Top 10 Internship Challenges Employers Face Today and the #1 Solution to Recruiting, Managing and Converting Interns


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We recently surveyed a range of global employers to better understand their 2020-2021 internship program outcomes as well as current and anticipated challenges for the 2021-2022 intern recruiting season.

The average size of responding companies was 14,489 employees, but 30% of the respondents were also small businesses with fewer than 100 full-time employees. The average company’s internship program was 73 interns; however, 37% were smaller programs with fewer than 10 interns. These internships were for various roles, functions, and lines of business including everything from engineering (52%), marketing (43%), accounting (35%), analytics (32%), HR (32%), and technology (32%) to law (13%), architecture (9%), journalism (7%), farming/fishery (7%) plus dozens more. On average across all employers, 30% of their interns converted to full-time employees. To summarize, there was a wide mix of responding employers.  And to clarify, we’ll use the word “interns” interchangeably, but responding employers could have co-op programs, LDR programs, or other experiential talent programs.  

So, what did we learn? Not surprisingly, 51% of employers said that their intern hiring was down in 2020 compared to normal, while 36% said intern hiring is back up this year versus last. Internships have become the best way to recruit, evaluate and hire talent today. We were surprised to find that 42% of the intern programs were in-person again this year, while 38% were hybrid and 20% were completely virtual. Likely because 19% of employers still report challenges managing virtual or remote interns. Most (87%) expect their internship programs in the future to be in-person or hybrid, not virtual (2%).

We also wanted to better understand the “intern renege challenge” we have heard so much about. Surprisingly, 40% of surveyed companies don’t believe they have an internship renege issue. Yet on average, each company has at least 5 interns who renege on offers per year with 23% experiencing an increase in reneges this year versus last. That’s essentially five or more people so uncertain about their employer they opted to break an employment commitment and proceed with another company they deemed better.

How can employers improve? We know budgets and resources are limited. Competitive compensation is a bigger, long-term problem to tackle. And only 13% of employers can offer early sign-on bonuses today. Aside from monetary incentives, improving the intern candidate experience may be the #1 best way to reduce reneges, increase conversions, and maximize recruiting efforts. It’s where to spend your limited time and money that will have the most immediate impact.

Let’s review some of the internship challenges employers are facing today. Below are the results from the survey, many of which align closely to intern candidate experience.

Top 10 challenges when recruiting interns are:

  1. Finding more diverse talent – 42.22%
  2. Relocation, housing, and commute issues – 28.89%
  3. Finding right-fit talent – 26.67%
    Lack of applicants to job postings – 26.67%
  4. Lack of brand awareness – 22.22%
    Competitive compensation and benefits – 22.22%
  5. Inability to highlight career path opportunities – 20.00%
  6. Limited technology resources – 13.33%
  7. Lack of upper management involvement – 6.67%
  8. Unimpressive office or work environment – 4.44%

Top 10 issues with internship program management are:

  1. Collecting metrics – 37.21%
  2. Tracking productivity – 27.91%
  3. Inconsistent processes – 18.60%
    Inconsistent communication – 18.60%
    Onboarding – 18.60%
  4. Tracking communication – 16.28%
    Manager engagement – 16.28%
  5. Disconnected technologies – 13.95%
    Inefficient processes – 13.95%
  6. Unable to scale program – 11.63%
    Still using too much paper – 11.63%

Top reasons employers can’t convert interns to full-time hires:

  1. Issues providing meaningful work – 10.26%
  2. Inability to highlight career path opportunities – 7.69%
  3. Unimpressive office or work environment – 5.13%
    Lack of modern benefits – 5.13%
    Lack of upper management involvement – 5.13%
    Geographic location – 5.13%
    Lack of interest in industry – 5.13%
    Competition for the unique talent/skills we need – 5.13%

Where should employers start? Invest in technology. Ideally, comprehensive technology to manage the end-to-end processes of your internship program. Generally speaking, technology exists to solve problems and make people’s lives easier by automating repetitive tasks, simplifying data collection, and improving communication, giving you more time to do the things only human beings can do. When it comes to managing an internship program, technology also gives you more time to build relationships with each intern and provide them 1:1 help. The more you talk to your interns, the more you’ll learn and improve their intern experience.

Similarly, the more we talk to employers, the more we hear how unique our Intern Management System is — it’s truly a one-of-a-kind platform to streamline all of this, gather invaluable feedback, and immediately improve each intern’s experience with your company. All your intern profiles, activity, communication, resources, projects, feedback and historical data is stored in one place. Plus, your interns get a company-branded, mobile portal with everything they need from intern application to full-time employee and everything in between. It’s one place with everything your interns, mentors, managers and HR need to run your program while providing a structured, consistent, and equitable experience of value for your interns. And it’s really easy to use!

The Intern Management System can also help with reneges by demonstrating to interns what their experience will be like, displaying the company’s investment in their employees, and by providing early and continual communication throughout the entire hiring process.

Need help solving any of these top 10 challenges? Or want to see a brief demonstration of our Intern Management System? Don’t hesitate to contact us today.   

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