If You Have 80 Internship Candidates and Not One Is Good Enough, You’re the Problem

When I was an undergraduate political science student at Brigham Young University, a new professor just transferred in from Princeton. We asked him what the difference was between BYU students and Princeton students. His answer?

Everyone at BYU is so busy! Everyone works! People are married with children. People have volunteer duties and church responsibilities. Princeton students, he said, don’t have all these extra burdens.

Now, this is one person’s opinion, and I’m sure there are Princeton students with part time jobs, families, and other outside responsibilities, but I’m also sure that different universities have different populations. The wealthier someone’s family is, the more likely they are to have free time. I worked through college, as did all my roommates and friends.

Why do I bring this up? I ran across a LinkedIn post by Stefaniya D. who rejected 80 internship candidates from top schools because they hadn’t done enough side projects (among other things).

Now, this is super helpful to know precisely what companies are looking for, and it also highlights one of the many reasons why the rich get richer. How many side projects does the student who is working full time on top of a full class load have? A student who is fully funded by mom and dad, or who is willing to take out massive student loans to cover tuition and living expenses, has time to do this type of stuff. None of my roommates ever did.

Additionally, this is an internship. You are not hiring a CEO here. Interns should be without much experience–which also means experience in job hunting as well. Don’t demand polish and perfection from someone who has never held a job before. You’re setting yourself up for failure.

I’m absolutely sure that the vast majority of the candidates she rejected could have successfully completed an internship at Candor if she had been willing to give any of them a chance.

It’s Time To Stop Hiring Talent! | Suzanne Lucas | DisruptHR Talks from DisruptHR on Vimeo.

Instead, she’s looking for a unicorn and then complaining that they don’t exist. An intern unicorn, the rarest of all creatures.

Internships are an opportunity for students to learn how to work and how to hold a job and how to get a job. Don’t require them to be masters of job hunting.

And, if she’s having so much trouble finding someone from the top schools, check out your state universities. Lots of people there who are just as brilliant but not quite as privileged.

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8 thoughts on “If You Have 80 Internship Candidates and Not One Is Good Enough, You’re the Problem

  1. This seems to be a thing when companies are looking for employees, too. They post a list of ridiculous requirements (example: a degree, five years of experience, and top expertise in obscure software for an entry-level job), pay almost nothing even when they do get an experienced candidate, and then complain that nobody wants to work. No, hon, that’s not the reason you can’t hire or keep anyone. 😛

    1. It’s a common meme in computer related work to require xx number of years experience in a particular product that has only existed for yy number of years, when yy is smaller than xx.

      It is common for people who write job requirements to phone it in without the slightest thought about or knowledge of what they’re hiring for.

      1. “Must need… let’s see… 8 years experience answering phones.”

        Yes, if anyone applies with 6 years experience, screen them out, they obviously haven’t mastered reception etiquette yet

  2. Why would anyone with real-world projects, an impressive portfolio, resume worthy extra activities, and a degree form a top school apply for an internship? They apply for JOBS!
    The recruiter didn’t find worthy candidates because she was trying to find an entry-level candidate that wanted to play intern.

  3. Couldn’t find a candidate in 80 applications?

    For an internship?

    Should have found at least 1 and probably 2 (or more) within the first 8 applications.

  4. Not to mention her point re resume aesthetics directly contradicts what Ask A Manager and her hiring manager readers say, which is that the content of your resume is what is important, not so much whether it is pretty.

  5. I would have been passed over. While going to uni I worked three jobs. I went to class on Tuesday, then worked straight through to my Thursday classes, pulling two consecutive all-nighters each week. I supported myself and graduated without student debt. Oh, and I later went on to get a masters and a PhD, authored articles, spoke/chaired over 40 times at conferences and am an expert in my field.

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