“Must hire” interns

March 24, 2008

Summer intern recruiting season is winding down!¬† Once again, many of us in the HR world are faced with the dilemma of “patronage hires” — your boss owes someone a favor, so could we please find a space for an extra intern?¬†¬†Sometimes these patronage interns are smart kids and good workers, sometimes they are less qualified than applicants who apply without the inside edge. We hire many of our interns into the firm (if they’re good).

As an HR professional, sometimes it’s uncomfortable balancing the needs of the company (honoring due process, EEO hiring guidelines, etc.) with pressure from the boss. If I push back on an unqualified intern recommended by a friend of the president or by a rain maker — will I compromise my position? I do push back when I can by reminding management of our need to have a more diverse workforce (the internship program is one good way to achieve diversity), but there is no getting around it that there are many uncomfortable moments. Diversity can’t be 100% HR’s responsibility.

How can this be done fairly?

I wonder what alternatives we can offer executives who feel pressure to take on their business contacts or clients’ kids as interns?