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Summer Intern Advice from the Boss: More Passion, Less Entitlement

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As the summer internship season kicks into high gear, a new survey by Korn Ferry points to the reasons bosses would choose one intern candidate over another.

Nearly two thirds of professionals surveyed (65 percent) said passion is the top attribute they look for when hiring an intern. Significantly trailing were an intern’s performance (21 percent), school they attended (7 percent), grades (4 percent) and pedigree (3 percent).

When asked what is the biggest intern performance dealbreaker, the largest percentage (37 percent) said entitlement. In addition more than two-thirds (67 percent) said learning should be the most important area of focus for interns.

“Coming from a highly regarded school or having a strong pedigree will only get intern candidates so far,” said Ally Van Deuren, Korn Ferry University Relations Center of Excellence Lead for North America. “What really matters is attitude and their willingness to work, learn and grow.”

Virtually all of the respondents (98 percent) said internships are important to landing a job, and 99 percent said they are likely to hire interns on for full-time positions if the intern performs well. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) said they personally had an internship that led to a full-time job.

“Internships are a key step in becoming a qualified professional,” said Van Deuren. “Success however is a two-way street – interns need to ask questions and stretch their capabilities, and employers must offer meaningful and important work to help the intern advance.”

The survey also found that professional networking still rules — the top way bosses find high-performing interns is through a connection. 

“Today’s interns could be tomorrow’s organisational leaders. It is incumbent upon managers to take the intern hiring process seriously to help their organizations succeed long term,” said Van Deuren.

About the survey

Nearly 200 (183) professionals across a wide range of industries took the survey in late May 2018. Due to rounding, figures may not equal 100.

What is the top attribute you look for when considering hiring an intern?

Pedigree                                                                                               3 percent

Grades                                                                                                 4 percent

School they attended                                                                             7 percent

Passion                                                                                              65 percent

Performance                                                                                         21 percent

What are the biggest intern performance dealbreakers?

Showing up late/leaving early                                                                13 percent

Not understanding the company                                                             19 percent

Bad cultural fit                                                                                       31 percent

Entitlement                                                                                           37 percent

What’s the most important thing interns need to focus on?
Being indespensible                                                                              9 percent

Building their network on the job                                                             5 percent

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Demonstrating passion                                                                          19 percent

Learning                                                                                               67 percent

If an intern performs well on the job, how likely is it that your organization will hire them?

Highly likely                                                                                          79 percent

Somewhat likely                                                                                    20 percent

Unlikely                                                                                                  1 percent

How important are internships to securing a job?

Very important                                                               48 percent

Somewhat important                                                       50 percent

Not important                                                                  2 percent

Would you hire a college grad if he or she hadn’t had a previous internship?
Yes                                                                                                                  80 percent

No                                                                                                                    20 percent

How have you found your highest-performing interns?

Campus job fairs                                                                                   25 percent

By them submitting their resumes online                                                 20 percent

Through a connection                                                                            35 perent

By them proactively contacting you                                                        20 percent

Did you have an internship that led to a full-time job?                                                           

Yes                                                                                                      62 percent

No                                                                                                        38 percent

About Korn Ferry: Korn Ferry is a global organisational consulting firm. We help companies design their organisation – the structure, the roles and responsibilities, as well as how they compensate, develop and motivate their people. As importantly, we help organisations select and hire the talent they need to execute their strategy. Our approximately 7,000 colleagues serve clients in more than 50 countries.

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