The No. 1 Reason Why Summer Interns Suck

© Lucian Milasan -
© Lucian Milasan -

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 data point I couldn’t turn down!

The No.  1 reason

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 No. 1 reason why interns suck, as taken from the report:

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

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!

One-quarter of potential interns are swayed in their internship decision if they can bring Ms. Cookie Kitty with them to their big-girl summer job. Fascinating – with a capital F!

I always have 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 they’re 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!

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What my internship program would be like

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 through 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, this intern report had some other real statistics as well, but that was the only interesting one.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


4 Comments on “The No. 1 Reason Why Summer Interns Suck

  1. How many companies worth working for will hire an applicant with no applicable job history? Few, if any. That’s why college kids scramble to get into a reputable internship program, not because they want to bring their dog to work or need “beer money.” And newsflash, even if you’re lucky enough to work in a field where you can get a paid internship, you’re not going to be living large by any means. Interns aren’t just charity cases either; they do menial tasks which free up the real employees to focus on more difficult ones. You are correct in that most larger companies would still get plenty of applicants if they scrapped their internship program. But the best applicants are going to go where they feel like they’re wanted and can serve a purpose, and that’s going to be the company that they’ve already worked with, not the other random names. These benefits are the reason the most successful companies like Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, KPMG, and the like all pull intern classes every summer. KPMG and others even have “leadership programs” that serve as a precursor to their internships in which they simply try to groom applicants. We can agree on one more thing though; If your department is “lame,” the applicants for internships most certainly do not want to work there.

  2. Wow – I have a lot of respect for this blog, but absolutely zero for this post. I live in a market saturated by interns. If you want to work in marketing, public relations, or anything relating to communications in Vancouver, you have to intern for six months at minimum. For free.

    I interned because I had to. Not becuase it was trendy or becuase I wanted some beer money. My internships have paid me a total of $0 over the course of my life. And honestly, it made me really mad when people brought in their dogs. Don’t paint interns as “crappy” because a couple of rich kids took a survey and wanted to take their pets to work. Take a look at the companies who “hire” them instead.

    Reputable companies in publishing such as Herst, and start-ups like Hootsuite, have all come under fire for having unpaid interns that are preforming jobs that under the labour act, they should be getting paid for.

    Do your research. You make bloggers look bad.

  3. That stat is the number 1, and maybe only reason interns suck. As an intern in several organizations, I did the work of a salaried employee for very little money. Strong internship programs give you a large pool of prepared candidates for your company’s entry level positions. But to be perfectly honest, the most successful programs look like the one you described. Hard work in the least desirable places.
    No one is allowing pets in the office so they can attract more interns (I hope). Backend developers with codependent dogs, maybe. A strong company culture should be attractive to all experience levels. Your intern program should be what attracts interns. And if you work them hard doing “the worst jobs in the company,” you’ll get some great employees out of it.


  4. This is the worst article I have ever read on the subject. Real interns do real work. Our company treats our interns like everyone else. They get paid, they do meaningful work and are the future life blood of the company.

    Maybe its a cultural difference (Canada vs. USA), but Canadian internships are a huge value add. It bridges the gap between post secondary education and entry level positions.

    A lot of companies don’t have entry level positions and will only hire “experienced” candidates. Where do new grads get this experience? For some, an internship is the best way to show what they have to offer.

    What’s better than any behavioral interview process? Observing actual behavior over time in many different situations.

    You sir, are sorely mistaken in your view of the value and treatment of interns.

    Joseph Henein

    Director of Human Resources

    GMR Marketing Canada

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