The Question Every Intern Candidate Should Ask


Last week, I talked with an enterprising college senior who managed to wrangle five agency interviews during his 24-hour visit to Chicago.  That feat alone is impressive and merits kudos, but his final question at each interview is the subject of this post.

His question: “What percentage of interns move into full-time positions here?”   Answers to this question tell you the odds of potential future employment at various agencies.   

After hearing this insightful question, I decided to do an informal check with five agencies that hire many of the interns in the Chicago market.  Hiring rates during or after the traditional two 3-month internship stints range from 40% to 90%, although a second individual at the firm reporting the higher number said the figure is closer to 80%.  Still, that’s a great retention rate.  Therefore, someone seeking an internship that might lead to a full-time job can better determine which agency to pursue.  

Internships vary widely in most markets.  Some big Chicago firms have as few as two interns currently, while others have nearly 20.  A few firms offer summer-focused internships, but most do intern hiring year round based on workloads.  A majority of internships are for college graduates and grad students, although some agencies still hire undergrads for summer internships—many of which aren’t paid.  My rule of thumb:  If the agency is billing your time to a client, you should get paid for the work.

Oh, yes, about those five interviews in 24 hours.  The enterprising senior tapped his PRSSA network of friends who knew people within four of the agencies.  His intern-rich resume and PR-related volunteer efforts opened the fifth door.

3 comments on this post.
  1. Kiné:

    Thank you for this post. I especially appreciated the mention of setting up the interviews through personal networks!

    So, asking “What percentage of interns move into full-time positions here?” is a perfectly legitimate question in an interview?


  2. Christine Matthews:

    I am also college senior studying PR. Unlike the enterprising senior, I haven’t had the best luck in setting up legitimate interviews. As Kiné puts it, is “What percentage of interns move into full-time positions here?” even an appropriate question for someone like me to ask? Part of me feels agencies want to see a prospective intern who will appreciate the opportunity at hand — not immediately ask for more. However, agencies might also respect that confidence and initiative.

  3. Culpwrit:

    Good point, Christine and Kiné. I suggest raising the “percentage of placement” question after you’ve progressed through initial stages of the interview process and you sense interest on their part. I heard from an intern this week who will soon finish her second 3-month stint at an agency and won’t be offered a full-time position. She regrets not pursuing opportunities elsewhere after learning that interns rarely move into full-time jobs at the firm. So, it’s a judgement call as to when to pursue the likelihood of full-time hiring.

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