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Recruitment Process   | 5 Min Read

Employee Vs Intern Hiring: What’s the Difference?

Written By Harsh Tripathy

No matter whether you are working on a short or long term hiring strategy, hiring interns must be on your to-do list. Wondering why? Then take Google, Facebook, EY, Dell or any successful brand for an example; you will find a similarity. They have an impeccable internship program in place.

Employee Vs Intern Hiring


In fact, 
having interns on board can help you reduce cost per hire, infuse geographical diversity and remarkably improve the number of referrals. Sounds good, Right? But when it comes to hiring interns, most recruiters fail to address their requirements. Not because there is something wrong with the organization, but for a flaw in the intern hiring process. Most recruiters take the exact same route to hire interns as they do for filling full-time positions. Screening resumes, interviewing candidates, sealing the job offer an so on. If you are also doing the same, then the blog post is exclusively for you. Read on.

How do interns approach the hiring process different than full-time professionals?

Experienced professionals look for the right “fit” where they find lesser hassles in settling down and can adapt quickly. Moreover, full-time professionals have a fixed mindset, look for JD-based implicit roles and give weightage to factors such as pay, perks and position to name a few. Interns, on the other hand, have a growth and experiential mindset having little to no relevant experience. They are driven more by curiosity with a knack to solve problems in a  never done before manner.


All they look is for a starting point from where they can develop the ability to think or branch out in a direction of their choice. Unlike full-time professionals, interns are neither hunting for Jacuzzi like perks nor for big shot corporate positions in the beginning. They are not afraid to take risks and more keen to challenge and experiment with existing processes.

What expectations do interns have going into the hiring process?

Interns don’t want to be “handcuffed” to a fixed JD or a mundane process that takes away the opportunity to learn. What they want from the hiring process is a role that maps into their interests from day one. They expect the hiring managers to deep dive into their interests, asking questions about achievements and offer roles aligned to their strengths.

Apart from that, interns expect the hiring process to be a reflection of their strengths with an assurance that their mistakes would lead to course corrections; not disciplinary actions. As they are still trying to figure out their ideal roles, interns desire flexibility to experiment with different roles if expected outcomes are not achieved or they decide to opt for a different avenue to excel.

They want hiring managers to trust them and do the hand-holding until they break out of their cocoon and start adding value to the organization. Since they have raw potential, they only want a shaping channel; so as to reach their highest potential.

What tactics can hiring professionals take to meet these expectations?

Interns are raw minds bubbling with endless possibilities to explore their hidden potential. In the process, they might commit mistakes or lose interest in a process which they felt as their “initial calling.” As a hiring manager, assure them that your organization would help them find their ideal role and won’t give a beating if the initial role doesn’t works out as expected.

Moreover, interns desire constant motivation to move forward and the leeway to learn from mistakes. So, you can offer them the freedom to experiment and explore their hidden potential. Rather than asking them to follow a process, you can inspire them to come up with their unique take to solve challenges. So, hiring professionals must have plenty of brainstorming sessions to correlate their previous life experiences with skills required for the job. Find out an overlap between co-curricular activities, academics or simply be ready to answer the questions popping in their mind.

What mistakes do companies often make that end up scaring potential interns away?

A Rigid Selection and Retention Process

Nothing scares interns than a vague future in the organization. If you state that only ‘X’ number of interns are going to secure full-time employment, it’s an immediate turnoff. Keep the selection process crisp and assure interns that you are looking for the right talent and not only chasing numbers.

Idea of A Toxic Culture

Over-grilling during the hiring process can portray a toxic image of your organization and scare away the interns. Switch from “YOU HAVE TO” to “YOU CAN” and see the difference. Don’t forget that interns constitute a large portion of millennial generation that chooses freedom to work over any other factor.

Setting Unrealistic Expectations

Simply handing over the internship letter without diving into the details is suicidal. Prepare a roadmap for every role, allow the intern to go through it and then ask about their thoughts. What they think is an ideal fit, give them a chance to explore without the fear of judgement or termination.

Last but not the least, Interns can end up feeling as a “liability” for the organization; thanks to the exorbitant rise in L&D costs. No matter how little their work experience is, they can be moulded into professionals and therefore, expect to be treated as a future “asset” for the organization.

What other advice do you have for hiring professionals looking to attract the best interns?

Showing them a promising career and a skyrocketing growth trajectory can do the trick. Competitive compensation still attracts the best interns; however, recruiters must look beyond the tangible perks. Boast about your alumni network, people living their dream life with full-time jobs intact or discuss about interest aligned perks during the hiring process. For instance, a free gym membership for fitness freaks; a library for the book worms; sports facilities for Sport Maniacs and so on. Don’t forget to mention intangible benefits during the interview process such as:

  • Creative Liberty
  • Experiential freedom
  • A reward for idea generation  

Time to Revamp Your Intern Hiring Process

All in all, interns are looking for what work experience feels and looks like; unlike experienced candidates who already have a few years to their credit. Remember that interns are a part of millennial generation and therefore, your have to tailor your recruitment process and organizational culture to suit their needs.

The millennial generation gives more weightage to freedom to experiment and liberty to execute their ideas anytime, anywhere. Your organization can bank on interns in the long-term as they are always on the hunt for creative ways to solve a problem that might be beyond imagination.

To start, you can try and keep the discussion about past intern experiences to instil faith and convince them your organization is worth a place to start. Encourage them to ask questions about the internship and keep the interaction friendly. If required, conduct a short meet with one of the team members for a brief walkthrough about the process. Assure them that a full-time position awaits, provided they can prove their mettle during the internship. Avoid imposing anything that starts with “rules and regulations” or anything along these lines and your internship program is good to go!

Topics: Hiring the Best Fit Recruitment Recruitment Process Recruitment Strategy

Originally published June 08 2018,updated November 18 2019

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