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Job Offer Guidelines for Students

In recent years, the Career Center has observed significant changes in employer hiring patterns for both summer interns and new college graduates from major universities nationwide. The combination of a very competitive marketplace for the best talent, a dramatic increase in early full-time employment offers extended to and accepted by successful summer interns, and employers’ general shift toward more on-campus recruiting in the fall rather than the spring has resulted in a markedly different recruitment landscape.

Few employers are willing to conform to later deadline dates for student job offers as they manage their complex recruitment processes across multiple campuses. Based upon our surveys and discussions with employers, we have learned that most employers are, in fact, operating under a two-to-three week response window for all student offers extended.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic impact, the entry-level job market and campus recruiting timeline face substantial disruptions this year. The policies below have been updated to allow increased flexibility during the uncertain year ahead.

Within this current context, the Center Career has established these guidelines to provide both students and employers a fair, transparent, and up-to-date framework for managing the offer phase of the recruitment process:

  • For all offers extended for summer internships or full-time employment, including return offers, employers should allow a minimum of three weeks from the date of the written offer for students to accept or decline. 
    • Please be advised that the College of Engineering has issued separate job offer guidelines for students.  For questions about the COE guidelines, please contact your advisor at Engineering Student Services (ESS).
  • Employers are encouraged to remain flexible in granting offer extensions on a case-by-case basis as circumstances warrant. 
  • The written offer should clearly state all appropriate terms and conditions, including, but not limited to, position title/description, location, benefits, start date, salary, bonuses, etc. 
  • All bonuses or other incentives are to remain in full effect for the entire duration of the offer period.
  • Students will be encouraged to contact employers directly if they have any questions or concerns about their offers, including needing more time to make their decisions. 
  • Exception:  Per prior agreement with the Big Four accounting firms, students offered roles at those firms as part of the fall recruiting season should be given an offer deadline of November 13, 2020, with a minimum of two weeks for all offer decisions.  

FAQ's about our Job Offer Guidelines

Other schools ask employers to give deadlines in October or November.  Why doesn't our Career Center offer the same protection for students?

  • It’s important to note that UC Berkeley runs on the semester system, while most UCs, and many Bay Area universities run on the quarter system which begins later in the fall.
  • There has been a general shift in the marketplace toward early Fall semester recruiting, creating a more competitive landscape for employers to finalize offers.  Under this environment, few employers are willing to conform to a specific date deadline late in Fall semester.  They need to know how many full-time positions they're recruiting for early in Fall semester so they can plan their recruiting strategy accordingly.  In other words, they need to know how many and which positions they need to recruit for at the beginning of the Fall semester.
  • In the past, the Career Center has imposed November 1 and October 1 deadlines for employers.  However, many employers refused to comply, which puts complying employers at a disadvantage.  
  • Every year, the Career Center surveys employers to find out how much time they give students to make decisions.  The vast majority give students 2 to 4 weeks to make a decision.  Less than 15% give less than two weeks.
  • When we talk with employers who do abide by other schools' offer deadlines that are later in the semester, they have let us know that the students who do ride out their offer until the deadline are at a disadvantage compared to students who make decisions earlier.  The earlier you decide to accept, the more likely it is you will get assigned to your preferred work team and/or location.
  • When the Career Center has surveyed students in the past, the vast majority said they were able to make an offer decision in two weeks or less

Three weeks doesn’t give me enough time to recruit.  What am I supposed to do?

  • All employers appreciate open communication throughout the job offer process.  If you feel like you want to recruit with other employers before making a decision, ask the employer for an extension.
  • Many employers are willing to provide extensions to deadlines if you make a reasonable request.  Be prepared to explain why you need an extension.  See the Job Offer section of our Job and Internship Guide for tips on how to ask for an offer extension.  If asking for an extension it's best to let them know how much time you will need, and why you will need that much time.  Be careful saying you want an extension so you can apply for other jobs and see if you get a better offer - this may make them think you're not really interested in their job.  
  • Remain courteous and respectful when asking for an extension - you're asking the employer to make an exception for you.
  • Be prepared that the employer may not be able to offer you an extension.  If they cannot, you will need to make a decision about your offer before you can recruit with other companies.  Be realistic and honest with yourself.  Do you have doubts that the position is truly the best fit for you?  It's better to decline an offer than accept it just because you're afraid it's the only offer you will get.  See our tips about how to decline an offer.

The Career Center policy seems to favor employers over students.  

  • Our guidelines were designed to be realistic and flexible given the current recruiting marketplace.  Many employers cannot abide by guidelines that force them to let students wait until November 1 to make a decision.  We’re concerned that employers may decide not to work with the Career Center or come to UC Berkeley to recruit students if they cannot abide by our policies, and that practice would not serve employers or students well.​ 
  • We have services to help you manage the job offer process.  Make an appointment or drop in to see a Career Counselor if you want personalized advice about how to handle your situation.  See our Job and Internship Guide for advice about how to handle job offers.  

Should I just accept the offer now and let them know if I change my mind later?

  • Do not accept an offer you are not committed to, and do not renege on an offer you accept. The damaging consequences may be extreme and irreversible:
    • You will irreparably damage your reputation. It’s a small world…people have large professional networks and change jobs or companies often. 
    • Companies spend thousands of dollars to recruit you, and if you renege on your commitment with little notice, it will be unlikely they will be able to replace you. 
    • Other students may have really wanted the job and you will have robbed them of the opportunity.
    • When students renege on offers, employers get a bad impression of students in your school or college, of the university in general and of the Career Center. Employers have stopped recruiting at Cal because of this type of unethical behavior.
  • It is better to respectfully decline an offer and keep looking than to renege.  

My employer gave me less than three weeks to make a decision.  What can I do?

  • Ask the employer to comply with the Career Center's Job Offer guidelines and ask them for an extension.  Also, explain to them why you feel like you need more time to make a decision.
  • If after speaking with them, they still will not give you three weeks, the Career Center can contact the employer on your behalf, with your permission.  Contact recruit@berkeley.edu to request assistance.
  • If you know you want to accept or decline the offer within the time frame that they gave you, there is no need to ask for an extension.

Managing the Job Offer Process

During this important phase of your job search:

  • Make sure that you have the terms and conditions of your offer clearly defined in writing (job duties, salary, bonuses and other benefits, starting date, work location and schedule, etc.).  If a formal offer letter does not follow a verbal offer or if you need further clarification about the written terms, follow up with the employer immediately.
  • Do not hoard offers.  If you are not interested in a particular offer at all, please let that employer know immediately.  This gives the employer a chance to fill the position with another qualified Berkeley student who is genuinely interested in the opportunity.
  • Don’t be pressured by “exploding offers” (see definition below).  The Career Center’s offer guidelines are intended to protect you from any undue pressure.  Notify the employer immediately if their offer does not conform to campus guidelines. 
  • Understand that offers may not be negotiable, even in a competitive market.  Be realistic about your expectations and conduct appropriate research before approaching an employer to discuss any terms or conditions of your offer.
  • Accept an offer only after careful consideration. Allow enough time to consult with family or others before your offer expires.  Don’t make rushed decisions, nor accept offers that you cannot fully commit to.
  • Notify organizations of your decision regarding their offers in the timeframe agreed upon. If you need more time, you may contact the organization for a possible extension. However, it will be the employer's decision whether to grant your request for more time.  See the Job Offers section of the Job & Internship Guide for guidance about asking for an extension.
  • After accepting an offer, you are expected to withdraw your applications and/or cancel your interviews with other employers.  If you are holding other pending offers, you are also expected to immediately notify those organizations of your final decision.
  • Do not renege after accepting an offer.  By not honoring your professional commitment, you create a situation that is very costly to employers, damages your own reputation as well as UC Berkeley’s reputation among employers.

If you have further questions about these guidelines or seek more detailed information about the offer evaluation or negotiating processes, refer to Interviewing and Job Offers or consult with your Career Center counselor.

Exploding Offers

The UC Berkeley Career Center defines an exploding offer as any offer which does not conform with the offer guidelines listed above.  Students should not be pressured to accept offers “on the spot” or "early,” whether this is based upon a shorter timeframe for consideration overall and/or due to any special diminishing incentives attached, e.g.,  tiered or expiring bonuses, reduced options for location preferences, etc.   The Career Center expects all employers to refrain from such practices when recruiting Cal students and alumni.