I have an open slot on my team and would like to fill it with an intern with the option of hiring them full time if it works out. I am meeting resistance from HR and need to build a support case. Any thoughts?

wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge

My first thought? HR arn't doing their job properly!

I argue with my managers all the time that what they are asking for isn't what they want / need, so I think you should have an open mind, but if you do have a carefully thought through plan, then HR should be supporting you.

2nd thought - we probably need some more information.

Who are you talking to in HR and what kind of discussion have you already had?

Is the position approved by the business (ie your manager or whoever controls the budget) or is that HR's role in your organisation?

What specifically do they have a problem with? Do they think you shouldn't be recruiting at all? Is it the idea of intern/perm? Are they saying you won't be able to get an intern (that there arn't any in the market to be recruited)?

If you can answer those, then I can tell you how you could get round me!


jpb's picture

my boss and his boss are behind the idea but are not taking the lead. I don't mind running with this but I have never hired an intern nor dealt with one. I did not have an internship while in school so I have no reference.

Our VP of HR has never dealt with interns and is scared of new things.
some concerns that have been raised are housing costs and pay. No one wants these to come out of their budgets.

There is also a concern that after two or three months we will lose this person just when they are catching on to the job.

My argument has been that we will be able to learn more about this person and possibly hire them if it works out. I'll have two open positions in January.

I hope this helps clear thing a bit.

wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge

Ok, so now I've gone and looked at what an intern is :-) and got your answers I've got some more thoughts. Some of these might be controversial, but I'm asking to make you think carefully, not because I'm criticising. I hope that comes across.

1. I think you need to be really clear about what your motives are.

Internship seems to be about a learning experience for the student. This means you putting in a lot of effort, and not necessarily getting a whole lot of productive useful work from the person. If you have a discrete project then you will probably get more than just, I want an extra person to share the work in my team, but still.

Are you worried about making a bad hiring decision and using the idea of an intern to allow you to make that decision over a period? If this is the case, a really good hiring/interview process should mitigate this. Even if you choose the wrong person, following M&M's process, firing them should be if not easy, simple.

2. Money

Your boss and his boss are behind the idea, but no-one wants to pay the housing cost or salary. To me, that's not behind the idea. But it's a simple enough sell. Find out what the market salary for an intern is in your area, and your industry. The wikipedia page on interns has a couple of places to start on research.

If your research turns up that most people get housing costs, then add it in. Then you need to get them to sign off the cost in writing. Bob's your uncle, you have their backing.

3. HR

To convince HR, I think you need to be able to show you have really thought through what you are going to ask this person to do and what you will get from them - including a really good onboarding strategy in order for them to ramp up quickly and provide value over the term. You also need to have written up what the person will learn - that can be turned into an ad. If you can show that you've taken care of everything, thought of the eventualities, that may calm his nerves.

I hope this helps.


jpb's picture

I need this to be a symbiotic relationship so I do need work out of the intern. My focus is on this person learning and producing at the same time. I would like to get a different perspective on our projects and I think an intern will bring some energy to our team.

Training is almost all I do. Most of my team is made up of recent grads with less than one year of experience. I'm not sure an intern is what I want but I thought it may be a good way to find a replacement designer in the long term, like a test drive. I'm not sure this is feasible.

If we had enough resources I would hire someone with more experience but it's not in the cards right now.

I'm going to work up a plan for the intern and what they would do for three months and see how HR takes that. Otherwise I think this plan is going on hold for a while...

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


If in fact you can't hire a regular hire, then I think an intern IS a good idea, but it's not a trivial undertaking.

Do you have a relationship with a school where the intern would come from? Do you have a robust technique for feedback? Can you devote more time than to a full time person?

I think having the math done in advance, plus having a couple of success stories from nearby firms/similar companies/industries would make for a compelling case.

Does that help?


jpb's picture

this is a bit late but there have been some developments on my hunt for an intern.

I brought my concerns about the program to my boss and he spoke with his boss. They decided to have a competition at a near by university for a scholarship and intern position. I have taken point on this and have been working with the University on the intern program and the competition.

We have also created a more defined set of goals for the internship program and will be working with the University and the student once they are chosen.

I feel pretty comfortable with this so far. My next thought was to assign the intern to one of my direct reports so they can learn more about personnel management. Is this a good idea for the intern? I know there is a lot of work to do in defining the responsibilities for my direct. any ideas on this would be great.

thanks for all the help. The replies to this post went a long way to making this happen.

wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge

Hi J!

Sorry this is a bit late - I've been on holiday.

I'm glad you are making progress with this, and it sounds like you are thinking a lot about how the internship will go as you proceed, which I'm sure will make it that much more sucessful.

I'm not sure that assigning an untested resource to an untested manager is a great idea. Someone who isn't used to the world of work, probably needs someone with more experience to guide them not less.

That said, one of my jobs in a previous role was looking after the interns we had on our team. We had one a year for three years. I was a young, barely out of university myself team member. It was a great learning experience for me. The first intern we had worked out really well and went back into the company after her course finished and is now a manager. The second one was a disaster, fell asleep in meetings, was never on time, and his standard of work was rubbish. The last one was in between.

I'm not sure that their sucess or lack of it was anything to do with me. The first intern was bright, switched on and wanted to learn. The second wasn't and it showed.

If your direct is ready for managing people and you have time to coach them, then it may be a good testing ground for them. However, having been there, I'd advise stepping carefully.

I hope that helps.


jpb's picture

hi Wendii,
thanks for the reply and I hope you had a great holiday.

Its difficult for me to pass up this opportunity for one of my team members. Even if they don't do great I think it would be a positive learning experience for them. I would be coaching along the way and if things look like they are getting out of hand I could take over. This may be easier said than done but I feel its worth the risk.

I have one direct that would be great at this but she doesn't want the job, one that wants the job but I have little confidence in her and one that could do the job but he would need a lot of coaching. I'm pretty sure I know the answer but which would you choose to manage the intern?

Were you coached in any way on your intern management experience? any specifics on how to handle this?

thanks again for your help.

wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge

Hi J!

Hiring rule number 1: hire for attitude, train for skill!
Of course, only you know your team, and how any decision will affect them :-)

I did get some coaching, but mostly I did what I thought was best. I would have benefited from more frequent conversations about how the relationship was going, rather than concentrating on the work that was being done. I also got stuck when I'd asked the intern to do something twice and it still didn't get done - I think now I'd have more effective tools to deal with that, but I needed help with that at the time.

A box set of MT podcasts would have helped too!!

I hope that helps, ask away if there's anything else I can help with.


jpb's picture

thanks for the advise. I've been trying to follow rule #1 as I am searching for 2 full time staff as well. They will be entry level so all they really have is attitude!

It's kind of funny but I tried to get my staff into listening to Manager Tools but it never caught on. I think they may be too fresh out of school and not ready for it. If I pick one of my staff to lead the intern I will require them listen to some Manager Tools podcasts.

thanks for all your input. I'll keep you informed and let you know how this works out!

XOLegato's picture

Well, this I may be 4 months late in joining this discussion, but a quick thought:

Being a college student who is searching for internships, and who has many college-age friends who are searching for internships, I would have to emphasize Wendii's point about the differences between her 3 interns. The range of skill and enthusiasm in college students is similar to that in the regular job market, albeit probably more to the "enthusiasm" side than the "skill" side. I know that for myself, I would be terribly embarassed if I weren't working to near full capacity within the first week. I know several other students who are the same way. However, some internship-seekers I know are basically just doing it for the pay and resume-boosting, and wouldn't really care much about the work itself as long as they weren't fired.

For the hiring manager then, I think it is of utmost importance to screen your internship candidates well, because discerning true drive from "just-for-the-interview" gleam is likely going to be the deciding factor in your new intern's effectiveness.

Hope this helps!

dkuperman's picture

Being this thread 2 years old (yeah, I'm new to MT and am looking back through all posts) I doubt a lot of people will read this, but here it goes... my 2 cents on internships.

At my company we do use interns regularly. It started out very informal and just to try it out and actually it worked great. Is a great way to find new talent. How else can you really 'try before you hire' ? Part of the reason we have the program is that I was first an intern for this company and after graduation they hired me. I'm now the director of marketing, so this is not only a successful story for me, but for the company as well, showing we promote people and reward them for hard work!

But going back to the internship, we have 2 slots in the mktg dept for part-time interns and those positions last 1 semester. Most interns are college students trying to make a buck and build their resumes. They work on a lot of administrative tasks, but we make sure we include them in brainstorming meetings, decisions on new ads, etc. They end up working on a bunch of different projects and are usually grateful for the experience.

One of our recent interns was helping us with trade show coordination, something that was new to her and after the internship, she got a job as the events coordinator for the local performing arts center. Had she not had the internship, she probably wouldn't have gotten the job (or the interest).

Another thing to consider is whether you want to do a paid internship or a for credit internship. If you work with a school and do for credit, they will require certain things from you (and the company), and there are reports to fill out, etc. The good thing is that usually you don't have to pay the intern (cheap labor). Is a balance of what you have to offer, how much you have to spend, and how much work you want to put into it.

A critical thing: most companies and managers do not know what to do with an intern... you need to plan, prepare, and have clear goals. Otherwise is a waste of your and their time.

kklogic's picture

I'm thrilled that you pulled this post back up and posted to it! Welcome to the boards.

Can you share more about how the program started when it was informal - and also how you formalized it? I also am a Marketing Director. We have access to many universities (as these are our clients). I have thought of developing a program, but other priorities came up. If I'm honest, I probably dropped it because I had no idea where to start.

I'm looking forward to hearing more!

dkuperman's picture

Hey, I'm glad you're interested!

In the beginning (right at the time when I was hired as an intern), the internships were mostly relegated to our Development department. They had co-op programs with local universities and used that as a way to get some low cos labor for areas such as QA. Other departments really didn't invest (and still don't) in internships, but I think that's mainly because of a lack of knowledge on how to handle this type of program.

A couple of years ago we were really swamped with projects and needed an extra help, but couldn't justify hiring a full time person, so we turned to internships as a way of getting temporary labor for a good price. We were so glad with the extra help (and the fact that if it didn't work out, we were not tied to a full time employee), that we decided to continue the program in the Marketing department as a regular thing. Basically the 'formalization' occurs in my budget... I always make sure I have a place in my budget itemized and classified as 'internships', usually its two part-time positions and we rotate interns every 6 months.

There is some work involved, because you need to create the university connections, then the job description, then look through piles of resumes and finally interview people, but it's definitely worth it.

If you're looking for some steps on how to start a program, this is what I would recommend (it may vary depending on the size of your organization):

1. Decide what you need done and the type of person. Make a list of all tasks an intern could do and what type of person would be ideal (what major, what previous experience, etc.).

2. Calculate how much you are willing to spend, and get that approved. IF you're doing a for-credit internship, it may not be a big deal since most for credit internships are non paid, but would be good if you could contribute with gas money or something like that.

2. Decide who will be supervising the intern. Yes, you need someone responsible for making sure the intern in logging in the expected amount of hours, is overseeing the work, and giving some guidance.

3. Plan on doing one-on-ones with the intern. I just recently started the One-on-Ones with my staff and included the interns. Since they are part-time, I meet every two weeks with them.

4. Contact local universities and talk to their career services department. They are always looking for companies to hire their students. If possible, contact key faculty and let them know you are hiring.

5. Send the university the job description you created so they can post in their internal systems. Also, post it on sites like craigslist for maximum visibility.

6. Decide on the hiring process (who will receive the resumes, who will setup interviews, who will participate on interviews, etc.)

Hope this helps!

kklogic's picture

Wonderful. Very, very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write that out.

jemflower's picture

[quote="dkuperman"]Hey, I'm glad you're interested!....really swamped with projects and needed an extra help, but couldn't justify hiring a full time person, so we turned to internships as a way of getting temporary labor for a good price. We were so glad with the extra help (and the fact that if it didn't work out, we were not tied to a full time employee).....basically the 'formalization' occurs in my budget... I always make sure I have a place in my budget itemized and classified as 'internships'[/quote]

Almost exactly the same strategy that I've recently instituted in my department and it has the added long term bonus of our company being viewed as one of "the" top training companies (i.e. great industry PR), it keeps all of us on our toes development-wise and it gives me some room for potential succession planning via an in-house route.

:) jemflower