Better Policies for Hiring Interns

Certainly the 22-year-olds I work with are more enthusiastic, open-minded, creative, and focused than I certainly was at 22. And there are more of them and fewer jobs, so they don’t have as many chances to fuck up. How are you supposed to get experience failing if failing isn’t really an option anymore?

Doree Shafrir is an executive editor at Buzzfeed who’s hired and managed her fair share of millennials. Her piece, “Can the Intern Hamster Wheel Be Stopped?” takes a hard look at the troubling trend of ‘do a dozen unpaid internships everywhere but then never find a job in the creative industry to which you just devoted your early 20s.’ It is nice to hear discussion about what can be done from people who have the power to do something about it:

So now the onus has shifted to people like me, who are hiring them and managing them — and, I think, collectively failing them. When we get internship applications from people who have had three, four, five, or more internships in our field, with no full-time job on their resume, it is kinder for us to reject them than perpetuate the hope that they might one day break through.

I think the solution to this is to reduce the number of internships we’re offering in the first place, pay all of our interns, be more selective about the interns we do hire, and limit the term of an internship to no more than four months — things that we’ve already put into place at BuzzFeed. Those of us who are hiring interns should only be hiring people whom we feel we could potentially hire as full-time employees, and we should only hire as many interns as we can have performing meaningful work — work that will help them get hired one day.

That kind of policy seems ideal to me, if not as feasible for organizations without the kind of money Buzzfeed has. Nevertheless, a good standard.


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