1 Reason Interns Suck

I get pimped constantly to write about companies and their products and I rarely do.  It’s not that I don’t like the companies, products or people – but it’s boring!  Recently, Katie Farrell, was pimping me to write about her client InternMatch and more specifically a report they did called “State of the Internship 2013” where they actually had some fun data to report and one interesting piece I couldn’t turn up!  In full disclosure – Katie and InternMatch paid me absolutely nothing to do this – which is probably why I don’t pimp more stuff for Katie (come on Katie! Some cookies, a diet Dew, anything – really!).

Here’s the 1 Reason Why Interns Suck:

“If a company has pets in the office, it would dramatically increase an intern candidate’s likelihood of applying (24.3%)”


I don’t care what you say – that is fascinating data!  Not only does that one data point tell you how worthless it is to hire interns – it gives you actual first hand data about what is really going on in the mind of a college freshman and sophomore that you’re paying bottom-line dollars to!   1/4 of potential interns are swayed in their internship decision by the simple fact if they can bring Ms. Cookie Kitty with them to their big-girl summer job.  Fascinating – with a capital F!

I always viewed internships as a public service for employers.  It’s very similar to buying lemonade from the 8 year old kid running a lemonade stand on a cardboard box on the street corner. You don’t really need a lemonade – but it’s cute and makes them feel like their a real person.  The reality is, the 8 year old, like the college intern doesn’t really want to work for your lame department and learn real skills – they want ice cream truck money – scratch that – they want beer money!

If I was running a Fortune 500 HR shop here is what my internship program would look like:

1. Hire Interns

2. Make them do the worst jobs in our company – no matter what their degree program.

3. Try and get them to quit the internship program.

4. Make it the absolute worst summer of their life.  Boot camp for Frat Boys and Girls.

5. Those few that make it – get automatic offers to come to work real jobs the next year.

Oh, I hear you saying “Tim you have no idea, we need our interns to love our company so we have recruits when they graduate!”  No you don’t.  You need to find people who will work.  I mean really work.  Hire those people.  Don’t hire someone who determines their work future by whether they can bring their cat or dog with them to their summer job!  Oh yeah, they had some other real statistics as well – but that was the only interesting one.


12 thoughts on “1 Reason Interns Suck

  1. Hey Tim, You are spot on. Interesting to note that your detractors are women. We receive over 3,000 applications for internships each year at our company. Your Blog was mild and kind compared tot eh reality. The lack of education, motivations and sense of entitlement has reach epic levels. We are at a point were we are seriously considering disbanding the program. Unless a company needs people to text, tweet, and post “selfies” on Instagram, and their Facebook page they should really think twice before hiring interns. We have to terminate about 1 in 5 from our UNPAID internship program. Even with no pay they are not worth it- that is how bad things have become.

  2. This post is based on shallow stereotypes of millennials and as HR professional you should be ashamed of yourself. You may see internship as a public service to college students, but to them it’s one of those necessary evils that must be done (yes I just called it a necessary evil). Before I reprimanded and called entitled or spoiled hear me out. Unpaid internships are like volunteer work for college students and recent graduates. It looks good on a resume but it would do nothing to pay for bills. Yes bills, not beer money.

    The statistic about pets in the office probably has to do more with the culture than anything. If people bring their dogs in they’ll probably be more social toward the interns and *gasp* make them feel like they’re human! Heaven forbid that would happen

  3. Hey Tim,

    Nathan from InternMatch here.

    1. Good to know you are a Dew fan–noted for next story pitch/bribe scenario.

    2. I like this post because although extreme, it makes a critical point–nobody needs new hires who think they should be running your business. They need to be willing to do the hard-work and want to make an impact in any way they can.

    3. I don’t think this stat reflects a lack of willingness to do this. Even if you are doing low-level grunt work all day, coming into a work environment that has some personality (any really) does make the place where you spend the majority of your week more desirable.

    4. You don’t need to do what you describe (boot camp, etc.) to make sure interns are a good fit. Post an honest role, do an honest interview, screen for culture fit, and the students you hire will be more than willing to get whatever needs to get done, done. Beyond this, they will grow to all-star employees.

    Thanks for the article Tim!


  4. Hey Tim – thanks for an interesting post and metaphor! Definitely made me think. I started my first job as an intern after I graduated college and ended up working in that position (hired full time) for more than two years. It was a great training opportunity for me and an obvious choice for my department – the opportunity to be noncommittal (and pay me less) before choosing to hire me FT. It was a good option for me right out of school and gave me the opportunity to prove my worth and move up as merited. However, since my class, the internship program at that company has been in a constant state of flux as the organization figures out what will truly drive value for the company – which seems to be constantly at odds with what drives value for the interns. It’s certainly a topic that needs ironing out, if only it was important enough!

  5. I am sure that is the case with some executives – our executives certainly embrace this program because they do see the value and success of the program. You are probably correct in that the companies that don’t feel the same way just aren’t putting in the effort or a quality program to recruit the right people. You have to be able to hire the best possible interns.

  6. Tim I really have to disagree with your post. We value our interns. They are given meaningful work and in the construction and engineering industry, they are driven and very goal oriented individuals. They are highly intelligent and motivated and want to be challenged . This is the single source of all of our entry level hires now and have a much stronger workforce than 5-10 yrs ago. We do not hire interns to get coffee or other unproductive work – simply because that is a waste of everyone’s time and they desire meaningful experiences – this will be their career and they are driven to perform. They also are great embassadors for a company and will spread the word like fire to all of their other intelligent friends, thus providing referrals for the next year’s program.

    • Sarah,

      I appreciate the comments – I’m glad to hear your program has value for your organization – while many HR Pros will claim this – many executives have a hard time when truly looking at the ROI of most internship programs. I’m not saying they can’t be valuable – I’m saying most companies don’t put in the effort to make them as valuable as yours.


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