank me for applying and to wish me luck for my future, which was really nice.

Whether it's an internship or a graduate role, I think you've got to enjoy it. So when you're making decisions about offers, go with your gut feeling about what you really want to do, or choose the position that will be most beneficial to you in the long run. And, if you need to negotiate any element of your contract, it's important to be upfront and honest, and to let your employer know as soon as possible. In most cases, if you've gone through a lengthy application process and the employer has chosen to make you an offer, they're unlikely to then turn you away because of a small issue.